Ban Neonics – Hurt Farmers and Bees

Beekeeper working collect honey.

Organic pesticides, and other organic chemicals, are more dangerous to bees … and people

Paul Driessen

The honeybees, bumblebees and other little pollinators swarming over my flowers remind me what important roles they play – and how some misguided folks could inadvertently hurt them.

Montgomery County, Maryland now prohibits “weed-and-feed” lawn fertilizer and most “synthetic pesticides.” But it allows homeowners, farmers and orchardists to use “organic” products that are often more dangerous to bees, other wildlife and even humans. New York is considering a five-year statewide ban on neonicotinoid insecticides; this action too would likely result in the use of chemicals that may actually be much more toxic to the birds and bees it seeks to protect.

US Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) is still promoting a bill to reinstate an Obama era ban on using neonics in the nation’s wildlife refuges. She mistakenly believes these pesticides threaten biodiversity, bees and other wildlife in these important habitats – whereas alternatives would be safe and harmless.

Other jurisdictions are pondering comparable actions that could pose similar problems.

Neonicotinoids were introduced in the 1990s to replace less targeted, more toxic pest control chemicals. Primarily used to coat seeds, “neonics” significantly reduce the need for aerial and ground-level spraying with other chemicals that actually do harm bees and other pollinators. They become part of the plant tissue and target only pests that actually feed on the crops, particularly during early growth stages.

This advance has helped boost crop yields while protecting the environment. Losing neonics would put many states’ farming economies at risk. Support for neonic use comes from all over the world.

Up in Canada, the same misinformation that’s motivating US legislative and regulatory actions persuaded Ontario lawmakers to pass a neonic ban in 2015. Farmers have since reported paying four times more for an alternative pesticide that is less effective, cannot be used on some crops and can harm bees.

Activists persuaded Europe to ban neonics in 2013. But subsequent studies found the ban disastrously counterproductive.

For instance, after the ban, British farmers had to spray four times more often than before, using older pesticides like pyrethroids and organophosphates that are less effective, must be sprayed several times during the growing season, and often harm bees, other non-target insects and even birds. Insect pests increased dramatically, and across Europe the canola (oilseed rape) industry suffered revenue losses of over $430 million in just a few years.

As was the case in Europe, proposed prohibitions are often the result of environmentalist pressure campaigns and false claims that bees are threatened by neonics. Actual data show the opposite is true.

Despite warnings of a “bee-pocalypse,” except during the latest “colony collapse disorder” (CCD), honeybee colonies have been rising worldwide since the 1990s, when neonics first came on the market. US Department of Agriculture (USDA)  surveys show that U.S. honeybee hive numbers have increased seven out of the last ten years, and there are now over 150,000 more beehives than in 1995.

A closer look at New York’s crop yields also confirms that honeybee colonies are healthy. Apple yields are almost exactly the same as they were ten years ago, indicating that pollinators are thriving and busy doing their job. Similar lessons apply elsewhere.

There’s no doubt that honeybees have recurring problems. Overwinter losses are still high some years and, while bees reproduce rapidly and beekeepers can quickly replenish their hives, these losses can significantly strain this small but important industry.

Most experts agree, however, that the worldwide spread of the deadly Varroa destructor mite was a primary factor in the recent mass die-offs, and a recurrent problem over the centuries. They arrived in the United States in the late 1980s and spread widely over the next decade. The parasites attach to bees, suppressing their immune systems, carrying deadly diseases and creating pathways for other diseases to enter bee bodies. The triple whammy can have disastrous impacts on bee colonies.

Thankfully, the USDA has made progress in efforts to breed more Varroa-resistant or Varroa-tolerant honey bees, which somehow have better hygienic habits: they remove mites from one other. That’s important, because many available Varroa treatments no longer work as well, due to the mite’s uncanny ability to develop resistance to treatments.

Other USDA research has identified a promising new approach of using RNA interference to disrupt the reproduction of Nosema ceranae – another bee parasite that is the honeybee’s second-worst scourge.

Unfortunately, crusading activists, journalists, legislators and regulators spent years ignoring these microscopic predators and parasites. Instead, they blamed pesticides, especially neonics.

How wrongheaded and counterproductive that was is further illustrated by the vast canola fields in western Canada. The canola is 100% grown with neonic-coated seeds, and successful professional beekeepers actually cart their hives into the middle of the canola fields because they produce such delicious honey.         

