Stronger Pesticide Regulations Likely Needed To Protect All Bee Species, Say Studies

Wild bee Credit: Nigel Raine

Wild bee Credit: Nigel Raine

December 11, 2018, University of Guelph

Pesticide regulations designed to protect honeybees fail to account for potential health threats posed by agrochemicals to the full diversity of bee species that are even more important pollinators of food crops and other plants, say three new international papers co-authored by University of Guelph biologists.

As the global human population grows, and as pollinators continue to suffer declines caused by everything from habitat loss to pathogens, regulators need to widen pesticide risk assessments to protect not just honeybees but other species from bumblebees to solitary bees, said environmental sciences professor Nigel Raine, holder of the Rebanks Family Chair in Pollinator Conservation.

"There is evidence that our dependency on insect-pollinated crops is increasing and will continue to do so as the global population rises," said Raine, co-author of all three papers recently published in the journal Environmental Entomology.

With growing demands for crop pollination outstripping increases in honeybee stocks, he said, "Protecting wild pollinators is more important now than ever before. Honeybees alone simply cannot deliver the crop pollination services we need."

Government regulators worldwide currently use honeybees as the sole model species for assessing potential risks of pesticide exposure to insect pollinators.

But Raine said wild bees are probably more important for pollination of food crops than managed honeybees. Many of those wild species live in soil, but scientists lack information about exposure of adult or larval bees to pesticides through food or soil residues.

The papers call on regulators to look for additional models among solitary bees and bumblebees to better gauge health risks and improve protection for these species.

"Everybody is focused on honeybees," said Angela Gradish, a research associate in the School of Environmental Sciences and lead author of one paper, whose co-authors include Raine and SES Prof. Cynthia Scott-Dupree. "What about these other bees? There are a lot of unknowns about how bumblebees are exposed to pesticides in agricultural environments."

She said bumblebee queens have different life cycles than honeybee counterparts that may increase their contact with pesticides or residues while collecting food and establishing colonies.

"That's a critical difference because the loss of a single bumblebee queen translates into the loss of the colony that she would have produced. It's one queen, but it's a whole colony at risk."

Like honeybees, bumblebees forage on a wide variety of flowering plants. But because bumblebees are larger, they can carry more pollen from plant to plant. They also forage under lower light conditions and in cloudier, cooler weather that deter honeybees.

Those characteristics make bumblebees especially vital for southern Ontario's greenhouse growers.

"Greenhouse tomato producers rely on commercial bumblebee colonies as the only source of pollination for their crops," said Gradish.

The new studies stem from workshops held in early 2017 involving 40 bee researchers from universities and representatives of agrochemical industries and regulatory agencies in Canada, the United States and Europe, including Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency.

"I hope we can address shortfalls in the pesticide regulatory process," said Raine, who attended the international meeting held in Washington, D.C.

"Given the great variability that we see in the behaviour, ecology and life history of over 20,000 species of bees in the world, there are some routes of pesticide exposure that are not adequately considered in risk assessments focusing only on honeybees."

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Explore further: Bee flower choices altered by exposure to pesticides

More information: Environmental Entomology (2018). DOI: 10.1093/ee/nvy103 , 

Provided by: University of Guelph

The More Pesticides Bees Eat, The More They Like Them

Science Daily / Imperial College London     August 28, 2018

Bumblebee. Credit: © Jolanta Mayerberg / FotoliaBumblebees acquire a taste for pesticide-laced food as they become more exposed to it, a behaviour showing possible symptoms of addiction.

This study of bumblebee behaviour indicates that the risk of pesticide-contaminated food entering bee colonies may be higher than previously thought, which can have impacts on colony reproductive success.

In research published today in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a team from Imperial College London and Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) have shown that bumblebee colonies increasingly feed on pesticide-laced food (sugar solution) over time.

The researchers tested the controversial class of pesticides the 'neonicotinoids', which are currently one of the most widely used classes of pesticides worldwide, despite the near-total ban in the EU. The impact of neonicotinoids on bees is hotly debated, and the ban is a decision that has received mixed views.

Lead researcher Dr Richard Gill, from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial, said: "Given a choice, naïve bees appear to avoid neonicotinoid-treated food. However, as individual bees increasingly experience the treated food they develop a preference for it.

"Interestingly, neonicotinoids target nerve receptors in insects that are similar to receptors targeted by nicotine in mammals. Our findings that bumblebees acquire a taste for neonicotinoids ticks certain symptoms of addictive behaviour, which is intriguing given the addictive properties of nicotine on humans, although more research is needed to determine this in bees."

The team tracked ten bumblebee colonies over ten days, giving each colony access to its own foraging arena in which bees could choose feeders that did or did not contain a neonicotinoid.

They found that while the bees preferred the pesticide-free food to begin with, over time they fed on the pesticide-laced food more and visited the pesticide-free food less. They continued to prefer the pesticide-laced food even when the positions of the feeders were changed, suggesting they can detect the pesticide inside the food.

Lead author Dr Andres Arce, from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial, said: "Many studies on neonicotinoids feed bees exclusively with pesticide-laden food, but in reality, wild bees have a choice of where to feed. We wanted to know if the bees could detect the pesticides and eventually learn to avoid them by feeding on the uncontaminated food we were offering.

"Whilst at first it appeared that the bees did avoid the food containing the pesticide, we found that over time the bumblebees increased their visits to pesticide-laden food. We now need to conduct further studies to try and understand the mechanism behind why they acquire this preference."

Dr Gill added: "This research expands on important previous work by groups at Newcastle and Dublin Universities. Here, we added a time dimension and allowed the bees to carry out more normal foraging behaviour, to understand the dynamics of pesticide preference. Together these studies allow us to properly assess the risks of exposure and not just the hazard posed.

