Latest published research on pesticides and damage to bees.

Read the open-access, full-text article here:
http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0014720

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Sub-Lethal Effects of Pesticide Residues in Brood Comb on Worker Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) Development and Longevity

Abstract: Background
Numerous surveys reveal high levels of pesticide residue contamination in honey bee comb. We conducted studies to examine possible direct and indirect effects of pesticide exposure from contaminated brood comb on developing worker bees and adult worker lifespan.

Methodology/Principal Findings
Worker bees were reared in brood comb containing high levels of known pesticide residues (treatment) or in relatively uncontaminated brood comb (control). Delayed development was observed in bees reared in treatment combs containing high levels of pesticides particularly in the early stages (day 4 and 8) of worker bee development. Adult longevity was reduced by 4 days in bees exposed to pesticide residues in contaminated brood comb during development. Pesticide residue migration from comb containing high pesticide residues caused contamination of control comb after multiple brood cycles and provided insight on how quickly residues move through wax. Higher brood mortality and delayed adult emergence occurred after multiple brood cycles in contaminated control combs. In contrast, survivability increased in bees reared in treatment comb after multiple brood cycles when pesticide residues had been reduced in treatment combs due to residue migration into uncontaminated control combs, supporting comb replacement efforts. Chemical analysis after the experiment confirmed the migration of pesticide residues from treatment combs into previously uncontaminated control comb.

Conclusions/Significance
This study is the first to demonstrate sub-lethal effects on worker honey bees from pesticide residue exposure from contaminated brood comb. Sub-lethal effects, including delayed larval development and adult emergence or shortened adult longevity, can have indirect effects on the colony such as premature shifts in hive roles and foraging activity. In addition, longer development time for bees may provide a reproductive advantage for parasitic Varroa destructor mites. The impact of delayed development in bees on Varroa mite fecundity should be examined further.

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Sharilyn Stalling, the brains behind BeeAndGarden.com, has made another great video about the loss of our bees. This video is full of food for thought. Please watch the video in it's entirety, and if you haven't seen the first video, be sure to view it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CeOxzzm6sZs

Wales honey bees decline 39 per cent
21/1/2010
The plight of the honey bee has been highlighted by Pembrokeshire County Council.

Honey bee populations in Britain have declined at an alarming rate over the past decade with a 39% decline in Welsh bee colonies in 2009.

This week the Council's environment and overview scrutiny committee heard presentations about the situation from two leading bee experts.

John Verran, Regional Bee Inspector for Wales and John Dudman, Secretary of the Pembrokeshire Beekeepers Association told members about the drastic decline in honey bee colonies, the causes and what authorities and bee keepers were trying to do about it.

The meeting was attended by many local members of the Women's Institute, which has made the plight of the honey bee one of its national causes.

Chairman of the Committee, Councillor Peter Stock said he was very concerned to hear about the decline.

"This is a very important issue and something which I believe as a Council we should take up," he said.

"The Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committeee has put this matter into its work programme and potential further scrutiny can now take place.

"This meeting is a start but I think - working with others - we should play our part in trying to ensure the success of honey bee populations in the future."

Earlier the meeting heard John Dudman explain how although bee colonies traditionally declined by around 5% to 10% a year, they had fallen by 34% in Wales 2008 and by 39% last year. Populations in England had declined by similar amounts.

He said although there was no obvious cause, one major factor was believed to be an increase in the incidence of varroa mite infestations in hives and there were also concern about the effects of pesticide spraying on crops and in gardens.

He said DEFRA and the Welsh Assembly Government had last year published a plan to improve the health of honey bees, while an additional £4.3m was being spent by the Government to gather more information and undertake more research into pollinating inspects.

"At a more local level we as an association are providing training courses for beginners and also setting up more local beekeeping groups," he said.

"Bee keepers need education and they need to be given information. The education and training of bee keepers is essential."

Source: Oldham Chronicle, UK
Reporter: Janice Barker
Date online: 23/07/2009
Oldham Euro-MP Chris Davies has a bee in his bonnet about the endangered insects.

He used his first question of the new term at the European Parliament to highlight the alarming decline of British bees.

In the last two years bee numbers have dropped by around 30 per cent and the Government recently announced funding of around £2 million to study the decline.