Not surprisingly, as domesticated bees recovered, anti-pesticide activists began talking about wild bees, which can also be important for pollination. The activists get their facts wrong here, too.

There are thousands of wild bee species. According to a 2015 study published in Nature – probably the most extensive survey of wild bees ever done – 98% of wild bees don’t even pollinate agricultural crops. Moreover, the few species that do, and thus would come into greatest contact with neonics, are thriving.

Ironically, bees may be more at risk from insecticides that people have been falsely led to believe are safe. Organic farmers don’t use neonics or other modern chemicals, but they do employ a number of crop protecting pesticides. These “organic” products may be “natural,” but some are highly toxic to bees – rotenone, copper sulfate, spinosad, hydrogen peroxide, azidirachtin, citronella oil, and even garlic extract and acetic acid, for instance – chemical risk analyst Dr. David Zaruk points out.

Montgomery County’s guidelines specify that products bearing EPA registration numbers are prohibited and say gardeners should rely on a 113-page, tiny-type list of chemicals certified by the Organic Materials Review Institute, an organic industry support and advocacy group. However, OMRI doesn’t mention that some of its “approved” products harm bees or pose other serious risks – to wildlife and humans.

For example, OMRI (and thus Montgomery County, among others) approves rotenone, but neglects to mention that this nasty chemical kills bees, is highly toxic, especially when combined with pyrethrins, and can enhance the onset of Parkinson’s disease, Zaruk and other experts note. Pyrethrin pesticides themselves are powerful neurotoxins that can cause leukemia and other health problems.

Copper sulfate can damage human brains, livers, kidneys and stomach linings. Prolonged exposure to boron fertilizer can affect people’s brains, livers and hearts. Lime sulfur mildew and insect killer causes irreversible eye damage, and can be fatal if inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through the skin. Nicotine sulfate is a neurotoxin that interferes with nerve-muscle transmissions, causes abnormalities in lab animal offspring, and can lead to irregular heart-rates and even death. All are approved “organic” chemicals.

Journalists, legislators, regulators, homeowners and gardeners need to do their homework more carefully. They should read reputable scientific studies, rely less on anti-pesticide press releases and apocalyptic news stories, read product labels carefully, wash up afterward, and view with extreme skepticism any claims that the word “organic” means pesticide-free or a chemical is safe (or not even a chemical).

Above all, everyone should use all chemicals carefully and appropriately, under the assumption that any chemical (synthetic or organic) we are handling or applying may be toxic and dangerous – to bees, other insects and wildlife, or even ourselves.

Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow ( and author of many articles on the environment. He has degrees in geology, ecology and environmental law.

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July 13, 2020 2:40 pm

What about the “Killer” bee, that ain’t a wilder bee??!

Just asking.


Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  whiten
July 14, 2020 5:06 am

The term is a made up one.
The proper terminology if Africanized bees, a hybrid of the European honeybee and a strain of honeybee native to Africa, which were hybridized by scientists in South America and which subsequently escaped captivity and made their way northward during the 20th century.
They are not individually any more deadly than regular bees, but they are far more aggressive, and tend to swarm and attack any perceived threats to their hive.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
July 14, 2020 5:42 am

This wiki article appears to be at least mostly factual:

“The Africanized bee, also known as the Africanized honey bee and known colloquially as the “killer bee”, is a hybrid of the western honey bee (Apis mellifera), produced originally by crossbreeding of the East African lowland honey bee (A. m. scutellata) with various European honey bee subspecies such as the Italian honey bee (A. m. ligustica) and the Iberian honey bee (A. m. iberiensis).

The East African lowland honey bee was first introduced to Brazil in 1956 in an effort to increase honey production, but 26 swarms escaped quarantine in 1957. Since then, the hybrid has spread throughout South America and arrived in North America in 1985. Hives were found in south Texas in the United States in 1990.

Africanized honey bees are typically much more defensive than other varieties of honey bees, and react to disturbances faster than European honey bees. They can chase a person a quarter of a mile (400 m); they have killed some 1,000 humans, with victims receiving 10 times more stings than from European honey bees. They have also killed horses and other animals.”

Robert W. Turner
July 13, 2020 2:42 pm

You still think this is about the bees?

