Honey Bee Deaths and Pesticides
There is some controvery about honey bee deaths, and whether they are linked to a group of pesticides known as neonicotinoids. Neonicotinoid pesticides include:
Imidacloprid (the most widely used),
A systemic pesticide, Fipronil, works in a very similar way to neonicotinoids.
How Do Neonicotinoid Pesticides Work?
Neonicotinoids are neurotoxins that act on information processing (and hence ability to function or perform tasks), by affecting a specific neural pathway common in invertebrates. In other words, the nervous system is attacked. Treated insects may exhibit leg tremors, rapid wing motion, disoriented movement, paralysis and ultimately death.
These pesticides are systemic in that they permeate the whole plant, being dispersed into plant tissues. This means that insects sucking on the plant will ingest the pesticide and may suffer some of or all of the effects described above.
Where Are Neonicotinoids Used?
They are used in seed dressings and soil treatments. They are available for use
- on agricultural crops (such as Poncho®, Gaucho®, Merit®),
- in pesticides for use in the home and garden by the general public (such as in some Provado® and Ultimate Bug Killer® products),
- lawn treatments (such as Bayer Advanced Lawn Care products) for use, in gardens, on golf courses and may be used in public amenity areas.
Neonicotinoids are also available in compost products to kill vine weevils, and may be used in horticulture.
Neonicotinoid pesticides are also sometimes used in GM crops such as Smartstax Corn, which is treated with Clothianidin, a neonicotinoid. (Source: I-SIS: “SmartStax Corn: Corporate War on Bees”).
Raad more here (opens a new window)..
Finally, neonicotinoids are also used in some wood preservatives and animal flea treatments.
Do Neonicotinoids cause CCD?
The term 'CCD' is complex, and not clear cut. It appears to define a set of symptoms, but there are variations in definitions and symptoms described. Read more about
CCD (opens new window).
The term CCD first appeared in 2006, following a dramatic rise in the number of disappearances in honey bee colonies in North America. Literally tens of thousands of bees were disappearing from hives each day, with some beekeepers reporting losses of 50% of their hives. Yet the phenomenon of honey bee deaths and disappearance in such a dramatic manner certainly began sooner than 2006, in Europe.
There is significant debate about the factors involved, including neonicotinoid pesticides.
In France, where dramatic honeybee losses were observed, and honey production dropped from 40,000 to 25,000 tons between the years 1995-2001, it was noted that these events occurred after the neonicotinoid called imidacloprid was applied as a seed dressing to sunflower crops.
Imidaclprid was launched onto the French market in 1994.
The above graph was cited in a study by Bonmatin et al in 1994 (I've added the arrow myself!). It shows the decline in honey production in France from 1994 onwards.
Some Additional Points of Interest
Imidacloprid, a very widely used, and the biggest selling neonicotinoid, has especially been the subject of much independent research and investigation for some years.
-Imidacloprid bans have occurred to varying degrees in Germany, France, Italy and Slovenia.
- Both German and French beekeepers took legal action against Bayer Cropscience, makers of Gaucho®, a neonicotinoid pesticide containing imidacloprid.
-The Coalition Against Bayer Dangers brought a legal action against Bayer. Read more
here (opens new window).
A number of other issues are implicated in the general decline of pollinators. Habitat loss is a very significant factor, especially with regard to wildflower areas.
Some have asked whether beekeeping practice can help to prevent CCD and honey bee deaths.
I decided to investigate the issue of our missing bees more closely. Why? I think it is incumbent on us all to get better informed, in order that we can speak up for bees, do our bit, and even avoid unwittingly contributing to the problem of honey bee deaths and bees disappearing!
Please do take a look at my research by clicking on the following links:
Are neonicotinoids responsible for honey bee deaths?
I decided to take a look at some of the scientific studies. Here, you’ll find a summary and photographs of some compelling research, and links to more.
The western honey bee – Apis Mellifera, is not native to the USA or UK. Therefore, do the reported honey bee deaths and hive losses actually matter, even if it’s on a major scale?
Missing Bees and Declines of Other Bees and Pollinators
It's not just honey bees that have experienced major problems. Many species of bees and other pollinators, are experiencing declines, with extinctions of some species. Link here to read more, and about the changes we need to make.
Do Mobile Phones Cause Honey Bee Deaths and Cause Our Bees to Disappear?
Well, let's look at it, shall we!
Can Beekeeping Practice prevent honey bee deaths?
Some beekeepers believe their bees are more resilient. Why?