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Ban Neonicotinoid Pesticides to Save the Honeybee

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Fresh evidence links neonicotinoid pesticides to death of the honeybees and spurs calls for banning the pesticides

Dr. Mae-Wan Ho January 24, 2011                Institute of Science in Society

Increase vulnerability to infection at minute doses

The honeybee’s vulnerability to infection is increased by the presence of imidacloprid, even at the most microscopic doses. This new research result by Dr Jeffrey Pettis and his team at the US Department of Agriculture’s Bee Research Laboratory has remained unpublished for nearly two years, according to an ‘exclusive’ report in UK’s newspaper, The Independent [1]. Increased disease infection happened even when the levels of the insecticide were so tiny that they could not be detected in the bees that the researchers had dosed.

The neonicotinoid insecticides, introduced since the early 1990s, are increasingly used on crops in the US, Britain and around the world. Bayer, the German chemicals giant that developed the insecticides insists that they are safe for bees if used properly, but they have already been widely linked to bee losses. Imidacloprid was Bayer’s top-selling insecticide in 2009, earning the company £510 m.

Link to colony collapse of the honeybee

Neonicotinoids have attracted growing controversy since their introduction by Bayer in the 1990s, and have been blamed by some beekeepers and environmental campaigners as a potential cause of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), first observed in the US in 2006, in which bees disappear from hives en mass (see [2] Mystery of Disappearing Honeybees, SiS 34). Prof. Joe Cummins at ISIS was among the first to link neonicotinoid insecticides to CCD ([3] Requiem for the Honeybee , SiS 34); which had led to swift action on the part of the German Government in banning the pesticides ([4] Emergency Pesticide Ban for Saving the Honeybee, SiS 39).

Between 20 and 40 per cent of American hives have been affected, and CCD has since been observed in several other countries from France to Taiwan, though it has not yet been detected in Britain [1], where the area of cropland treated with neonicotinoids has gone from 0 in 1993 to more than 2.5 m acres in 2008.

Neonicotinoids bans

The chemicals have been banned already in France, Germany and Italy. In Britain, the Co-op has banned their use in farms from which it sources fruit and vegetables, but the British Government has refused to ban or suspend them.

Buglife director, Matt Shardlow, commented on the Pettis study: “This new research from America confirms that at very, very low concentrations neonicotinoid chemicals can make a honeybee vulnerable to fatal disease. If these pesticides are causing large numbers of honeybees, bumblebees, solitary bees, hoverflies and moths to get sick and die from diseases they would otherwise have survived, then neonicotinoid chemicals could be the main cause of both colony collapse disorder and the loss of wild pollinator populations.

“The weight of evidence against neonicotinoids is becoming irresistible – Government should act now to ban the risky uses of these toxins.”

The UK Government is to debate the impact on bees and other insects of the new generation of pesticides linked to bee mortality [5]. The Government will be called on to suspend all neonicotinoid pesticides approved in British, pending more exhaustive tests of their long-term effects on bees and other invertebrates. The subject will be raised in an adjournment debate in the House of Commons Tuesday 25 January 2011 on a motion tabled by Martin Caton, the Labour MP.

Caton, a former agricultural scientist said the evidence is growing that neonicotinoids were a problem, but the testing regime for the compounds in Britain and Europe was not rigorous enough. “I think they should be suspended on the precautionary principle while we improve it.” He added: “We’re talking about a threat to our whole ecosystem, when invertebrates are being lost at the sort of rate that has happened in recent years.”

There is already a call for banning neonicotinoid pesticides in the US and European Union that has attracted 1 069 781 signatures so far [6]

Unpublished research repeated and published in France

Dr Pettis told The Independent his research was completed almost two years ago [1], “but it has been too long in getting out.”  He has now been submitted his manuscript to a new journal for publication. However, in a comment to the news article, Pettis made clear that he is not alleging that his research is being suppressed, but that “the review process on the paper has simply been lengthy.”

