Between 2007 and 2008, the UK National Bee Unit and FERA
(Food and Environment Research Agency) carried out a study investigating Honey Bee colony losses in England
Included within this study was the investigation of disease prevalence including the pathogenic fungi, nosema.
A number of studies have highlighted relationships between neonicotinoid pesticides and mortality in bees due to nosema:
The EFSA Panel on Plant Protection Products - EFSA Journal 2012; 10(5):2668 also commented:
In April 2011, information was presented to Member of the European Parliament, Julie Girling by Helen Thompson of Fera, and Budge & Brown of the National Bee Unit.
Meeting notes were published, and others were in attendance, including Gavin Lewis of JSC International.
You can find all of the presentations by copying and pasting this web link into a new window:
You can download the specific presentation by FERA and the National Bee Unit here (opens a new window).
The presentation refers to a 2 year project to establish disease and pathogen prevalence in England & Wales across 4600 apiaries. Page 13 states:
“Provisional results 2009-2010
• 53% Nosema
This is an interesting way of presenting the data!
This seems to imply 47% nosema positive, which is a very high percentage!
if 47% of the human population were found to be infected with one particular serious disease! The presentation then goes on
14: “Clear impact of Chronic Bee
Paralysis Virus (14% prevalence)”
Hhmmm………….. that surely implies 86% Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus negative?
So why does the slide not state:
After all, this would seem like a more balanced representation of the data.
The results of the 2 year project were published, and indicate that 45% of the colonies had nosema – 8% of which had 2 strains.
The final report by FERA and the National Bee Unit provides no specific picture as to how many of the colonies actually died from nosema. It doesn’t specifically tell us whether those colonies had been exposed at some point to neonicotinoids.
They also tell us there is no evidence of CCD in the UK (although in any event, definitions vary), but that winter losses 2007 - 2008 were 30%.
The National Bee Unit had also published a leaflet stating:
Inspite of this, and the independent studies on nosema and
neonicotinoids such as those listed above, there are no recommendations
that it might be worth monitoring and assessing losses due to Nosema,
and whether or not neonicotinoids make honey bees more susceptible to
death from nosema.
It is possible FERA and the National Bee Unit have not been or would not be able to detect neonicotinoids in their samples, which I find equally disconcerting.
Certainly, Pettis et al note, regarding subsequent undetectability of neonicotinoid pesticides:
In addition, whether or not the UK National Bee Unit is likely to have accurately pin-pointed the date of arrival of nosema in the UK, is perhaps a debatable point:
I think the prevalence of
nosema and suggested link between it and neonicotinoids, is a cause for
concern, and should be taken seriously by the government.
Questions also need to be raised about the impact on other non-target species - which may become exposed to their own fungal diseases too.