Neonic & Bees – The Experiment Begins

The EU has banned the use of Neonic Pesticides for essentially all outdoor use.

EU nations back ban on all outdoor neonic use
Posted Apr. 27th, 2018 by philip-blenkinsop

Brussels | Reuters — European Union countries backed a proposal on Friday to ban all use outdoors of insecticides known as neonicotinoids that studies have shown can harm bees.

The ban, championed by environmental activists, covers the use of three active substances — imidacloprid, developed by Bayer CropScience; clothianidin, developed by Takeda Chemical Industries and Bayer CropScience; and Syngenta’s thiamethoxam.

“All outdoor uses will be banned and the neonicotinoids in question will only be allowed in permanent greenhouses where exposure of bees is not expected,” the European Commission said in a statement.

Representatives of EU member states in the EC’s standing committee on plants, animals, food and feed on Friday supported the proposal for a new regulation to be adopted by the EC “in the coming weeks” and applicable “by the end of the year.”

Vytenis Andriukaitis, the EC’s commissioner for health and food safety, hailed the results of Friday’s vote, saying the EC “had proposed these measures months ago, on the basis of the scientific advice from the European Food Safety Authority.”

Some long time ago when the “Bee Crisis” first came on the radar and Neonics were fingers as a “possible”; I’d stated the rational thing to do was just pick some large country and ban them there, then sit back a couple of years and see if the bees there started doing Just Fine.

Well, looks like we are now going to run the experiment.

The EU banning them. The USA (so far) not.

Now if in the next year or two the European bees start a dramatic recovery, then we will know.

This is just one example of the problem with a uniform globalist approach to things. It is important to have variation between countries. (And between States inside the USA or inside the EU). This lets the good ideas float to the top, and the bad ideas stand out in contrast. Had neonics NOT been rolled out globally in so uniform a manner, we’d have known years ago if they had a negative impact on bees.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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17 Responses to Neonic & Bees – The Experiment Begins

  1. Blackswan says:

    The health of the bee population in any given area unfortunately doesn’t translate into the quality of the honey consumed there. Chinese honey, proven to be contaminated with a variety of toxins, is being transported around the world, masked under inaccurate labelling, blended with local honeys and in some cases, even topped-up with corn syrup.

    For apiarists whose local bee populations have collapsed, the Chinese are also exporting bulk pollen and that too is found to contain contaminants. The honey industry itself is rife with corruption, as depicted in an episode of the Netflix series ‘Rotten’, on corruption in the food industry.

    In Australia, law suits are rife against industry whistleblowers and investigators, apiarists under contract to the multinational corporations involved are afraid to speak out and, as consumers, our only recourse is to source local honey from small reliable beekeepers.

    My question is: How can they successfully “run the experiment” if apiarists are already using contaminated Chinese pollen to feed their bee colonies? Without stringent testing and bans on such imports, can such a ban succeed? (Sorry, that’s two questions).

  2. Ron Clutz says:

    The European study behind this policy move is equivocal but gave alarmists ammunition. I did a post on Jon Entine’s discussion at Slate, where he concluded:
    “So the bees, contrary to widespread popular belief, are actually doing all right in terms of numbers, although the Varroa mite remains a dangerous challenge. But still, a cadre of scientists well known for their vocal opposition to and lobbying against neonics have already begun trying to leverage the misinterpretation of the data. Within hours of the release of the study, advocacy groups opposed to intensive agricultural techniques had already begun weaponizing the misreported headlines.”
    Post with excerpts and links

  3. u.k.(us) says:

    I bought some “Raid Multi Insect Killer 7″, due to a few ants gaining access to the house.
    The warning label reads, ……”This product is highly toxic to bees exposed to direct treatment on blooming crops or weeds. Do not apply this product or allow it to drift to blooming crops or weeds while bees are actively visiting the area”

  4. jim2 says:

    I know a bee keeper. The biggest problems are mites and other pests. His bees are multitplying like rabbits.

  5. Ron Clutz says:

    u.k. Yes, some pesticides are applied to plant leaves and flowers, and should be used cautiously. But neonic is a seed coating, and thus is contained in the roots and stems. Bees in the field are not exposed to it and the ban is wrong-headed.Of course, if you put bees in cages and hit them with any pesticide they will suffer.