M Seward
July 13, 2020 3:21 pm

“Activists persuaded (Europe) to ban ….”

There you have it, activists having a target, a raison d’etre, a ‘badge of honour’ to justify their actions and reward their arrogance. No need for deep understanding when your stock in trade is a chant friendly slogan.

This activism is just another form of greed, a cheap, low entry, minimal investment. low intelligence required type of greed that does not even pretend to generate economic benefits rather the opposite.

Phillip Bratby
Reply to  M Seward
July 13, 2020 10:41 pm

The activists were probably encouraged by the EU, which wanted to ban neonics regardless of any evidence. That is the way the corrupt EU works.

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  Phillip Bratby
July 14, 2020 2:09 am

It’s a method well used in the UK. Create a QUANGO/a research project filled with the party in power’s activist friends and wait for the right answer. Don’t expect any improvement after 01/01/2021 all that’s happened in this particular area is that instruction is taken directly from the UN.

July 13, 2020 4:06 pm

For decades… #EnvironmentalistsKnew


July 13, 2020 4:27 pm

Misinformation is the bread and butter of activists in all fields There is no field of human endeavour that is free of Activist misinformation, from Bees to Climate Change and back again by the southern route. Crony Capitalism, the Left and activists are united in the promotion of fraudulent money transfers and public robbery built on misinformation.

Gary Pearse
July 13, 2020 4:57 pm

The “Great Global Greening ^тм” and burgeoning harvests courtesy of CO2 rise from fossil fuel use has been a mortal blow to climate wroughters. It is the only palpable humanmade manifestation of ‘Climate Change’ and it is enormously beneficial! (read, puts the cost of carbon deeply into negative territory – send cheques to the fossil fuel producers for unpaid-for ‘positive externalities’)

That is why those who want us to revert to the Dark Ages never talk about “Garden of Eden Earth^тм” climate change. They tried some lame ‘worse than we thought’ characterizations that were so laughable they defaulted into silence on it. It doesn’t exist if they are silent (sadly this works to a surprising degree). Witness the outrage, and efforts to disappear “Planet of the Humans”, pressure on You Tube, etc. and now silence – it doesnt exist now, James Lovelock- never hear of him again, Schellenburg, who’s he?

Finally neonicotinoids. You can’t have a miracle product with ‘nicotin’ in it! One that is gentle on Bees to boot. BTW, the finding that those using tobacco seemed to be remarkably safe from Covid19 was mentioned once and then silence! Probably few on WUWT even heard about it.

Half of Chinese men smoke and only 1.4% of Covid patients were smokers!

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Gary Pearse
July 13, 2020 9:08 pm

“Schellenburg, who’s he?”

Don’t know. But I do know who Shellenberger is.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Gary Pearse
July 14, 2020 5:13 am

The people most at risk from COVID are those who have attained a ripe old age.
How many smokers have attained a ripe old age?
Besides for that, this is the sort of “fact” which has taken on a life of it’s own.
Is it true, or merely something which has been “reported” and then passed along as a “fact”?
IDK, but for those who believe it is true, the facts will likely never come into play again.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
July 14, 2020 11:02 am

Nicholas- you don’t think that a country with 50% of men smoking and only 1.4% numbered among covid hospital patients is something amazing? There are lots of similar findings in Europe and US. I’m not offering an advertisement for tobacco! I’m showing that the green commies won’t stand for an insecticide made with nicotine that is kind to bees or the remarkable Chinese finding re smoking and Covid. And by the way, the Chinese statistics suggest to me that everbody should have lit up a cigar and had a gin and tonic (quinine water)instead of having so many deaths and 5+ trillion in economic costs.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Gary Pearse
July 14, 2020 11:53 am

It is amazing.
Too amazing to accept without substantial proof.
I have not looked closely at this, but after I posted my comment, other have posted apparently contradictory info.
For one thing, it makes no sense.
It suggests smoking makes one nearly immune from the virus.

If it is true, would it be the smoke or the nicotine?
Smokers have unhealthy lungs…not a group that seems likely to be immune from getting pneumonia.