Pettis and a member of his team, Dennis van Engelsdorp, of Penn State University, both leaders in research on CCD, and  have spoken about it at some length in a film about bee deaths that has been shown widely in Europe, but not yet in Britain or the US.

In The Strange Disappearance of The Bees, made by the American film-maker Mark Daniels, Pettis and van Engelsdorp reveal that they exposed two groups of bees to the well-known bee disease agent Nosema. One of the groups was also fed tiny doses of imidacloprid. There was a higher uptake of infection in the bees fed the insecticide, even though it could not subsequently be detected, which raises the possibility that such a phenomenon occurring in the wild might be simply undetectable.

Although the US study remains unpublished, French researchers at the National Institute for Agricultural Research in Avignon have independently carried out similar research and published their study in the journal Environmental Microbiology. They stated [7]: “We demonstrated that the interaction between nosema and a neonicotinoid (imidacloprid) significantly weakened honeybees.”

Synergistic effects between pathogen and pesticide confirmed

The results of the French group confirmed that synergistic effects between Nosema and neonicotinoid pesticide weakened the honeybee, causing increased mortality [7]. The activity of glucose oxidase, which enables the bees to sterilize colony and brood food, was significantly decreased only by the combination of both compared with controls, not with the two groups treated singly by either Nosema or neonicotinoid pesticide.

This synergistic effect was first suggested by Prof. Joe Cummins writing for ISIS ([8] Parasitic Fungi and Pesticides Act Synergistically to Kill Honeybees? SiS 35). Such an effect is well-known and already exploited in controlling pests.

To reduce harm caused by chemical pesticides, more ‘eco-friendly’ biological controls have been developed using microbial pathogens including viruses, bacteria and fungi, especially fungi. When fungal pathogens are administered with sub-lethal doses of pesticides, they interact synergistically and result in much more effective  killing of insect pests such as termites, thrips, and leaf-cutter ants.

Imidacloprid, a systemic neonicotinoid pesticide is widely used around the world on food crops, and has been implicated in the loss of honeybee in France, where one hive in two contain residues of imidacloprid, 30 percent of honey and 26 percent of bees, albeit at sub-lethal levels of about 5 mg/kg.

Simultaneously, a parasitic microsporidia fungus, Nosema ceranae, has been associated with bee losses in the USA, and Spain. This prompted the researchers in Avignon to carry out their investigations.

The study was designed to look at possible effects on 1) individual mortality and energetic demands; 2) individual immunity; and 3) social immunity. Energetic demands were assessed by sucrose consumption as Nosema alters host nutrient store and feeding behaviour. Individual immunity was assessed by total haemocyte (blood cell) count (THC) and phenoloxidase (PO) enzyme activity. PO plays a central role in invertebrates’ immune reaction, being involved in the encapsulation of foreign object through melanisation. THC gives an indirect measure of basal cell immune activity as the blood cells are involved in phagocytosis and the encapsulation of a parasite. Glucose oxidase (GOX) enzyme activity is measured as an indicator of social immunity, as it is involved in sterilizing the colony, and its antiseptic product, hydrogen peroxide is secreted into larval food and honey to inhibit pathogen development.

The results showed that imidacloprid significantly increased mortality over controls even at the lowest concentration used (0.7 mg/kg), but mortality was always highest when the bees were simultaneously exposed to Nosema. At the lower concentrations previously designated sub-lethal (0.7 and 7 mg/kg), the synergistic effects of the pesticide with Nosema were additive; but at the highest concentration of imidacloprid (70 mg/kg), the effects were closer to multiplicative. Sucrose consumption showed a similar pattern.

THC and PO, as indicators of individual immunity were not significantly affected by the treatments, though the possibility remains that they may not be adequate indicators of individual immunity.

However, glucose oxidase, as indicator of social immunity, was significantly decreased only when imidacloprid and Nosema were present together. This decrease in social immunity could explain the higher mortalities in bees simultaneously exposed to the two agents.