  6. John F. Hultquist says:

    I’ve used the “Bayer Advanced” one for cherry trees. Has Imidacloprid.
    It goes into the soil after all the blooms are gone
    Mix with water, pour around tree.
    Says ‘not for indoor use, and not for fruit that will be sold commercially.’
    This last bit is very much like a ban — if directions are followed.

  7. E.M.Smith says:

    As I understand it, the root of Colony Collapse Disorder is a “multiple insult” thing. There won’t be “The One” cause. BUT, one of THE larger insults is LIKELY to be neonics (but also might not be….)

    The insults cause a degradation of bee resistance, a load of mites flourish, and they become very weakened as a hive, then it collapses. There is a competing scenario where the bees go out at dawn, hit a heavily insecticide laden field, get confused and don’t return leaving a nearly empty hive. In the second scenario it is unclear what insecticide, but there is a coincidence in time of the arrival of CCD and neonics.

    Now I can’t sort out the connections, if any, since in the first case of general degradation of fitness it is likely do to several stressors and calling out the last one seems a bit cheeky without a trial. In the second case, there’s dozens of fields in flight range of each colony so good luck getting a reliable match of field and toxin to bees dead.

    Then there’s just the statistical confusion over counting bees:

    Saying that total bee hives is constant or rising so there is no problem ignores one very important point: Beekeepers (at least in the USA) dramatically raised the rate of new hive formation to replace those that collapsed. It’s like shooting 1 in 10 soldiers then saying there’s no problem as new recruits were drafted to take their spots. Coping with a problem is not the same as fixing the problem.

    Thus my advocacy for just “running the experiment”. Neonics were the last great insult to be added to the pile, take them out and see if the problem goes away. Do NOT take them out globally, you need a decent control group… just pick some large area big enough to be very significant and try it there.

    I’m not worried about the impact on food production or other crop failures. We had farming and crops before neonics. There are lots of pesticide alternatives. ( IF some region was daft enough to ban all the alternatives too, well, they can change their minds…)

    Is this the only way, or even the best way, to reach an answer? Probably not. But it ought to be fairly clear after a year or two (so old stocks are used up) if it has any change or impact.

    My Bias: I think loading up the natural world with megatons of pollen that is decorated with the BT Toxin in GMOs is just not a good idea. People can (and have) develop allergic responses to the BT Toxin and it can NOT be washed off or out of the food. Then with said pollen everywhere, you are killing most any bug eating any of that stuff. With no bugs, there’s a huge ecology of bug eating birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals that collapses. I’d not be surprised at all to find that GMO pollen is partially causal. Note that even saying “But bees don’t pollenize corn” is missing the point that when tasseling, corn pollen drifts miles and coats everything in corn country. Milkweed eating bugs destined to be butterflies get a bellyfull of the leaves; so I suspect bees get plenty off of other flowers dusted with “corn on the wind”. But, in theory, with about 1/2 the EU banning GMOs, we ought to have been running that experiment already and I’ve not heard of sudden recovering in 1/2 of the EU…


    I think most beekeepers don’t feed their bees imported pollen. They expect the bees to gather their own. Bee pollen is fed to some people who think it a sort of superfood… Then the contaminated and fraudulent “honey” is the same thing. Fed to people not to bees. That is all a large problem, but ought to be orthogonal to CCD and results of neonic banning.

    Now I could be wrong on that; I’m not a beekeeper. IF they do in fact import pollen to feed to bees, that would need regulation / control too, otherwise pollen full of neonics could continue to contaminate the experiment.

    Even if some does contaminate (and I don’t see how, but postulating some does), then you would see a differential collapse rate between the guys feeding “chinese crap” to their bees and those running a more natural “forage on your own” operation. I’d expect that to still show up in the bulk statistics and then be figured out. (If, say, even 1/2 the keepers feed chinese crap, that would leave the other 1/2 to reduce CCD. IF it reduced by 1/2 in them, that would be a 25% reduction in loss and new hive formation overall and that ought to be easily seen in the bulk statistics.

    @Ron Clutz:

    I remember one researcher who was testing bees did One Thing and then the hive collapsed from The Other Thing. The second one being mites. I don’t remember if the first thing was GMO pollen or neonics… but his experiment was the one that caused folks to start thinking multi-factor and insecticide as trigger to mite infestation issues.