John Endicott
Reply to  Gary Pearse
July 14, 2020 7:01 am

And yet a University of California San Francisco study find that young adult smokers are at higher risk of severe cronavirus. “The risk of being medically vulnerable to severe disease is halved when smokers are removed from the sample” said senior author Dr. Charles Irwin Jr. director of the UCSF Young Adult division.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  John Endicott
July 14, 2020 11:17 am

John Endicott et al: California study, huh?

Here other observations from Italy, France and the US. My first link, which you are criticizing is from Greece and China and is from MedWeb

John Endicott
Reply to  Gary Pearse
July 15, 2020 1:49 am

And so is the second link I supplied in the second response (which you ignored). Gary you are just looking for what you want to see and ignoring everything to the contrary. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that you are a smoker looking for anything to make yourself feel better about your nasty habit.

John Endicott
Reply to  Gary Pearse
July 14, 2020 7:04 am

Also, from the same WebMD that your smoker story comes from is this, more recent, story:

COVID-19 hits smokers much harder than nonsmokers, according to a new review.

“Smoking is associated with substantially higher risk of COVID-19 progression,” said study co-author Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at UCSF.

John Endicott
Reply to  John Endicott
July 15, 2020 1:52 am

Some reason the copy/paste failed (which should have been obvious as “from the same WebMD…more recent story” preamble

Though the quoted section should have made it easy for Gary to find with a quick search, had he been so inclined to look beyond his own pre-conceived notions.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
July 14, 2020 10:38 am

Here is Commander Cody’s version of the song that should accompany your reference, Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette

Albert H Brand
July 13, 2020 5:01 pm

In Lake George NY I see the main pollinators among the thistles and mulberry tree are bumblebees. I also have a lot of milkweed on the property so hope to see some monarchs later on. A few years back I saw a monarch caterpillar munching on one. It was quite large.

Carbon Bigfoot
July 13, 2020 5:56 pm

Here is what is killing the bees, birds

July 13, 2020 5:58 pm

My father was a bee keeper. Back in the late 1990s (or early 2000s) something killed all of his bees. The only thing that fits is the introduction of neonicitinoids. He had gone through other diseases over some 30 years, but this time they all died.

If it was something else I would like to know what it could possibly have been.

Reply to  Dan
July 14, 2020 1:35 am

“The only thing that fits is the introduction of neonicitinoids.”

The _only_ thing? There are many, many things that could cause death, of which neonicotinoids are a vanishingly small subset. If it were neonicitinoids, why didn’t they kill everyone’s?

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  Dan
July 14, 2020 2:18 am

Don’t know where you’re located but various web sources

In September, 1987, colonies in some hives transported from Florida to Wisconsin experienced colony failure – the first recorded case of Varroa infestation in this country. A spot check around the nation that Fall revealed the presence of Varroa mites already in a dozen states.

In April 1992, the varroa mite was discovered in the UK for the first time. By May 1992, the talk of varroa was on every beekeeper’s lips.

So possibly 10 years before your father’s problems? If you’ve never seen something before you may not recognise it.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Ben Vorlich
July 14, 2020 4:39 am

“Ben Vorlich July 14, 2020 at 2:18 am”

I think you are right there. IIRC, Australia is the only country that has no mite infestation and colonies/Queens are shipped over seas.

Bill T
Reply to  Dan
July 14, 2020 2:48 am

Mites killed them. Tracheal back in the 1990s (also earlier but not recognized- Isle of Wight Disease) and Varroa took over after that. I have been a beekeeper for 30+ years and completely agree with the article. Mites are the main reason most beekeeper lose bees. I also practice “organic” farming but do not use organic pesticides because several are very toxic to bees and fish (I am by the water).

There have been many studies of the neonics and it all depends on the prejudices you bring to the study. A good friend has an apiary right next to a neonic treated crop and has no issues.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Dan
July 14, 2020 5:03 am

“If it was something else I would like to know what it could possibly have been.”

Warmistas cannot think of any other reason that than CO2 for the weather getting warmer.

John Schwartz
Reply to  Dan
July 14, 2020 6:23 am

That’s exactly when varroa mites came to America.

John Endicott
Reply to  Dan
July 14, 2020 7:09 am

Dan, from the article:
Most experts agree, however, that the worldwide spread of the deadly Varroa destructor mite was a primary factor in the recent mass die-offs, and a recurrent problem over the centuries. They arrived in the United States in the late 1980s and spread widely over the next decade.