1. “Exclusive: Bees facing a poisoned spring”, Michael McCarthy, The Independent, 20 January 2011, http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/exclusive-bees-facing-a-poisoned-spring-2189267.html

2. Ho MW and Cummins J. Mystery of disappearing honeybees. Science in Society 34, 35-36, 2007.

3. Cummins J. Requiem for the honeybee. Science in Society 34, 36-37, 2007.

4. Ho MW. Emergency pesticide ban for saving the honeybee. Science in Society 39, 40-41, 2008.

5. “Call to ban pesticides linked to bee deaths”, Michael McCarthy, The Independent, 21 January 2011, http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/call-to-ban-pesticides-linked-to-bee-deaths-2190321.html

6. American bee emergency – act now. AVAAZ.org, accessed 21 January 2011, https://secure.avaaz.org/en/save_the_bees_usa/?cl=895629409&v=8117

7. Alaux C, Brunet J-L, Dussaubat C, mondet F, Tchamitchan S, Cousin M, Brillard J, Baldy A, Belzunces LP and Le Conte Y. Interactions between Nosema microspores and a neonicotinoid weaken honeybees (Apis millifera). Environmental Microbiology 2010, 12, 774-82.

8. Cummins J. Parasitic fungi and pesticides act synergistically to kill honeybees? Science in Society 35, 38, 2007.

Posted with permission.

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  1. Dear Sir/Madam

    If it were pesticides it would be localised not everywhere around the world.

    My name is John Harding who has found the the answer and solution to stop honeybees dying out.

    Below in two parts is why.

    First part is an extract from my book.

    The second part is a proof copy of a leaflet given out at the International Bee Research (IBRA) Conference held in the UK on 29th January 2011.

    Please enjoy reading.


    I am sure you are aware of the plight of the Honeybee worldwide. Beekeepers need an answer. Initially Apiarist worldwide was putting the blame for the Honeybee demise on the doorstep of the Chemical and Mobile Phone Industries.

    Honeybees are dying out at an alarming rate with no one knowing why. Pesticides, CCD, GM crops, Climate change, Mobiles, Global warming or perhaps someone or something to blame would be acceptable to everyone.
    There are many possibilities being put forward but as yet, no answers. The parasitic mite called Varroa is not helping matters with its contribution.

    However there are two common denominators why Honeybees are dying worldwide. A short explanation first.

    Chemical companies are investing millions worldwide in Universities, Scientists, Professors, Doctors, Institutes, Beekeeping Organisations and whoever, so they just might find a chemical or bacterial answer for the parasitic mite called Varroa that is sweeping the continents devastating Honeybees. Mobile Phone Companies are in denial not wanting the blame.

    Chemical companies need an answer whether it is one or the other so they may recoup their investment and profit from beekeepers worldwide in selling their product.

    Was Albert Einstein right in his alleged statement? “If Honeybees die out then mankind will follow 4 years later” the chances are that it won’t be 4 years due to other foods such as rice being available but it will happen eventually as honeybees do pollinate 35% of what we eat.

    Once Honeybees are gone, Honeybees are gone for good!

    I am a beekeeper of 30 years` experience, keeping up to 300 beehives, until 6 years ago. I have invented beekeeping equipment in that time that I am proud to say, does bare my name, “The Harding Queen Rearing System using Two Queens” and “The Harding Mini Nucleus Complete System” (as seen on the internet website for BIBBA). These are an inclusion of this book, Chapter Three & Five.

    During my life’s work things happen and you wonder at nature, how perfect is the Honeybee micro-world, why would you want to change it and yet mankind unknowingly has changed the Honeybees perfect 200 million year existence to what mankind wants.

    My beekeeping puzzle is based on observation and logic over the past 30 years with each piece complimenting the next, eventually creating a picture and discovering;

    “The answer and solution to the Holy Grail of beekeeping”.