Liberal Democrat Mr Davies wants the European Commission to consider banning insecticides called neonicotinoids, used to protect plants from insects. Its use has been linked to bees dying, and led to severe restrictions in France and Germany. Mr Davies said: “The Commission needs to consider a ban on these chemicals before the bee decline starts showing up in food shortages.

“Better to take action now as a precaution than risk the destruction of bee colonies because we left it too late.

“Protecting the environment isn’t just about the big visible changes like the melting ice in Greenland or the pollution in our atmosphere, it’s also about protecting the tiny creatures who keep our plants growing and our world running.”

Bees are believed to contribute £120 million per year in direct economic benefits to Britain by pollinating commercial crops.

About a third of food comes from plants pollinated by them. Scientists are trying to discover the reasons why bees have been disappearing in large numbers. Many studies focus on the varroa mite parasite that weakens colonies by feeding on bees.

Neonicotinoids are less studied despite evidence from Germany and France in particular that they can cause bee colony numbers to collapse.

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SOURCE: Friday, 9 August, 2002, 13:25 GMT 14:25 UK   BBC News

Fungi help combat honeybee killer

Varroa Mite
Varroa Mite
Varroa mites have devastated some honeybee colonies

Fungi could soon be helping beekeepers control a parasitic mite that before now has killed up to 70% of colonies.Research shows that the fungi can kill Varroajust as effectively as the chemicals currently used to keep populations of the parasite manageable.

The fungi could prove key to protecting hives as the mites become resistant to chemical controls currently used to treat them.

But it could be some years before beekeepers can buy the fungal controls off the shelf for use in hives.

Killer parasite

The Varroa destructor mite was first found in the UK in 1992 and has wrought havoc on feral and hive populations.

    

 Chemicals are very efficient and cheap but the downside is that their use is not sustainable in the long term
David Chandler, HRI Association

 

Some beekeepers lost almost 75% of their colonies to the mite that preys on young bees weakening them, and making them susceptible to other infections.

Pesticides have helped keep the mites populations at low levels but some fear that colonies are about to undergo another wave of devastation as mites become resistant to the pyrethroids used to kill them.

Overuse of the chemicals has produced populations of resistant mites in hives in the South West of England and the resilient strain is expected to spread across the country.

But research carried out by Dr David Chandler and Dr Gill Davidson at the Horticulture Research International Association in Warwickshire has found that insect-killing fungi could take over the job of controlling the mites.

"Fungal controls have a long history since Pasteur," said Dr Chandler, "but interest is increasing because of public concern over the environmental impact of pesticide residues in food."

Good bugs

By contrast with chemical pesticides the fungi tested by the scientists are found in nature, are harmless to mammals, including humans, and leave no residue to accumulate in food.

    

Bee Larva with mites
Bee Larva with mites
Varroa attacks bees at all stages of their life

 

Testing by the researchers has identified more than 40 types of fungi from six species that are capable of killing theVarroa mites within 100 hours.

"Using living organisms to control other living organisms is a different form of pest control," said Dr Chandler. "Chemicals are very efficient and cheap but the downside is that their use is not sustainable in the long term."

Although the fungi occur naturally the mites rarely encountered them inside hives because honeybees kept their homes so clean, he said.

The promising fungal types are now being tested to ensure they are as effective in the high temperatures and humidity levels found in bee hives.

Dr Chandler said the aim was not to eliminate the Varroa mite, but to ensure that populations were kept to very low levels.

    

Dead Varroa Mite
Dead Varroa Mite
Fungi overwhelm Varroa mites

 

The fact that the fungal controls killsVarroa by different methods could mean that the mites never develop the kind of resistance that is making pesticides less effective.

The fungi spores kill the mites over a week long period by penetrating their cuticle and poisoning the bug, drying it out and damaging its cells and organs.

The two researchers are now embarking on a three-year project with the IACR-Bee Research Unit in Rothamstead to identify the best strains of fungi and find the best way to distribute them around a hive.

Dr Chandler said that honey bees were already used to spread fungi on some commercial crops so it might prove easy to adapt these methods to spread the anti-Varroafungi inside hives.

One idea is to use a fungi footbath that bees have to walk through when entering the hive to help them spread the spores around when they deliver nectar and pollen.