The next decade takes us to the late 1990s – sounds like the “something else” just might have been mites. Did you ever consider that, or had you just fixated on your first “guess” that it was the neonicitinoids what done it?

Reply to  Dan
July 14, 2020 9:28 am

So it wasn’t any of the pesticides that were applied directly to the hive to control Varroa?

What else it could possibly have been?
– winter kill (your father didn’t adequately insulate the overwintering hives for an unusually cold winter)
– application of pesticides in hive to control Varroa
– Varroa itself
– Nosema

Just to help with your story though, stick with the early 2000s. The neonics weren’t really in widespread use until about them, being introduced around 1995 for commercial use (largely in potato production first, where bees relatively seldom tread).

Lurker Pete
July 13, 2020 6:33 pm

“They become part of the plant tissue and target only pests that actually feed on the crops, particularly during early growth stages.”

I recall some research that showed honey bees injest the nicotine in the early mornings when VPD is low and the plants undergo gutaion that the bees use as a water source.

Regardless it seems from the research presented above the proposed ban could have serious unintended consiquences.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Lurker Pete
July 14, 2020 4:59 am

The kernel of fact at the center of this BS is the fact that some pesticides are absorbed by plants.
These are called “systemic” ones, as opposed to the ones which simply form a residue on the surface of plants and trees.
Since it is nearly impossible to spray a plant, tree or crop in a manner which provides uniform coverage, systemics are a way to kill insect pests and other harmful organisms in a very efficient and cost effective manner.
What one needs to know to see through this BS is the simple fact that neonicotinoids are almost completely nontoxic to mammals, but highly toxic to insects, even in trace concentrations.
One of the most effective disinformation campaigns ever perpetrated involves the active ingredient in Roundup, an herbicide which is about as close to nontoxic as any chemical could ever be, and which is called glyphosate.
Glyphosate is perhaps the single most useful chemical ever invented, and is likely responsible for saving more lives than any other in the world.
It is virtually harmless to animals, even directly ingested in concentrated form.
But try telling that to someone who has come to believe it is a deadly poison.
People are incredibly resistant to changing their minds once they have decided on something…no matter what that something is.

Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
July 14, 2020 9:49 am

It’s all based on a lie. I get Facebook ads all the time soliciting cancer victims to get glyphosate settlement money. The ads are probably a PR campaign intended to poison the jury pool.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Lurker Pete
July 14, 2020 5:18 am

It is not actual nicotine, but a chemical cousin…hence “neonicotinoid”.

Nicotine itself, like many and perhaps most plant alkaloids, is in plants precisely because it is harmful to something that preys on the plants that produce it in their tissues.

It is metabolically “expensive” for a plant to produce such complex molecules and hold it in their tissues, so there has to be a good reason for that gene to be conserved.
The reason is that it confers a survival advantage…it poisons insects that try to feed on the plant.

July 14, 2020 1:18 am

Have you seen how the DUtch grow food in big hydroponic factories? Because the environment is totally sterile, and the air filtered, they dont need any pesticides. And the Dutch are the second biggest agricultural produce exporter in the world, after the US. From a country the size of long island.

The DUtch always were modern! Perhaps we could all learn a thing or too, produce food from less land, leave more of it for nature, and have cleaner food at the same time.

Nick Graves
Reply to  Matt_S
July 14, 2020 3:26 am

Slightly O/T, but the Dutch Model does give total lie to all these Malthusian Catastromentalists.

Monsanto wants to feed the world and the other lot want to starve it – which is the evil organisation, again?

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Nick Graves
July 14, 2020 5:08 am

Monsanto sold the Roundup brand to Bayer a few years back.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
July 14, 2020 5:38 am

My mistake…it seems Bayer bought Monsanto…the whole company.
It seems Bayer has dropped the Monsanto name altogether…there is no more Monsanto.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Matt_S
July 14, 2020 4:37 am

“Matt_S July 14, 2020 at 1:18 am”

Is that after hash cakes and tulips?

Reply to  Patrick MJD
July 14, 2020 5:18 am

Includes them. 🙂

Reply to  Matt_S
July 14, 2020 9:49 am

LOL, I’ve been in those Dutch hydroponic factories. They do indeed use pesticides:

Copper and sulphur as fungicides; neither of which have particularly nice environmental profiles.
B.t. and spinosad for insect pests, though I will confirm that they primarily try to use biocontrols to manage insect pests such as thrips, aphids and other small sucking pests.