    I have always thought there was a natural way to treat the parasitic mite Varroa. After 18 years without treatment of any chemicals or sugar in my hives I have found the answer and it is a “World Exclusive!“

    It didn’t start with the Varroa mite 20 years ago, what the Varroa mite did was escalate the problem to what beekeepers had done worldwide, but it did bring it to the attention of the media and mainstream public in the last few years causing an over re-action due to Albert Einstein’s alleged quote.

    Honeybees started dying out when man found honey, tens of thousands of years ago when man wanted to domesticate Honeybees to harvest honey, putting them into logs, boxes, skeps eventually beehives but taking them away from their natural source of survival and requirements, which keeps their delicate micro-environment alive.

    The first common denominator for the demise of Honeybees is……… Mankind! Well, Beekeepers now and in the past!

    So what is the second common denominator?

    “I have found a natural phenomenon, the bees need it to survive to complete their micro-existent world, and is free. I am the first person in the world to combine Honeybees with this phenomenon, so you can imagine how the chemical companies are going to react after spending millions around the globe. I have approached Universities and Beekeeping Organisations here, in the UK, and abroad with my hypothesis but due to the infiltration of funding from chemical companies or others, University Scientist, Professors or Scholars are unable to take my hypothesis due to inevitably losing their precious funding or being biased to a chemical or bacterial answer”.

    Yes! It is topical, political and controversial! One single person taking on the might of a billion-dollar pharmaceutical industry and the Hierarchy of the Beekeeping World with every beekeeper past and present being the reason for their demise and the answer being a natural phenomenon which is free.

    CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) in the USA is also down to Mankind for the demise of their Honeybees having the same problems as us but with one extra reason that is only in the USA.

    Whatever you think after you have read my book, I will not be popular with any beekeeper, scientist, professor or anyone looking for a chemical or bacterial answer, but may, just may, stop Honeybees dying out worldwide.

    That will be pleasing in itself. I am just a passionate beekeeper that has found an answer and solution. This book is a small part of the invisible world of the mysterious Honeybee that is disappearing too quickly.

    “Albert Einstein did not say that famous quote about mankind dying out. It was a misquote from Albert “N” Stein an American beekeeper of the same era as Albert Einstein. However with accent, dialect and poor communication at that time it was misunderstood”.

    “An HOLISTIC Way in Saving The Honeybee”
    Available from
    Books Illustrated (Lower High St Stourbridge)
    Northern Bee Books UK

    For discussion at the International Bee Research Association (IBRA) Conference
    held at the University Of Worcester on the 29th January 2011.
    Varroa-still a problem in the 21st century?

    My name is John Harding, I have kept, researched, experimented, observed and used logic and common sense in trying to keep as much to nature as possible while keeping Honeybees. During the last 30 years I have invented bee equipment that does bare my name. I have not used sugar or chemicals for the past 18 years, due to the first approved licensed treatments killing a percentage of my queens.

    I hoped that one day I would find a natural remedy for the parasitic mite Varroa.

    This, I have now done.


    We know that Honeybees have been on this planet for 100 to 200 million years depending which book you read, so bees have evolved with planet earth. This has brought with it changing climates, polarity change, a change in continents with moving earth plates and a change in flora. In all that time dealing with disease, mites, intruders and any other alien insect or animal, even man.


    During this time, their home has been in hollow trees, caves or covered protected position so they may get away from draughts, rain or severe weather to build their amazing honeycomb nest that is kept to an accurate temperature +_ 1 degree to raise the numbers required for survival both in summer and winter.


    Thousands of years ago man found honey. Due to the Honeybees perilous home positions being high in a cave or high up in a tree, man decided to re-home the Honeybee into logs, boxes, skeps and then beehives so as to make it easier to harvest honey. A form of domestication.

    Has Man made a difference?

    No, except for realising a unique space (Langstroth) that Honeybees respect meaning we as beekeepers can inspect our colonies with frames rather than killing off the bees that were in a skep over a sulphur pit. This observation only happened 150 years ago. Queen excluders were also invented.