    Oh, and not only are neonics in the roots and stems, but they are systemic and end up in leaves, flowers, and pollen. That’s the big problem I see with all systemic pesticides, including GMO based toxins like BT GMOs. The poison is in all plant parts and can not be washed off. Since pollen drifts everywhere, it ends up everywhere for miles and is eaten (sometimes indirectly) by all sorts of non-target species. (In tasseling time in corn country you can see a yellow dust on just about everything…)

    @UK (us):

    Yes, the stuff you get OTC for house bugs is a “kill it all right now” insecticide. Unlike the stuff approved for use on crops. It could explain things like the lone honey bee in my yard yesterday that was having trouble just walking and failing in his attempts to fly. Can’t explain a colony collapse in hives set out in the middle of farm country. Also, such home sprays were in use prior to CCD popping up to higher levels…


    That’s part of the problem in sorting this out. Some folks get hit with lots of CCD, while others don’t. Some get more mite problems than historically but not CCD. One theory is the mites have changed (different subspecies, or mutation, or…) the other theory is the multi-factor and “something” is making it hard for bees to fend off the mites due to a weakening of the bees. So the way to sort that is remove the major likely “problem causes” over a large enough area that you don’t have cross contamination issues and the observe the result.

    So ban Neonics, then see if folks like your friend have a reduction in mite problems while the guy down the road has his CCD problem end. Or Not, and then it’s pretty clear the Neonics are not causing it and you can bring them back.

    @John F.:

    And that’s the other problem… I grew up in farm country. LOTS of times folks would go “off label” use for things. (Mostly applying an old stock of now banned pesticide or applying a bit closer to harvest than approved. Occasionally using on unapproved crops.) Faced with loss of crop and potentially loss of farm, or ‘bend the rules’, they would tend to bend the rules… Now that wasn’t in a big way very often as that kind of thing tends not to be common; generally following the rules works fine: BUT, the directions were “only a suggestion” for many …

  8. Soronel Haetir says:

    My problem is that with the very equivocal evidence for current bee harm the activists will be able to spin even a steady state outcome as a successful demonstration. Only an outright collapse in bee populations will be seen as failure and it will just have to be something human-related instead of even possibly being some sort of natural event. There have been plenty of cases where poorly done science has been used to push through measures our betters want.

  9. ossqss says:

    I recalled reading this related item last year.

  10. R. Shearer says:

    Amateurs all over the U.S. are taking up bee keeping, as an “environmental” thing to do. Suppliers of hives, bees and related supplies are doing a booming business. I can’t help but wonder if too many bees now are competing for a limited food supply.

  11. Ron Clutz says:

    Here some insight from Entine regarding the testing research underlying these studies>
    “The BRGD (Bee Research Guidance Document) insists that, in order to be considered valid, field experiments must demonstrate that 90 percent of the hive has been exposed to the neonic. The biggest problem with this is that there are generally no neonic residues detectable in crops by the time bees are foraging on them, and if there are residues, the amount is miniscule.”

    “The authors of the 2017 CEH study (cited by innumerable reporters as condemning neonics) noted that neonic “residues were detected infrequently and rarely exceeded [1.5 parts per billion].” (To put 1.5 parts per billion in context, the EPA has determined that levels below 25 parts per billion have no effect at all on bees.)”

    “At the same time, the bee-hive is a dynamic community and has a considerable capacity to detoxify itself from contaminants. So even the vanishingly small quantities brought into the hives by foragers might very well be wholly or partially eliminated before researchers could test for them.”

    “The BRGD thus presents those researchers with a Catch 22: In order to meet the 90th percent exposure requirement they would have to massively over-treat their crops with neonics, creating a foraging environment that simply would not occur in real life. But this defeats the entire purpose of a Tier III field trial, which is to recreate realistic, controlled conditions to see how bees are affected—or not—in the real world. The BRGD requirement has the effect of ‘forcing’ certain pesticides to fail or the studies that don’t comply are invalidated.”

  12. p.g.sharrow says:

    I was once a beekeeper, had nearly 80 hives just before the mites hit. Had friends that were large scale beekeepers.