"Whilst neonicotinoids are controversial, if the effects of replacements on non-target insects are not understood, then I believe it is sensible that we take advantage of current knowledge and further studies to provide guidance for using neonicotinoids more responsibly, rather than necessarily an outright ban."

Story Source:

Materials provided by Imperial College London. Original written by Hayley Dunning. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

Andres N. Arce, Ana Ramos Rodrigues, Jiajun Yu, Thomas J. Colgan, Yannick Wurm, Richard J. Gill. Foraging bumblebees acquire a preference for neonicotinoid-treated food with prolonged exposure. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2018; 285 (1885): 20180655 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2018.0655

Protecting Honey Bees and Wild Pollinators From Pesticides

Beyond Pesticides

Beyond Pesticides advocates for widespread adoption of organic management practices as key to protecting pollinators and the environment, and has long sought a broad-scale marketplace transition to organic practices that legally prohibits the use of toxic synthetic pesticides, and encourages a systems-based approach that is protective of health and the environment. Learn more (below) on the role that pesticides play in pollinator decline, and actions you can take to BEE Protective. For information on growing plants to protect pollinators, see our Pollinator-Friendly Seeds and Nursery Directory. Use the Bee Protective Habitat Guide to plant a pollinator garden suited for your region, and consider seeding white clover into your lawn; learn more from Taking a Stand on Clover.

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NC State Researcher Awarded Grant to Improve Honeybee Health

NC State University     By Dee Shore     March 14, 2018

David Tarpy, of the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, leads new CALS research related to honeybee health.With a grant from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research’s Pollinator Health Fund, NC State University scientist David Tarpy is researching the impact of pesticide exposure on honeybee colony disease prevalence and reproductive potential.

Tarpy, a professor of entomology and plant pathology and the NC State Extension apiculturist, recently received a $217,000 grant from FFAR, a nonprofit established through bipartisan congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill. The FFAR grant is being matched by a graduate fellowship from the North Carolina Agricultural Foundation Inc., supporting a Ph.D. student in the NC State Apiculture Program, Joe Milone.

Milone and Tarpy’s research will generate new knowledge about the multiple interacting stressors that lead to declines in pollinator populations. “By studying the interactions among queens, pesticides and disease, we are determining how the entire exposome – or all of the things that the queen and colony are exposed to – affects overall bee health,” Tarpy said.

Noting that managed and native pollinators are vital to many crop production systems and the ecological resources that support them, FFAR Executive Director Sally Rockey congratulated Tarpy and NC State for undertaking research that will inform science-based approaches to improving pollinator health.

FFAR established its Pollinator Health Fund in response to the agricultural threat posed by declining pollinator health. Insect pollinators contribute an estimated $24 billion to the United States economy annually.

NC State is one of 16 organizations that received a total of $7 million in FFAR funding toward research and technology development designed to contribute to healthy pollinator populations that support crop yields and agricultural ecosystems.

To learn more about the FFAR Pollinator Health Fund, please visit

Bee-Harming Pesticides In 75 Percent Of Honey Worldwide: Study

 PHYS.ORG    By Kerry Sheridan     October 5, 2017

Bees help pollinate 90 percent of the world's major crops, but in recent years have been dying off from "colony collapse disorder" Read more at:

Traces of pesticides that act as nerve agents on bees have been found in 75 percent of honey worldwide, raising concern about the survival of these crucial crop pollinators, researchers said Thursday.

Human health is not likely at risk from the concentrations detected in a global sampling of 198 types of honey, which were below what the European Union authorizes for human consumption, said the report in the journal Science.

However, the study found that 34 percent of honey samples were contaminated with "concentrations of neonicotinoids that are known to be detrimental" to bees, and warned that chronic exposure is a threat to bee survival.

Bees help pollinate 90 percent of the world's major crops, but in recent years have been dying off from "colony collapse disorder," a mysterious scourge blamed on mites, pesticides, virus, fungus, or some combination of these factors.

"The findings are alarming," said Chris Connolly, a neurobiology expert at the University of Dundee, who also wrote a Perspective article alongside the research in Science.

"The levels detected are sufficient to affect bee brain function and may hinder their ability to forage on, and pollinate, our crops and our native plants."

Neonicotinoids have been declared a key factor in bee decline worldwide, and the European Union issued a partial ban on their use in 2013.

For the Science study, the European samples were collected largely before this ban took effect, Connolly said. Further research is needed to gauge the effectiveness of the EU steps.

Five common pesticides

Bees collect nectar as they pollinate plants, and over time this sugary liquid accumulates into the thick syrup of honey.

To test contamination levels, samples of honey were taken from local producers worldwide, and researchers tested for five commonly used neonicotinoids: acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiacloprid, and thiamethoxam.

These pesticides, introduced in the mid 1990s, are based on the chemical structure of nicotine and attack the nervous systems of insect pests.

"Overall, 75 percent of all honey samples contained at least one neonicotinoid," said the study, led by Edward Mitchell of the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland.

"Of these contaminated samples, 30 percent contained a single neonicotinoid, 45 percent contained two or more, and 10 percent contained four or five."

The frequency of contamination was highest in the North American samples (86 percent), followed by Asia (80 percent) and Europe (79 percent).

The lowest concentrations were seen in South American samples (57 percent).

"These results suggest that a substantial proportion of world pollinators are probably affected by neonicotinoids," said the study.

'Serious concern'

Our planet is home to some 20,000 species of bees, which fertilize more than 90 percent of the world's 107 major crops.