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Press Release, Sept 19, 2008
Coalition against Bayer Dangers (Germany)

Italy bans Pesticides linked to Bee Devastation

Neonicotinoids now suspended in four European countries

The Italian government banned the use of several neonicotinoid pesticides that are blamed for the deaths of millions of honeybees. The Ministero del Lavoro della Salute e delle Politiche Sociali issued an immediate suspension of the seed treatment products clothianidin, imidacloprid, fipronil and thiamethoxam used in rapeseed oil, sunflowers and sweetcorn. The Italian government will start a monitoring program to further investigate the reasons of recent bee deaths.

Italy followed Germany and Slovenia which banned sales of clothianidin and imidacloprid in May. In France imidacloprid has been banned on sunflowers already since 1999. In 2003 the substance was also banned as a sweetcorn treatment. Bayer´s application for clothianidin was rejected by French authorities.

The two substances are produced by the German company Bayer CropScience and generated €800 million in 2007. Imidacloprid is Bayer´s best-selling pesticide.

In August the German Coalition against Bayer Dangers brought a charge against Werner Wenning, chairman of the Bayer Board of Management, for marketing dangerous pesticides and thereby accepting the mass death of bees all over the world. The charge was introduced in cooperation with German beekeepers who lost thousands of hives after poisoning by the pesticide clothianidin in May this year.

Harro Schultze, attorney of the Coalition against Bayer Dangers said: “The Public Prosecutor needs to clarify which efforts Bayer undertook to prevent a ban of imidacloprid and clothianidin in Germany after sales of both substances were stopped in France. We´re suspecting that Bayer submitted flawed studies to play down the risks of pesticide residues in treated plants”.

Neonicotinoid pesticides are systemic chemicals that work their way through the plant and attack the nervous system of any insect it comes into contact with. The substances also get into the pollen and the nectar and can damage beneficial insects such as bees.

The Press Release of the Italian Government: www.ministerosalute.it (top right: “Tutela patrimonio apistico: sospensione cautelativa dei prodotti fitosanitari utilizzati nel trattamento di concia delle sementi”)

Sep 19, 2008, The News & Observer (Raleigh)

Italy is latest to ban sale of Bayer pesticide

Pesticides made by Bayer CropScience have been banned in a third European country after the chemicals were linked to bee deaths.

Italy this week followed Germany and Slovenia in banning sales of chemicals used to coat crop seeds, including clothianidin and imidecloprid, according to a statement by the Italian health ministry and the German consumer watchdog group, Coalition Against Bayer Dangers. Both pesticides are made and sold by Bayer CropScience, a German company that has its U.S. headquarters in Research Triangle Park.

Beekeepers in the three countries blame the pesticides for killing large numbers of honeybees. Clothianidin and related pesticides generated about $1 billion of Bayer CropScience's $8.6 billion in global sales last year.  Sabine Vollmer, Staff Writer

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Press Release, August 25, 2008
Coalition against BAYER Dangers (Germany)

Pesticides cause mass death of bees
Germany: Charge against Bayer´s Board of Management

The German Coalition against Bayer Dangers today brought a charge against Werner Wenning, chairman of the Bayer Board of Management, with the Public Prosecutor in Freiburg (south-western Germany). The group accuses Bayer of marketing dangerous pesticides and thereby accepting the mass death of bees all over the world. The Coalition introduced the charge in cooperation with German beekeepers who lost thousands of hives after poisoning by the pesticide clothianidin in May this year.

Since 1991 Bayer has been producing the insecticide Imidacloprid, which is one of the best selling insecticides in the world, often used as seed-dressing for maize, sunflower, and rape. Bayer exports Imidacloprid to more than 120 countries and the substance is Bayer´s best-selling pesticide. Since patent protection for Imidacloprid expired in most countries, Bayer in 2003 brought a similarly functionning successor product, Clothianidin, onto the market. Both substances are systemic chemicals that work their way from the seed through the plant. The substances also get into the pollen and the nectar and can damage beneficial insects such as bees.

The beginning of the marketing of Imidacloprid and Clothianidin coincided with the occurrence of large scale bee deaths in many European and American countries. Up to 70 per cent of all hives have been affected. In France alone approximately 90 billion bees died within ten years, reducing honey production by up to 60%.