    Are there any other major discoveries?

    Yes, Eddie Woods (a BBC sound engineer) discovered 60 years ago inside the Honeybee nest that vibration levels was measured between 190hertz and 250hertz during normal conditions however when swarming this vibration went up to 300hertz.

    Was any scientific work carried out at the time or later? No! If it had we could be further along the path of understanding the Honeybee better. Beekeeping today is much the same as it was in the beginning except of course the Langstroth frame space and Queen excluder.

    Have Beekeeping books changed?

    No, not really except for the amount of knowledge that we have now gained about the mysterious Honeybee, it always seems to be repetition but more in depth, more of a scientific language.

    Can we still learn from the Honeybee?



    Using observation and logic and asking “What do Honeybees really want?”.

    They did not ask to be put into a box or beehive.

    However, while in our care, we, as beekeepers, should give them and treat them as if they were in a wild state of nature.

    We know they want and use vibration.(Woods)

    We know they will respect a unique space.(Langstroth)

    We know they use electromagnetic north/south in honeycomb building and in flight.

    We know with a strong colony, disease and varroa can be kept to a minimum.

    We also know with a colony of strength our rewards of honey is greater.

    So! What do Honeybees really want?

    Vibration, how is it generated? At the moment by the Honeybees themselves to ward off predators, for communication and to keep their micro existent climate to a perfect temperature for brood rearing, but is that sufficient? Unfortunately NO!

    Can it be found elsewhere? YES! Planet Earth (NASA)

    Planet earth has evolved, so trees, animals, plants, fish, birds and insects has evolved with it and so too, Honeybees, evolving with the planet. Which is why Honeybees not only need a high vibration of 250hertz to sustain their microenvironment but actively look for it by swarming.

    How could man know this? You cannot see, feel, touch or sense it.

    Planet earth vibrates constantly at 7.83hertz (NASA) unless disturbed.

    Honeybees vibrate at between 190htz and 250htz (Woods)

    Honeybees are placed by man in a beehive where man wants it, if this is on 7.83htz the bees have to work 31.9 times greater just to stand still. I have reason to believe this weakens their immune system and defence mechanism becoming an easy target for any alien predators like Varroa. Now, not being able to cope, over-stressed, disorder with eventual collapse, dying or disappearance is inevitable.

    Does planet earth vibrate at this higher level of 250htz?

    Yes, transmitted upwards through underground rivers.

    These rivers are everywhere around the planet, like i.e.; blood vessels in our own body. Remember it has taken 4 billion years to get to where we are today. Everything has evolved together to be where it is and why it is there for a reason. The climate, planet earth and logic has dictated that.

    Where does the higher earth vibration come from and how?

    Planet earths normal vibration of 7.83htz gets interrupted by hollow chambers of running water/fluid creating friction allowing oscillation to resonate to become an Electromagnetic Wave Vibration which will increase it up to and above 250htz.
    Sound familiar?
    The rivers/lines of fluid are normally very close to each other varying in depth and only being up to 4 feet wide, like a cobweb, zig zagging their way across the planet at depths of 200 feet or 300 feet creating vibration and rising upwards to the surface and skywards, creating an electromagnetic curtain that reaches to approximately 30,000 feet. (Birds use this curtain to migrate thousands of miles).

    I.e. There are 8 rivers/lines in my 3 bed detached house and 80 foot garden, so they are not miles apart.

    What is the connection of Honeybee vibration 250hertz and Earth vibration 250hertz?

    We know that Honeybees maintain this vibration within their nests (Woods) It is just too much of a coincidence, using logic, that bees are drawn to it when they swarm. They have evolved together over millions of years. Honeybees, Wasps, Bumble bees, Ants, Cats and much more are all being attracted to and found above earths higher vibration.
    The honeybees need this higher vibration so they work 31.9 times less. Then are able to deal with any unwelcome intruders, like the Varroa mite.
    All organism are attracted to or repelled from these lines.