The United Nations warned in 2016 that 40 percent of invertebrate pollinators—particularly bees and butterflies—risk global extinction.

Experts said that while the findings are not exactly a surprise, the threat posed by neonicotinoids should be taken seriously.

"The levels recorded (up to 56 nanogram per gram) lie within the bioactive range that has been shown to affect bee behavior and colony health," said plant ecologist Jonathan Storkey, who was not involved in the study.

"Scientists showed earlier this year that levels of less than 9 ng/g reduced wild bee reproductive success," he added.

"I therefore agree with the authors that the accumulation of pesticides in the environment and the concentrations found in hives is a serious environmental concern and is likely contributing to pollinator declines."

According to Lynn Dicks, natural environment research council fellow at the University of East Anglia, the findings are "sobering" but don't offer a precise picture of the threat to bees.

"The severity of the global threat to all wild pollinators from neonicotinoids is not completely clear from this study, because we don't know how the levels measured in honey relate to actual levels in nectar and pollen that wild pollinators are exposed to," she said.

The levels of exposure to harmful pesticides may be far higher than what can be measured in honey, said Felix Wackers, a professor at Lancaster University who was not involved in the research.

"This shows that honeybees are commonly exposed to this group of pesticides while collecting neonicotinoid-contaminated nectar from treated crops or from flowers that have come into contact with spray drift or soil residues," he said.

"The actual level of exposure can be substantially higher, as the honey samples analyzed in this study represents an average of nectar collection over time and space."

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Field Tests Show How Pesticides Can Wreak Havoc on Honeybees

Los Angeles Times/Science Now   By Mira Abed     June 29, 2017

CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW VIDEO AT LA TIMES: York University Professor Amro Zayed explains how a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids can leach into the environment, harming honeybee workers and queens. (Credit: York University)

Humans are big fans of bees. We rely on them to pollinate crops like almonds, watermelons and apples.

But bees probably aren’t big fans of humans — at least, not of our agricultural practices.

In particular, they ought to be offended by our fondness for a widely used class of pesticides called neonicotinoids (neonics, for short).

Studies in the lab have shown that some doses of neonics are outright lethal to many bees and that even sub-lethal doses can shorten a colony’s lifespan and harm its overall health. Results have been similar in small-scale field studies.

A red-belted bumblebee covered in pollen visits a chive flower in Canada. (Jeremy T. Kerr)

Still, exactly how these pesticides, which are applied to seeds before planting, would affect bees in the real world remains something of a mystery. Scientists have been locked in a fierce debate over how much — and for how long — bees encounter these pesticides in their daily lives. After all, the conditions in a field are far more complex than those in a lab.

Now, two studies published side by side in the journal Science attempt to answer this contentious question.

One of the studies was conducted in Canada. It combined large-scale field work and laboratory experiments to better understand real-world neonic exposure levels and their effects on honeybees.

The other was conducted in large fields in Hungary, Germany and the U.K. Its goal was to understand how the effects of neonics vary between countries and how exposure during the flowering season affects the long-term health of a bee colony.

The research, published Thursday, provides a lot of new information and poses still more questions. Here are some of the key takeaways:

Bees are exposed to neonicotinoids for longer than we thought

In the Canadian study, biologist Amro Zayed and his team at York University in Toronto monitored 55 honeybee colonies in 11 locations from May through September 2014, a longer time than previously measured. They found that honeybees placed near cornfields planted with neonic-coated seeds were exposed to detectable levels of neonicotinoids for three to four months.

Even some of the bees placed far away from agricultural crops were exposed for around one month as the pesticide moved through the ecosystem. (More on that in a bit).

Ecologists from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology assess rapeseed crops planted with neonicotinoids (Centre for Ecology & Hydrology)

In the European study, a team led by Ben Woodcock and Richard Pywell from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in England studied bees in 33 sites, each split into areas that were treated with pesticides and areas that weren’t. They found that bees were exposed to neonics even in the untreated fields. This was particularly surprising considering that the chemicals have been restricted in Europe since 2014.

The researchers said this indicates that the pesticides remain in the environment long after a treated crop has been harvested.

Real-world doses of neonicotinoids are bad for bees

In general, both studies showed that the concentrations of neonicotinoids that bees actually encounter in fields are indeed dangerous for bees.

Woodcock’s team found that, in Hungary and the U.K., the more neonicotinoids there were in the ecosystem, the smaller the size of the honeybee colonies and the lower the fertility rate of wild bees.

Zayed and his team showed that worker honeybees died around five days sooner when exposed to neonics. That amounted to a 23% decrease in lifespan.

Exposed worker bees also displayed different behavior than unexposed bees. They tended to fly farther from the hive, as if they were lost. That symptom has been seen in previous studies.

A honeybee worker has an RFID attached to its back that allows York University researchers to monitor when it leaves and returns to the colony, as well as when it no longer is active and presumed dead. (Amro Zayed, York University)

A honeybee worker has an RFID attached to its back that allows York University researchers to monitor when it leaves and returns to the colony, as well as when it no longer is active and presumed dead. (Amro Zayed, York University)

The worker bees also were slower to recognize and remove dead or dying bees from the hive. This is important because removal keeps colonies healthy by eliminating potential sources of disease, Zayed said.

Perhaps most devastating, exposed honeybee colonies had difficulty keeping a laying queen. This can be catastrophic because if a replacement queen is not raised within three days of the previous queen’s death, no new eggs can be produced, and the colony will quickly die.

Between 70% and 80% of Zayed’s exposed colonies would have died without outside help, he said.

Neonic exposure can come from untreated plants

In both studies, neonicotinoids were found in untreated areas and plants.