Harro Schultze, attorney of the Coalition against Bayer Dangers said: “The Public Prosecutor needs to clarify which efforts BAYER undertook to prevent a ban of Imidacloprid and Clothianidin after sales of both substances were stopped in France. We´re suspecting that Bayer submitted flawed studies to play down the risks of pesticide residues in treated plants”. In France Imidacloprid has been banned as a seed dressing for sunflowers since 1999 and in 2003 was also banned as a sweetcorn treatment. The Comité Scientifique et Technique, convened by the French government, declared that the treatment of seeds with Imidacloprid leads to significant risks for bees. Bayer´s application for Clothianidin was also rejected by French authorities.

“Bayer´s Board of Management has to be called to account since the risks of neonicotinoids such as Imidacloprid and Clothianidin have now been known for more than ten years. With an annual turnover of nearly 800 million Euro neonicotinoids are among Bayer´s most important products. This is the reason why Bayer, despite serious environmental damage, is fighting against any application prohibitions”, says Philipp Mimkes, speaker of the Coalition against Bayer-dangers. The Coalition demands that Bayer withdraw all neonicotinoids from the market worldwide.

The accusation of flawed studies is confirmed by the Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) which judged on Bayer´s Clothianidin application: “All of the field/semi-field studies, however, were found to be deficient in design and conduct of the studies and were, therefore, considered as supplemental information only. Clothianidin may pose a risk to honey bees and other pollinators, if exposure occurs via pollen and nectar of crop plants grown from treated seeds”. PRMA adds: “It should also be noted that Clothianidin is very persistent in soil, with high carry-over of residues to the next growing season. Clothianidin is also mobile in soil.”

In May 2008 German authorities blamed clothianidin for the deaths of millions of honeybees. The German Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) suspended the registration for eight pesticide seed treatment products, including Clothianidin and Imidacloprid, on maize and rape.

The case is filed by the Public Prosecutor in Freiburg (Tel: +49-(0)761 2050) under the file number 520 UJs 1649/08

more information:
· The Guardian: Germany bans chemicals linked to bee devastation www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/may/23/wildlife.endangeredspecies
· Sierra Club urges EPA to suspend nicotinyl insecticides: http://www.sierraclub.org/biotech/whatsnew/whatsnew_2008-07-30.asp
· Press Release of the Research Centre for Cultivated Plants (German): http://www.jki.bund.de/cln_044/nn_813794/DE/pressestelle/Presseinfos/2008/1605__BienensterbenClothianidin.html__nnn=true
· Bee-keepers and environmental groups demand prohibition of pesticide "Gaucho"
· French Institutes Finds Imidaproclid Turning Up in Wide Range of Crops
· 2003 report from the "Comité Scientifique et Technique de l’Etude Multifactorielle des Troubles des Abeilles" http://agriculture.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/rapportfin.pdf

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San Francisco Chronicle, August 19, 2008
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is refusing to disclose records about a new class of pesticides that could be playing a role in the disappearance of millions of honeybees in the United States, a lawsuit filed Monday charges.

The Natural Resources Defense Council wants to see the studies that the EPA required when it approved a pesticide made by Bayer CropScience five years ago.

The environmental group filed the suit as part of an effort to find out how diligently the EPA is protecting honeybees from dangerous pesticides, said Aaron Colangelo, a lawyer for the group in Washington.
In the last two years, beekeepers have reported unexplained losses of hives - 30 percent and upward - leading to a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder. Scientists believe that the decline in bees is linked to an onslaught of pesticides, mites, parasites and viruses, as well as a loss of habitat and food.

$15 billion in crops
Bees pollinate about one-third of the human diet, $15 billion worth of U.S. crops, including almonds in California, blueberries in Maine, cucumbers in North Carolina and 85 other commercial crops, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Not finding a cause of the collapse could prove costly, scientists warn.
Representatives of the EPA said they hadn't seen the suit and couldn't comment.

Clothianidin is the pesticide at the center of controversy. It is used to coat corn, sugar beet and sorghum seeds and is part of a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids. The pesticide was blamed for bee deaths in France and Germany, which also is dealing with a colony collapse. Those two countries have suspended its use until further study. An EPA fact sheet from 2003 says clothianidin has the potential for toxic chronic exposure to honey bees, as well as other pollinators, through residues in nectar and pollen.

The EPA granted conditional registration for clothianidin in 2003 and at the same time required that Bayer CropScience submit studies on chronic exposure to honeybees, including a complete worker bee lifecycle study as well as an evaluation of exposure and effects to the queen, the group said. The queen, necessary for a colony, lives a few years; the workers live only six weeks, but there is no honey without them.
"The public has no idea whether those studies have been submitted to the EPA or not and, if so, what they show. Maybe they never came in. Maybe they came in, and they show a real problem for bees. Maybe they're poorly conducted studies that don't satisfy EPA's requirement," Colangelo said.

