Are honey bee pesticide poisoning incidents being properly identified and measured - or even adequately reported?
This is of interest, because in the UK, for example, during the debate about whether neonicotinoid pesticides kill bees, it has been claimed that there is no evidence that they are linked to bee losses. It is stated that honey bee poisoning incidents are monitored, and there is no evidence to suggest concern.
The UK Invertbrates charity, Buglife, investigated this claim. Here is what they say - from 6th April 2011:
The report then goes on to outline how the proportion of honey bee pesticide poisoning incidents due to neonicotinoids has increased from 0% in 2008 to 27% in 2010.
However, one could argue that the overall number of incidents is rather small anyway.
Certainly, the low figures surprised me - but then, I have heard about incidents going unreported.
This begs the
"are honey bee poisoning incidents really
adequately reported - or not, and whose job is it to ensure they are?"
need to know, because when claims such as those by Fera's Helen
Thompson are made, we need to be sure we can have confidence in their
validity, especially given the amount of independent evidence
implicating neonicotinoids in bee deaths.
A report by a Spray Liaison Officer and beekeeper, Dr Bernie Doeser, is interesting reading. You can download it
here (opens new window).
Within the report, Dr Doeser outlines the inadequacies of the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme mentioned above by Buglife, with regard to honey bees and beekeepers and the reporting of honey bee pesticide poisoning incidents.
These inadequacies include (and do take into account the large increase in numbers of new beekeepers):
Dr Doeser concludes:
"Certainly anyone basing their argument that bees are safe from pesticides on the low level of incidents reported to the WIIS does not understand how the scheme works, or perhaps more accurately, how it doesn’t work."
that the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme is led by the Chemical
Regulations Directorate, who are responsible for the approval of
pesticides, and who also work closely with DEFRA and FERA. Presumably,
it's their job to rectify this situation - although I won't hold my
Afterall, independent scientists have also drawn attention to concerns about the effects of sub-lethal doses of neonicotinoid pesticides on bees and non-target insects, but our regulatory system ignores them.
Yet it is low doses which are, according to Bayer's own product literature, effective at eradicating termites, by interfering with the insect's ability to groom itself, thus meaning that the insect then succumbs to diseases and pathogens. The leaflet states:
Low doses of imidacloprid such as the edge of the Treated Zone, disoriented the termites and caused them to cease their natural grooming behaviour. Grooming is important for termites to protect them against pathogenic soil fungi. When termites stop grooming, the naturally occurring fungi in the soil attack and kill the termites. Imidacloprid makes fungi 10,000 times more dangerous to termites. Nature assists imidacloprid in giving unsurpassed control. This control is called Premise 200SC plus Nature."
"The authors conclude that
sublethal studies may be helpful as an optional test to address
particular, compound-specific concerns, as a lower-tier alternative to
semi-field or field testing, if the effects are shown to be ecologically
relevant. However, available higher-tier data (semi-field, field tests)
should make any additional sublethal testing unnecessary, and
higher-tier data should always override data of lower-tier trials on
So when the likes of Helen Thompson seem to be capable of ignoring what is in front of her very nose, I really wonder whether the inadequate recording of honey bee pesticide poisoning incidents might just be ignored too.
No-one doubts that habitat is absolutely
a crucial issue for bees and other pollinators, and certainly, if we
ban all pesticides tomorrow, we must still address the issue of habitat
loss. A lack of appropriate foraging opportunities, such as those
provided by our vital dwindling wildflower habitats, has no doubt been a
major factor in biodiversity loss.
Regardless of this, don't we, the people, need to be reassured that our tax-payer funded organisations are correctly and adequately monitoring the effects of pesticides?
It's not even clear that we adequately report and monitor honey bee poisoning incidents, let alone adequately test and regulate pesticides prior to marketing authorisations being granted.
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