Zayed’s group found that most of the contaminated pollen collected by Canadian honeybees actually was from untreated wildflowers, not from treated corn or soy.

While scientists don’t know how neonicotinoids spread in the environment, there are several plausible explanations.

Since these pesticides can dissolve in water, it is likely that dispersal occurs when neonic-contaminated water is sucked up by other plants, Zayed said.

Richard Shore and Pywell, both researchers from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, said that water, soil and dust are all possible ways that neonics might spread.

Environment matters — and it’s really, really complicated

One of the biggest messages from the European study is that the real world is incredibly complex, said Maj Rundlöf, who studies bees at UC Davis and Lund University and was not involved in either of the new studies. The variation is so great, both within and between countries, she said, that there must be a wide variety of factors at play.

One is the particular combination of agrochemicals to which bees are exposed. Farmland may be treated with pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and more. Just as some medications can interact with others, Zayed said, agrochemicals can join forces to intensify harm to bees.

Zayed’s team analyzed the toxicity effects of the two most common combinations found in their field tests. In one case, the results were startling: When the neonicotinoid thiamethoxam was combined with the fungicide boscalid, the neonic became twice as toxic to honeybees.

An eastern bumblebee pollinates lupine flowers in Canada. (Jeremy T. Kerr)

Additionally, the Woodcock team found that neonics had different effects in different countries. The pesticides did the least damage in Germany, and the team has a number of ideas as to why.

The German bee colonies were much healthier overall, with fewer instances of disease and parasites. They also had different diets, consisting of only about 15% neonic-treated rapeseed; in Hungary and the U.K., by contrast, rapeseed accounts for 40% to 50% of the diet.

This doesn’t necessarily mean we should ban neonicotinoids

The study authors and multiple other experts said it would be premature to ban neonicotinoids.

Norman Carreck, who researches bees at the University of Sussex and did not work on the new studies, said the EU’s 2014 moratorium on neonics has led to pest problems in England. The moratorium forced farmers to use alternative pesticides, and their effects on bees are mostly unknown.

“Farmers do an important job,” Zayed said. In making a decision about neonicotinoid use, we need to find a solution that “would reduce the cost to pollinators but at the same time still allow farmers to produce an economically viable crop.”

Quick Guide to Reporting a Pesticide-Related Bee Kill Incident

California State Beekeepers Association   By Joy Pendell

"If you have had a pesticide-kill incident, please report it. Reporting pesticide issues is instrumental in affecting change. There are still many people who do not believe pesticides present an issue for honey bees. Concrete data from multiple sources is needed to change this perception."

Native Bees Exposed to Pesticides Too

CATCH THE BUZZ   By Alan Harman  November 15, 2015

The first-ever study of pesticide residues on field-caught bees finds native bees are being exposed to neonicotinoid insecticides and other pesticides.

The research, conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey and published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, focused on native bees, because there is limited information on their exposure to pesticides. It did not look at pesticide exposure to honey bees.

The researchers say little is known about how toxic these pesticides are to native bee species at the levels detected in the environment.

“We found that the presence and proximity of nearby agricultural fields was an important factor resulting in the exposure of native bees to pesticides,” said USGS scientist Michelle Hladik, the report’s lead author.

“Pesticides were detected in the bees caught in grasslands with no known direct pesticide applications.”

Although conservation efforts have been shown by other investigators to benefit pollinators, this study raises questions about the potential for unintended pesticide exposures where various land uses overlap or are in proximity to one another.

The research involved collecting native bees from cultivated agricultural fields and grasslands in northeastern Colorado, then processing the composite bee samples to test for 122 different pesticides, as well as 14 chemicals formed by the breakdown of pesticides.

The scientists tested for the presence of pesticides both in and on the bees.

The most common pesticide detected was the neonicotinoid insecticide thiamethoxam, which was found in 46% of the composite bee samples. Thiamethoxam is used as a seed coating on a variety of different crops. Pesticides were not found in all bee samples, with 15 of the 54 total samples testing negative for the 122 chemicals examined.

Although the study did not investigate the effects of pesticide exposures to native bees, previous toxicological studies have shown that the chemicals do not have to kill the bees to have an adverse effect at the levels of exposure documented here.

For example, neonicotinoids can cause a reduction in population densities and reproductive success, and impair the bees’ ability to forage. Follow-up research is now being designed to further investigate adverse effects at these exposure levels.

There are about 4,000 native species of bees in the United States. They pollinate native plants such as cherries, blueberries and cranberries, and were here long before European honeybees were brought to the country by settlers.

In addition, many native bees are quite efficient crop pollinators, a role that may become more crucially important if honey bees continue to decline.

The researchers say their paper is a preliminary, field-based reconnaissance study that provides critical information necessary to design more focused research on exposure, uptake and accumulation of pesticides relative to land-use, agricultural practices and pollinator conservation efforts on the landscape.

Another USGS study published in August discovered neonicotinoids in in a little more than half of both urban and agricultural streams sampled across the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

“This foundational study is needed to prioritize and design new environmental exposure experiments on the potential for adverse impacts to terrestrial organisms,” says Mike Focazio, program coordinator for the USGS Toxic Substances Hydrology Program.

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Stung By Dead Bees

California Lawyer    By Glen Martin  July 2015

Commercial pollinators demand that regulators protect honeybees from potent insecticides.

Photo: Vern EvansFor about two weeks in the early spring, the San Joaquin Valley is a vast confection of pink and white, and the air is heavy with a magnolia-like scent. To some, the odor may seem overpowering, almost cloying. But to Jeff Anderson, a beekeeper in the small Stanislaus County town of Oakdale, it is the smell of money.