Request for records
On July 17, after getting no response from the EPA about securing the studies, the environmental group filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act, which requires the records within 20 business days absent unusual circumstances.

When the federal agency missed the August deadline, the group filed the lawsuit, asking the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to force the EPA to turn over the records.

Greg Coffey, a spokesman for Bayer CropScience in Research Triangle Park, N.C., said controlled field studies have demonstrated that clothianidin, when used correctly, will not harm bees. He added that all of EPA's requirements for conditional registration of clothianidin have been submitted to the agency.
An EPA spokesman, Dale Kemery, said the agency couldn't comment on the documents required under the conditional registration because the matter is the subject of litigation.

Unusual circumstances
Generally, the EPA has taken the position that the bee deaths occurred under unusual circumstances. In Germany, the corn lacked a seed coating that ensured that the pesticide stuck to the seed, and equipment blew the pesticide into a nearby canola field where bees fed.

The EPA is "reasonably confident" that a bee kill similar to Germany's wouldn't happen in the United States because use is restricted to commercial applicators who use stickier coatings, according to Kemery.
But because the stickier coatings aren't required, Kemery said, the EPA will review its policies on seed-treatment labels.

In California, according to the 2006 Pesticide Use Report Summary, about 3 pounds of clothianidin was used, all on corn. Other members of the neonicotinoid class, registered for a longer period of time, have been used more frequently, including 127,000 pounds on broccoli, grapes, lettuce and oranges. Some pesticides were used in buildings.

"We've been monitoring the bee die-off situation for a couple of years, and it's a complex puzzle that may also involve mites, viruses and other factors," said Glenn Brank, communications director for the state Department of Pesticide Regulation.

The agency is conducting its own review of environmental data from registered neonicotinoid pesticides as well as watching enforcement reports from counties for any unusual environmental incidents involving bees, he said. None was noted, Brank said.
Scientists presenting at the American Chemical Society national meeting Monday reported that dozens of pesticides had been found in samples of adult bees, broods, pollen and wax collected from honeybee colonies suspected to have died from symptoms of colony collapse disorder, including some neonicotinoids.

Entomologist Gabriela Chavarria, director of Natural Resources Defense Council's Science Center, said over the years bees have had to withstand devastating problems.
Bees pick up deadly farm and home chemicals when they visit flowers, or encounter chemical drift from aerial and other applications. Fifteen years ago, queen bees imported from China brought varroa mites that attacked broods of worker bees. Microscopic tracheal mites invade the hives.
And now the new pesticide, clothianidin, is another problem, Chavarria said. Scientists must find out whether the toxicity has been sufficiently studied, she said.

"We want this information now. We cannot continue to wait. Bees are disappearing. Our whole existence depends on them because we eat. The flowers need to be pollinated, and the only ones to do it are the bees."

Colony collapse
Honeybees, which pollinate everything from almonds to apples to avocados, began abandoning their colonies in 2006, destroying about a third of their hives.
Since then, their numbers have not improved. A survey of beekeepers in the fall and winter 2007 by the Bee Research Lab and the Apiary Inspectors of America showed that beekeepers lost about 35 percent of their hives compared with 31 percent in 2006.

See also:
·        Mass death of bees in Germany: Approval of Bayer´s pesticide Poncho suspended www.cbgnetwork.de/2517.html
·        The Guardian: Germany bans chemicals linked to honeybee devastation
·        Sierra Club urges EPA to suspend nicotinyl insecticides: www.sierraclub.org/biotech/whatsnew/whatsnew_2008-07-30.asp
·        Press Release of the Research Centre for Cultivated Plants (German): www.jki.bund.de/cln_044/nn_813794/DE/pressestelle/Presseinfos/2008/1605__BienensterbenClothianidin.html__nnn=true
·        Bee-keepers and environmental groups demand prohibition of pesticide "Gaucho"
·        French Institutes Finds Imidaproclid Turning Up in Wide Range of Crops
2003 report from the "Comité Scientifique et Technique de l’Etude Multifactorielle des Troubles des Abeilles" http://agriculture.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/rapportfin.pdf