    During It’s worse the infestation cost 90% loss of hives over the winter. there are two types of mites the “large” ones are on the outside of the bee like ticks or lice. You can just see them and the bees can pick them off and kill them. A strong hive can keep them at bay. The small type live inside the bee’s breathing tubes and can’t be removed by the bees. There is a fumigant that will kill or weaken the mites and reduce the mite problem. There are now several bee breed lines that are mite resistant.

    If a hive is stressed, the bees put the Queen on a restricted diet, she quits laying eggs and leaves the hive, the bees go with her, That results in a swarm even a dead-out The hive is a dead out with no bees in or around it.

    IF poisoned or diseased, the hive and ground is covered with dead bees.

    Bees collect pollen and grain dust to mix with honey to feed the brood which are worms. BT dust and BT pollen will kill the brood. It doesn’t kill adult bees. The bees will pull the dead brood out of the hive and discard them. There also plants in the Americas that produce toxic pollen such as Buckeye, a very common California brush/tree that grows in the foot hills. There are also pesticides that are dust like and very bad for bees. The bees will abandon a brood-less hive.

    The mite problem is being dealt with. Beekeepers used to eradicate the poison pollen plants in the hills but they are now protected. GMO Bt pollen is every where corn is grown. Control of pesticides around bees is generally quite good. In my opinion, The GMO Bt laden corn pollen is the greatest problem and I’m not sure there is a good solution at present…pg

  13. philjourdan says:

    I use to read a blog called Joe User. The owner decided to dabble in hives. I learned a lot from his writings on the subject.

    Like there is no such thing as a NA (or SA) honey bee. There are African Honey bees and European Honey bees. Before the “white man” imported European honey bees to this country, there were none. The job fell to mosquitoes (males), Bumble bees and what we call “sweat bees”. And other such critters.

    What we have is an attempt by man to domesticate a wild creature to its advantage (much like cows and goats). But with far less understanding of the critter (we have vets devoted to the maladies of cows and goats, but none devoted to bees – just a bunch of scientists that can only study in the lab).

    So the “controlled” study is one way to find out what is going on. But beyond the effect on bees, (the primary reason for the ban), we also need to look at the impact on crop production itself.

    Unfortunately in the real world, you cannot isolate one factor totally. It is not a lab. We shall see.

  14. Larry Ledwick says:

    Related to bee health is bug health and food supply for fish, interesting item on efforts to enhance the bug hatch on the Colorado River to improve fishing.

    The unspoken rule here is if you want good fishing go where the bugs are fat and active. (also bring your bug repellent or head nets and long sleeve shirts)

  15. DonM says:

    When walking a site for a job (last spring), the property owner pointed out the nice big oak tree, covered with poison oak, and told me about the multiple stings he got when he was trying to cut/remove the poison oak. He “unloaded two full cans of bee spray into the hole in the tree a month ago, but they still won’t die … I’m going to have do something else, maybe cut the tree down”.

    The bees were very active, and they looked like very nice bees (not nasty, as described by the owner) so I walked the 40′ over to the tree and peeked into the very large cavity, and told the owner that they were honey bees that the huge, very old, hive extended more than 10 feet up into the tree. Given this he (sheepishly) decided to leave the bees (and poison oak alone). He declined my offer to relocate the bees.

    Point of the story is, I’ve use the bee spray, and it is very effective. These honey bees weren’t much effected by the poison that is designed and intended to kill them (except for the ones that were hit directly). Hard to say what the problem is with the bees; maybe the wild bees don’t care about colony collapse.

    The hive is still just as strong this spring.

  16. gepay says:

    When I first moved to my present home in 1986 (rural VA – off the Shenandoah Valley with the Blue Ridge mountains around) there were multiple wild bee colonies in the woods surrounding me. There was also a neighbor about a mile away who was a bee keeper. I would buy his excellent honey. Don’t remember the exact time but about 10 years later the wild bees died. My neighbor said it was the arrival of the varroa mite – first noted in the the US in 1987. His bees did not exhibit Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). He successfully dealt with the varroa mites. He farms organically. The nearest commercial corn operations are 5 miles away and none behind me in the prevailing winds. I do still have to deal with corn borers invading my potatoes and tomatoes. I don’t grow corn in my garden. I do now notice, in the last few years, a few honeybees – nothing like when I first moved in tho.
    When reading about CCD – commercial bees are trucked hundreds (thousands?) of miles, fed high fructose corn syrup and then used to pollinate one crop. How can that be healthy?

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