Oakdale is near the center of California's almond belt, and the pastel froth across the valley floor consists of hundreds of millions - maybe billions - of almond tree blooms. Each little blossom can produce a highly valuable nut - the 2012 crop was worth $4.8 billion. But the blossoms can't pollinate themselves.

That's where Anderson's bees come in. He sells honey, but he gets most of his income by providing pollination services to Central Valley growers. Some 35 percent of the world's food crops - including almonds, plums, kidney beans, okra, coffee, and watermelons - must be pollinated by insects to produce edible fruits, vegetables, and nuts, not to mention the seeds to sustain ensuing generations. Among all the insect pollinators, honeybees do...

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White House Plan Does Little To Take The Sting Out Of Pollinator Declines

Beyond Pesticides Daily News Blog  May 20, 2015

(Washington, DC, May 20, 2015) Yesterday, the White House released its much awaited plan for protecting American pollinators, which identifies key threats, but falls short of recommendations submitted by Beyond Pesticides, beekeepers, and others who stress that pollinator protection begins with strong regulatory action and suspension of bee-toxic pesticides. The Pollinator Health Task Force, established by President Obama in June 2014, brought together most federal agencies to “reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels,” and involved developing a National Pollinator Health Strategy and a Pollinator Research Action Plan. The Strategy outlines several components, such as a focus on increased pollinator habitat, public education and outreach, and further research into a range of environmental stressors, including systemic neonicotinoid pesticides. Although well-intentioned, the Strategy ultimately works at cross-purposes by encouraging habitat, but continuing to allow pesticides that contaminate landscapes.

“Waiting for additional research before taking action on neonicotinoid pesticides, which current science shows are highly toxic to bees, will not effectively stem pollinator declines, and is unlikely to achieve the National Pollinator Health Strategy’s goal of reducing honey bee losses to no more than 15% within 10 years,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.

A major component of the federal plan is the creation and stewardship of habitat and forage for pollinators. However, without restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids, these areas are at risk for pesticide contamination and provide no real safe-haven for bees and other pollinators. Beyond Pesticides continues to encourage federal agencies to adopt organic management practices that are inherently protective of pollinators.

Under the plan, EPA will propose...


Saving The Bees, Which Are Dying At An Alarming Rate

AlJazeera America   April 14, 2015

Important stuff: Video - Aljazeera America reports on the devastating pace of bee die-offs, and the plight of beekeepers like Jeff Anderson.  Without bees, there is no hope of growing many of the fruits and nuts the world is used to putting on its table. 

Over 100 Scientists Call for Action on Bee-Toxic Pesticides

Beyond Pesticides  November 26, 2014

Last week, over 100 scientists from diverse disciplines released a letter citing the growing body of scientific evidence that neonicotinoids and other systemic pesticides harm bees, and called on leaders of President Barack Obama’s Pollinator Health Task Force to quickly take action on pesticides to protect and promote healthy populations of bees and other pollinators.

Gary Tate Riverside CA Honey Bee taking flight Riverside Ca2The letter was submitted in response to the recent “listening sessions” hosted by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). These sessions were held by the agencies to collect public feedback on federal efforts on pollinator protection, and the Task Force convened to develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy. In June, the White House issued a Presidential Memorandumdirecting federal agencies to join the Pollinator Health Task Force, led by USDA, to develop pollinator health solutions.

The 108 scientists —whose areas of expertise include entomology, agronomy, ecology, ecotoxicology— called on Task Force...

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Beekeepers Support Ontario's Commitment to Reduced Neonicotinoid Pesticide Use by 80%

The Manitoulin Expositor   By Expositor Staff   November 25, 2015

MILTON–The Ontario Beekeepers’ Association (OBA) supports today’s announcement by the Government of Ontario, which commits to an 80% reduction in the number of acres planted with neonicotinoid treated corn and soybean seed by 2017. “Today the government has shown bold leadership, unique in North America, in moving decisively and measurably to significantly limit the use of these toxic chemicals,” says Tibor Szabo, President of the OBA. “The OBA appreciates the government’s recognition that the prophylactic use of neonicotinoid-coated seed on Ontario’s corn and soy crops is unwarranted and unacceptable.”

The acute decline in population of bees in Ontario is tied to the widespread use of neonicotinoids on corn, soy and winter wheat. Claims for bee kills in Ontario due to the application of neonicotinoids have been confirmed by Health Canada for both 2012 and 2013. In spring of 2014, Ontario reported 58% overwinter losses, over three times the average of...


Beekeepers File Lawsuit Against Pesticide Makers Over Bee Deaths

The Globe and Mail   By Eric Atkins    September 4, 2014

Beekeepers in Ontario have launched a lawsuit against two big chemical companies, alleging their pesticides have caused widespread bee deaths that have driven up costs and reduced honey production.

The honey makers allege Syngenta AG and Bayer CropScience were “negligent” in the “design, sale manufacture and distribution” of neonicotinoid pesticides, which are used to grow corn, soybeans and many other crops.

The lawsuit, which seeks $450-million in damages, alleges beekeepers experienced damaged or lost bee colonies, lost profits and unrecoverable costs as a result of neonic use on plants and crops. None of the allegations have been proven.

The case marks an escalation in the battle between Ontario beekeepers and chemical companies, two groups farmers rely on for pollination and crop protection.

The lead plaintiffs in the suit are Sun Parlor Honey Ltd. and Munro Honey, both of which are family-owned business in southwestern Ontario, the heart of the province’s agriculture sector.

In the statement of claim filed Wednesday, both companies allege they respectively lost more than $2-million in bees and honey production because of neonics between 2013 and 2006, when the pesticides became widely used in Canada.