The environment is not totally sterile, otherwise nothing would grow. They are very well constructed greenhouses, no question, but sterile? Not even close. Otherwise they wouldn’t be ‘chemigating’ through irrigation lines with fungicides.

You also neglect the energy requirements for said greenhouses in terms of heating and lighting and the spectacular light pollution that this creates at night. Since we’re on a climate blog and if we subscribe to the notion of carbon as pollution (which most here don’t) then we need to consider the amount of greenhouse gases that these facilities produce which generally exceeds field growing of crops.

They do a real good job of promoting themselves, particularly the ‘organic’ aspect, but then organic really is just a designation stating that I don’t understand toxicology in the slightest but am willing to give you more money because I’m stupid.

Bill Treuren
Reply to  buggs
July 14, 2020 12:48 pm

Don’t forget the high doses of subsidies that enable a cold low sunshine region of the world to out compete the productive tropics.

Yes just a part of the Wests genocidal economic policies targeting the poor in Africa.
I’m from there and have lived there.

Nicholas McGinley
July 14, 2020 4:46 am

One of the big problems we have nowadays is the widespread dissemination of misleading and/or outright false information on social media sites.
This can occur via memes, word of mouth, or viral “warnings” regarding one or another topic or subject.
Examples abound, and I can think of several specific instances when I came across stories that purported to be informational that were in fact 100% made up nonsense sheets, often quite elaborate and detailed.
One that comes immediately to mind was regarding McDonald’s French fries and the potatoes used to make them. This gist of it was that these spuds were some deadly Frankenfood poison, craftily engineered in an elaborate ruse to poison the world.
Without going into the details, this BS story was written in such a way as to be utterly convincing to the credulous and gullible masses who read it and passed it along. As is typical for such tropes, the story played on the fear and distrust many people have to corporate interests, fast food in general, and a seemingly widespread susceptibility to false information that tends to reinforce preexisting ideas people harbor.
The specifics involved mixing truth with lies in a way which could be easily debunked by anyone who was so inclined, but made use of the fact that most people do nothing in the way of independent fact checking, coupled with ignorance of even basic knowledge of factual information of agriculture, food science, or the particulars of individual foodstuffs.
In any case, I was able to determine after about an hour of research that nearly every detail of the meme was 100% horseshit, and yet to a person coming across this story, seemed completely plausible and factual.
The food item at the center of the whole thing was a specific strain of russet potatoes called the “Burbank”, which happens to be the most commonly grown potato in the world, but this way of propagating lies and misinformation lends itself well to nearly any subject one might imagine.
Most people know nothing about potatoes, or how French fries are made from them, or how they are grown.
Similarly, most people have very little factual information regarding pesticides in general or insecticides in particular, and so it is very easy to make up a story which sounds plausible but is in fact a pack of lies mixed up with just enough truthful information to sound genuine.
The same methods have been used to make many people convinced that Roundup herbicide is a deadly poison, neonic insecticides are a unique danger to life, and that McDonald’s French fries are toxic waste.

The antidote to such lies is simply and easily found factual information, but in order to get such information, one must start out being skeptical.

And many people have no idea of what actual skepticism entails.

Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
July 15, 2020 10:32 am

“The antidote to such lies is simply and easily found factual information, but in order to get such information, one must start out being skeptical.”

Unfortunately, the masses appear to be resistant to said antidote.

John Schwartz
July 14, 2020 6:22 am

As a beekeeper since 2004, this is absolutely correct:

“Most experts agree, however, that the worldwide spread of the deadly Varroa destructor mite was a primary factor in the recent mass die-offs, and a recurrent problem over the centuries.”

July 14, 2020 7:09 am

Being one of the few actual scientists in this (my company tests honey for authenticity and contamination), I am going to respectfully disagree with this article. On the surface, the author makes sense, and I agree with a lot of the sentiment. However, neonics, such as thiomethoxam, do not DIRECTLY kill bees. At sublethal doses, hives lose the ability to maintain temperature (there is a Science article on this). Thiomethoxam itself decomposes readily to clothiandin, known to be highly toxic to bees. There is much more to this, but I shall keep it short.