    Are Honeybees drawn to Planet Earth higher vibration?

    YES! In various ways.
    Yes, every time they swarm. Honeybees always settle above a 250htz line. This has been checked on every swarm collected, about 30, in the past 3 years.
    Bait hives
    All bait hives placed above a line attracted a swarm.
    Abandoned hives
    Whenever I was called out to inspect abandoned hives there was always one beehive above a line. This was the only hive with bees in and thriving. The others had died.
    Self selection
    Apiaries were left for 4 years to ascertain for self selection. After this time the only hives that survived were above a line, all the others had died out.
    Varroa resistant strain
    In my early days of queen rearing I too thought I had a resistant strain only to find out every one that showed these qualities was above a line. I could not understand why they were so poor when moved to a new site, having shown perfect qualities when in the original site.(This was before I knew about the lines). Any beekeeper that thinks he/she has a Varroa resistant strain. I can guarantee will always be above a line.
    Feral Colonies
    They have not been killed off by Varroa, it was an assumption, not scientific. Beekeepers are to blame due to putting hives in the wrong place where they die out with Varroa, so no swarms or feral colonies. Feral colonies are still out there surviving. Reduced in numbers, yes, but they are always found above a line.
    Sheffield University
    I was invited by Ricarda Kather to explain my hypothesis, while there I checked their apiary without any prior knowledge not knowing which was the best or worst beehive as all looked identical. These I believe were used for Varroa hygiene. I found the two best beehives that gave the best hygienic results. These were above a line.

    Hygienic behaviour
    My apiaries have not changed during my beekeeping so observations have been made pre-lines. During all these years Cleanliness, Hygiene and Grooming have always been noticed to be far better than others within the same apiary not realising at that time they were on a line. Honeybees can deal with Varroa when above a line.
    Honey yield
    When above a line the honey yield is always 2 or 3 times greater.
    The colonies has tended to supersede rather than swarm. Clearly they are in the right place so why swarm?
    This does beg the question “Is swarming induced by man?” being put in the wrong place by man. How long have they been trying to tell us?

    Case studies
    Case study 1 (within the same apiary)

    Take 2 hives of similar size and queen (“A/B“), both infested with Varroa, place “A” above a line, place “B” away from the line.

    Hive A; within 6 to 8 weeks this hive will have very little Varroa or none at all and thriving requiring supers.

    Hive B; after 6 to 8 weeks will still be heavily ridden with Varroa and much weaker.

    Next season reverse these same two hives (if B is still alive) You will observe B becomes Varroa free and A is infested with Varroa.
    If you wish using 2 apiaries in the same year the above exchange can be done after 3 months.

    “I have used this on countless occasions, with many hives, and the results always being the same”

    Case study 2 (within the same apiary)

    Take 2 hives of similar size and queen (“C/D”), both infested with Varroa, place “C” above a line, place “D” away from the line.

    Hive C; within 6 to 8 weeks this hive will have very little or no Varroa (above as A).

    Hive D will be as B, heavily ridden with Varroa.

    After 3 months change over the queens from C and D, becoming CD and DC.
    CD; You would imagine CD would improve D to be Varroa free, not so, it carries on being ridden with Varroa.

    DC; Is still Varroa free.

    Conclusion for both case studies……….It is not strain or queen quality but position to where and what the beehive is placed above, i.e.; an Electromagnetic Geopathic Stress Line that vibrates at 250hertz.
    Is it the honeybees dealing with Varroa or Varroa not liking the higher vibration?
    There will always be questions, especially to a way forward. (I have the answer for that to).
    This is just one question answered to stop honeybees dying.
    Thank you for reading my hypothesis which is in my book and available.
    “An HOLISTIC Way in Saving The Honeybee””


    John Harding
    Copyright John Harding 2009

    harding@clavies.freeserve.co.uk 07974121472 or 01384423557.

    John Harding

    March 1, 2011 at 4:45 am

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