Tom Congdon, whose grandfather started Sun Parlor Honey 89 years ago, said Health Canada has confirmed dead and dying honeybees at some of his 1,950 hives. In an interview, he said his business has sustained widespread bee losses all summer, and he has no doubt the neonic pesticides are to blame.

In the statement of claim, Sun Parlor Honey alleges neonic-related bee deaths have cost the company 139,000 pounds of honey over the past seven years worth more than $700,000. Replacing dead bees and hives has cost more than $2-million, Sun Parlor alleges.

Mr. Congdon, whose bees feed on a variety of crops, said bee deaths have worsened in recent years as corn and soybeans have become more widely grown due to rising demand for biofuels.

Syngenta and Bayer did not respond to interview requests on Wednesday about the lawsuit. The chemical companies have said that honeybees do not absorb enough neonics in the field to suffer ill effects, and the pesticides are safe if used as directed.

A spokesman for Bayer Cropscience said the company has not been served with the lawsuit and had no comment on it. 

"We believe the products we develop, market and steward represent the latest innovations in crop protection that have helped make Canadian agriculture productive and sustainable," Derrick Rozdeba said. 

Dimitri Lascaris, a lawyer with the firm representing the plaintiffs, said he has been retained by many large Ontario beekeepers that represent the majority of the country’s honeybee industry. He said he plans to seek Canada-wide certification for the class action, which can take more than a year.

Neonics are systemic pesticides that farmers use to protect their crops against insects. The pesticides are temporarily banned in Europe and their approval is being reassessed by Health Canada. The Ontario government says it plans to regulate the use of neonics, which have been cited as contributing to the 58-per-cent bee mortality rate in Ontario over the past winter.

Health Canada has blamed the planting of corn in Ontario for honeybee deaths, and directed farmers and chemical companies take steps to reduce the amount of pesticide-laden dust that is kicked up during seeding.

Honeybees are important pollinators, responsible for helping produce about one-third of the food we eat. This amounts to $1.5-billion worth of food in Canada every year, and $150-billion globally, said Ernesto Guzman, a scientist who studies honeybees at Ontario’s University of Guelph.

Over the past six years, honeybee losses in Canada have averaged 30 per cent annually. Causes for the decline include pesticides, parasitic mites, viruses, cold winters and the stresses placed on colonies when they are moved among farms. Scientists and bee experts believe neonics weaken the bees and make them more vulnerable to the pathogens.

“Neonic poisoning is, of course, a factor, but it is not the only factor,” Mr. Guzman said.

The Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists, which tracks bee mortality rates, says normal winter losses are 15 per cent.

Mr. Congdon said the virus-bearing mites are under control in his hives, and are not to blame for the piles of dead bees he sees near hives, nor for the many that never return home.

“The mites have contributed to winter loss, there’s no debate about that,” Mr. Congdon said in an interview. “But it’s nothing compared to what we’ve been seeing. All summer long we’re fighting to keep the colonies in shape. [Neonics] just weaken them down and make them susceptible to other pathogens.”

A group of European scientists known as the Task Force on Systemic pesticides reviewed 800 scientific papers that studied neonics and found clear evidence they pose serious risks to bees and other pollinators. They found the use of the pesticide is unsustainable.

Neonics are applied to the seed or sprayed on fields. They become present in all parts of the plant and are 20 times stronger than DDT, a pesticide that was banned decades ago, Mr. Guzman said.

Read at...

From: CATCH THE BUZZ - Kim Flottom (Bee Culture, The Magazine Of American Beekeeping, published by the A.I. Root Company. Twitter.FacebookBee Culture’s Blog.)

Live Chat: What's the Buzz About?:

What's the Buzz About?:  A conversation about bee declines, impacts on our food system & what you can do about it.

TODAY: June 16, 2014: Tune into the live stream by going to at 6pm PT / 9pm ET. And don't forget to submit your questions during the event via Twitter with the hashtag #BeeChat!

Thanks for for joining us for this important conversation.

Bees are responsible for one in three bites of food we eat, and their numbers are declining across the country. And these die-offs point to larger challenges facing our increasingly industrial food system.

As we kick off National Pollinator Week, please join the Berkeley Food Institute and Pesticide Action Network for a lively discussion with scientists, beekeepers and journalists about what's driving bee declines, what it means to our food and farming system and what we can do about it.

The event will be streamed live online. RSVP here to receive the link in an email & join the discussion! And don't forget to submit questions via Twitter during the event with the hashtag #BeeChat.

Co-sponsored by Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety and TakePart.


Todd Woody, senior editor for environment and wildlife, TakePart (moderator)

Mr. Woody is the senior editor for environment and wildlife at TakePart, the digital news arm of Los Angeles film production company Participant Media. He previously covered environmental and green tech issues as a contributor to The New York Times, The Atlantic, Quartz and other publications. 

Susan Kegley, PhD, CEO, Pesticide Research Institute

Dr. Kegley is a hobbyist beekeeper, chemist and CEO of Pesticide Research Institute, where she conducts research and environmental monitoring on pesticides, and has acted as an expert consultant to groups from Pesticide Action Network to the Pollinator Stewardship Council.

Gene Brandi, beekeeper and vice-president, American Beekeeping Federation

Mr. Brandi began his commercial beekeeping business in 1978 and has been active in leadership of various beekeeping organizations, including serving as President and Legislative Chairman of the California State Beekeepers Association Board of Directors, serving on the National Honey Board and on the American Beekeeping Federation Board of Directors, including currently as the Vice – President. 