I applaud the attempt here, but please ask the people who actually do the testing and are working on this problem when you write one of these articles. Dig a little deeper. I want to ensure the information presented on this site remains truly accurate as no one else seems to want to out in the media.

Reply to  James Gawenis
July 14, 2020 10:16 am


While there are some demonstrable effects at sublethal doses there are many confounding factors associated with this that the science (whether published in Science itself or elsewhere) readily acknowledges. Varroa, Nosema (oh that I could italicize), poor overwintering, in-hive pesticide application to control Varroa/Nosema/small hive beetle/etc. There has been an absolute explosion of neonic research articles in the scientific literature but one needs to be cautious in interpreting results, given how many of the null hypotheses are set up to make the neonic the villain and then conclusively report the same based on two years of someone’s M.Sc. degree. What many of these studies don’t do is take a holistic approach to the entire bee-crop ecosystem that looks at the survival of the bees, honey yield AND crop yield when utilizing alternative pest management strategies in the absence of neonics.

I would encourage you to take a look at France and their experience with hive management and CCD. They banned neonics in 2007, the first country in the world to do so. Then take a look at their CCD incidence relative to the rest of Europe and North America since then. You’ll find that in spite of a ban on neonics some 13 years ago they have very similar rates of CCD to the rest of the world. No neonics for a very long time yet still relatively similar CCD rates.

The point being that while neonics are not perfect, the replacements (which are generally older foliar applications of pesticides) aren’t necessarily better or less harmful to overall hive health. I agree that the article could have been better written and also confirm your contention that Thiamethoxam breaks down into Clothianidin. Yes, Clothianidin is highly toxic to bees. Can you name many foliar insecticides that aren’t similarly highly toxic to bees? I’m guessing outside of Bacillus thuringiensis variants the answer is no, simply because insecticides are designed to kill insects. Oddly, bees are insects.

The rationale for the future restriction on neonics in Canada, while motivated on the basis of cute honey bee commercials and a huge, activist driven email campain, isn’t actually because of the bees. It’s the effect on aquatic ecosystems that is a more serious question. Though that data is incomplete at this time.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  buggs
July 14, 2020 12:08 pm

During my years in the plant nursery biz and also since then, I read a lot of pesticide labels.
One would be hard pressed to find any such chemicals that do not want of being ” highly toxic to bees”.
So steps need to be taken to prevent exposure to bees as much as possible, no matter what is being used.
But at least there are now some good ones that are virtually nontoxic to animals, at least at the concentrations that are effective against insect pests.

Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
July 14, 2020 1:30 pm

Buggs, I agree that a holistic approach to CCD is paramount. I was trying to be brief, but in doing so, left unfortunate concepts unspoken.
The combination of multiple insecticides (which may or may not be “toxic” to bees), furosamide (a fungicide that causes susceptibility to Nosema), loss of forage (the real problem with glyphosate), and bee-feed containing high levels of HMF has made it hard for bees to deal with varroa.
A more holistic approach to farming alongside beekeeping is what seems to be necessary. How to achieve that is an excellent question for another day.

July 15, 2020 8:52 am

From the ground looking up, banning neonics without some workable alternative seed dressing seems quite counterproductive. People are applying multiple sprays which can do nothing else but catch other insects who are not part of the fight. In order to make these sprays work it is suggested that they are applied at night when the chewing insects are out and about on the cotyledons, but then so are a lot of moths.
Chewing insects working on the cotyledons checks the growth of the plants and these become more vulnerable to slugs. Fields with thin to bare patches in them flower unevenly and the retarded areas suffer from attacks of things like pollen beetles (more sprayed insecticide required) and the plants in the thin patches are sometimes permananently checked. I very much doubt that some of these absorb but a small percentage of the fertilser applied to them, which surely leaves it vulnerable to leaching.
Bare patches in winter planted crops also fill up with spring germinating weeds, these seed, the seeds either return to the soil or end up harvested with the crop -quite often green which can make the stored crop warm up.
It seems to me that the regulators need to view things in a more Holistic way. i.e we didnt really how ghastly Neonics were, so in order to get the job done, we will reauthorise Gamma HCH which kinder but we didnt realise at the time.

July 15, 2020 10:22 am

“The activists get their facts wrong here, too.”

When don’t they?

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