Claire Kremen, PhD, Co-Director, Berkeley Food Institute

Dr. Kremen is a Professor of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at University of California, Berkeley.Her current research focuses on exploring the ecological, social and economic benefits, costs and barriers to adoption of diversified farming systems, and on restoring pollination and pest control services in intensively farmed landscapes.

Event Location

Berkeley Food Institute - live streaming online 

If you're in the Berkeley area and would like to join the event in person, please RSVP to
More info:

Trouble in the Almond Orchards

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey      April 23, 2014

Beekeepers and almond growers are concerned--and rightfully so--about the some 80,000 bee colonies that died this year in the San Joaquin Valley almond orchards. In monetary terms, that's a loss of about $180,000. But the loss isn't just financial. It could have long-term effects.

Beekeepers believe that pesticides killed their bees after the almond pollination season ended but just before they could move their bees to another site. This is a serious blow to both industries. Growers need the bees to pollinate their almonds. Now some beekeepers are vowing this is it; they'll never to return for another almond pollination season.

Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology talks about the issue in his latest edition of from the uc apiaries, published today on hiswebsite.

"When should the colonies be allowed to leave the orchards?" he asks. "When pollination no longer is happening. That does not mean that the bees should remain in place until the last petal falls from the last blossom."

"Why might beekeepers desire to move their hives out of the orchards 'early?' Once the almonds no longer provide nectar and pollen for the bees, the bees find replacement sources of food. Unfortunately, those sources may be contaminated with pesticides that almond growers would never use when the bees are present. Some common pests that surge right near the end of almond bloom include Egyptian alfalfa weevil larvae and aphids in alfalfa, and grape cutworms in vineyards. Delayed dormant sprays sometimes are being applied in other deciduous fruit orchards, even when the trees are in bloom. Often blooming weeds in the crops are attracting honey bees. If the year is really dry, the bees may be attracted to sugary secretions of aphids and other sucking bugs."

Mussen says it's "not difficult to see that accidental bee poisonings often happen. Despite our California regulations requiring beekeepers to be notified of applications of bee-toxic chemicals within a mile of the apiaries, bees fly up to four miles from their hives to find food and water. That is an area of 50 square miles in which they may find clean or contaminated food sources. Thus, growers whose fields are 'nowhere near' any known apiary locations may accidentally kill many bees with chemical applications."

"It seems," Mussen says, "that a combination of exposures of colonies to truly bee-toxic insecticides, followed by delayed effects of exposure to fungicide/IGR mixes during bloom, really set the bees way behind. The problem proved so severe that a number of beekeepers stated that they were never returning to California for almond pollination. That is not a good thing, since we really don't have too many colonies coming to almonds as it is."

In his newsletter, Mussen goes into depth about when and how bees pollinate the almonds and what could be causing the problem and how it can be resolved.

His take-home message? "Our honey bees cannot continue to be exposed to as many toxic agricultural products as they are, or we will not have enough bees to fill the pollination demand for our nuts, fruits, vegetable, forage and seed crops."

That's serious business.

Read at...

Visit the Kathy Keatley Garvey Bug Squad blog at:

When Bees Get in Trouble

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey    4/4/14

"Bees are incredibly good at picking up what's in their environment."

So said Senior Extension Associate Maryann Frazier of Penn State when she addressed the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's seminar last Wednesday, April 2 in Briggs Hall.

Frazier, on a trip to California to discuss her research with the Marin County Beekeepers, took time out to travel to the UC Davis campus at the invitation of Master Beekeeper/writer Mea McNeil of the Marin County Beekeepers and associate professor Neal Williams and assistant professor Brian Johnson of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

Frazier, a 25-year extension specialist, expressed concern about the pesticide loads that bees are carrying, as well as the declining population of bees and other pollinators.

Beekeepers, she said, used to be much more concerned about colony collapse disorder (CCD), that mysterious phenomenon characterized by adult honey bees abandoning the hive, leaving the queen bee, brood and food stores behind.  CCD surfaced in the winter of 2006, but today, when beekeepers report their winter losses, "they're not blaming CCD any more," she said. 

Frazier listed the prime suspects of troubled bees as poor nutrition, mites, genetics, stress, pesticides, nosema and viruses. "Varroa mites are a huge issue," Frazier said.

Turning to pesticides, she said a 2007-2010 U.S. analysis of some 1000 samples  (wax, bees and flowers) showed "an astonishing average of six pesticides per sample and up to 31 different pesticides per sample." The analysis, done by U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service Lab (USDA/AMS) screened for 171 pesticides at parts per billion. The samples involved a CCD study, apple orchard study, migratory study and submissions from individual beekeepers.  

Frazier compared the interaction of pesticides in bees to the interaction of medications in humans. When you go to the doctor, you'll be asked the names of the medications you're taking, she said.  The "interaction" situation is similar to what's happening with the honey bees.

In a bee colony, lethal exposures to pesticides are easy to see, Frazier noted. "You'll see dead bees, bees spinning on their backs and bees regurgitating." But the sub-lethal effects can mean "reduced longevity, reduced memory and learning, reduced immune function and poor orientation."

Marin County Beekeepers recently undertook a similar study of pesticide analysis, raising $12,000 to do so ($300 per sample). "Marin is very mindful of pesticides, probably more than any other place," Frazier said. McNeil agreed. The results are pending publication.

"If we truly want to protect our pollinators," Frazier concluded, "three things need to be addressed or changed:

  • Beekeeper reliance on chemicals and drugs to manage mites and diseases
  • Pest control practices, particularly agricultural land
  • The approach of more regulatory agences assessing risk and protecting the environment"

As the seminar participants left Briggs Hall, many could be heard discussing the take-home message: "average of six pesticides per sample, up to 31 pesticides per sample."


Visit the Kathy Keatley Garvey Bug Squad blog at:

Pesticide Lobby Spends Millions to Defend Chemicals Tied to Bee Deaths

Huffington Post    By Christina Wilkie    3/29/14 

WASHINGTON -- The chemical pesticide lobby is waging a multi-million dollar battle to prevent regulation of chemicals linked to the dramatic escalation in the deaths of pollinating bees over the past year. 

CropLife America, the trade association that represents more than 90 of the world's biggest agro-chemical manufacturers, spent nearly $2.5 million last year lobbying against bills that sought to increase oversight of chemical manufacturing and transfer, strengthen drinking water standards and fund research into the effects of pesticides on humans.

The lobbying expenses are part of an ongoing lobbying blitz launched in 2010 by the pesticide industry to fight any efforts by the Obama administration to regulate pesticides. Since 2008, Croplife America has poured $11.2 million into lobbyists, and another $643,000 into a PAC that backs congressional candidates sympathetic to the chemicals industry.

One class of pesticides that has international scientists and beekeepers increasingly worried are called neonicotinoids -- a chemical cousin of nicotine. Neonicotinoids are genetically embedded into seeds before they are planted, and last much longer than traditional spray pesticides. Last week a group of beekeepers and environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency over its approval of certain neonics, as they are known.

CropLife argues that neonics are safe, and CropLife America president Jay Vroom told The New York Times this week that science “supports the notion that the products are safe and are not contributing in any measurable way to pollinator health concerns." In 2011, Vroom earned $826,146 in salary and benefits from Croplife and its related entities.

The current chairman of Croplife America is John Croshniak, a pesticide specialist at the chemical giant DuPont. The former chairman, who stepped down in 2011, is Bill Bucknell, a senior executive in the pesticides division of Bayer, another one of the world's largest chemical manufacturers.

Bees Live in a Toxic World   By Melissa Hansen   3/19/14

Planting more flowers would help solve honeybee decline.


Neonicotinoids are under international focus for their impact on honeybees, but not all the blame for declining bee populations can be placed on that pesticide class.

Honeybee decline is real and is a major concern, says Dr. Timothy Lawrence, Washington State University extension educator. Since 2006, European and U.S. beekeepers have reported dramatic declines in honeybee colonies, a phenomenon that’s gained international attention.

The cause of the decline, named colony collapse disorder, has been the subject of numerous studies. Of late, researchers have been looking for a connection between chronic exposure of bees to neonicotinoids in nectar and pollen and plant water picked up by foraging bees and brought back to hives.

Read more... 

Building Buzz for Bees

Pesticide Action Network    3/20/14

Pressure on the Environmental Protection Agency to safeguard bees continues to grow stronger. Today in DC, PAN joined partners to hand deliver a message from more than half a million people to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy: Step up and prioritize protecting bees from harmful pesticides.

Even though independent studies clearly show that neonicotinoid pesticides (or "neonics") are hazardous to bees, EPA won't conclude its review of these chemicals until 2018. Meanwhile, neonics are the most widely used class of insecticides in the world. And bee populations continue to decrease at alarming rates.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the lawsuit filed against EPA by beekeepers and food and environmental groups over the continued allowance of two bee-toxic neonics. It also marks the two-year anniversary of the legal petition filed against the agency on the same issue. To date, the agency has stalled on both fronts.

And despite numerous studies linking neonicotinoids with bee kills, colony collapse, and weakened immune systems, EPA continues to operate under an alarmingly slow registration review process that extends to 2018.

Bees can't wait

Last year, beekeepers reported losing 40-70% of their colonies, and some were forced to close their businesses as a result. Loss data has not yet been released for this year, but the trend will likely hold steady. Since 2006, commercial beekeepers have lost a third or more of their bees each year. Beekeepers, including Jim Doan in New York, are incredibly concerned and calling for real action:

“Beekeepers are losing colonies at an unprecedented rate – the losses are too extreme to keep up with, and our entire industry is at risk of collapse unless federal action is taken. Convening conferences and changing pesticide labels is lip service and window dressing to the issue, but has no substance.”

Honey bees are responsible for producing one in every three bites of food we eat, and the estimated value of the pollination services they provide for agriculture in the U.S. is $19 billion. Almonds, apples, cherries and many more fruits and vegetables rely on bees for pollination.

A growing body of scientific evidence shows bees are being harmed by widespread use of neonicotinoids, both alone and in combination with other pesticides. It's the job of the EPA to review such pesticides for safety — and take decisive action when they're found to be harmful.

Growing momentum

In the absence of federal action, several states have taken action independently to introduce legislation that would restrict the use of bee-harming pesticides. California, Minnesota and New York are among the states considering action in their state legislatures. And this month, Eugene, Oregon became the first city in the country to restrict the use of neonicotinoids on city property.

Congress is also pushing to curb the use of neonicotinoids through the "Save America’s Pollinators Act" (HR 2692), introduced by Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). This bill would mandate EPA to remove neonics from the market until their review is complete.

Keeping the pressure on EPA, a growing coalition collected the messages delivered to the agency today. Participating groups include PAN, Avaaz, Beyond Pesticides, Causes, Center for Food Safety, CREDO, Food Democracy Now!, Friends of the Earth US, Organic Consumers Association, Save Our Environment and SumOfUs. Together, we're pushing EPA on all sides, urging the agency to step up and do the right thing.

Bees need help, and they need it fast.

Take action» Help keep this important issue front and center! Create a pesticide-free Honey Bee Haven in your yard, invite your friends and neighbors to do the same, and spread the word!


Photo courtesy of the Center for Food Safety.