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Opinion Letters Insecticides to blame for bee decimation

This letter is in response to Brittney Parker’s honey bee article in the Nov. 22 issue.

Imidacloprid (marketed by Bayer CropScience as Gaucho, Mallet, Merit, Nuprid, Prothor, Turfthor, Confidor, Conguard, Dominion 2L, Hachikusan, Premise, Prothor, Provado, Intercept, and Winner) is one of the most widely used insecticides in agriculture and can be applied by soil injection, tree injection, application to the skin, or broadcast foliar or ground application as a granular or liquid formulation or as a pesticide-coated seed treatment.


It is very widely used on a wide array of plants including many major crops. In the landscape the largest use by far is on lawns or sports turfgrass (golf courses, etc.) as a treatment for Japanese beetle larvae. A much smaller use is on trees, but this is growing, because imidacloprid is one of the most effective products used to save Hemlocks from the Hemlock woolly adelgid - a killer of the giant Hemlocks throughout Appalachia. Recently it was found to be highly effective against the Emerald ash borer and other boring insects of oaks and birch. It is also used as a de-wormer and a flea treatment for dogs and cats because of its very low toxicity to mammals (check your flea collar and topical treatments’ ingredients). Imidacloprid acts as a neurotoxin and interferes with the transmission of nerve impulses in insects by binding to specific nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. Therefore, drugged bees become “high” and confused and cannot find their way home to the hive.

In France, beekeepers reported a significant loss of honeybees in the 1990s, which they attributed to the use of imidacloprid. In response to this loss of bees which they called “mad bee disease,” the French Minister of Agriculture convened a panel of expert scientists (Comite Scientifique et Technique) to examine the impact of imidacloprid on bees. After reviewing dozens of laboratory and field studies conducted by Bayer CropScience and by independent scientists, the panel concluded that there was a significant risk to bees from exposure to imidacloprid on sunflowers and maize (corn), the only crops for which they had exposure data. Following the release of this report, the French Agricultural Ministry suspended the use of imidacloprid on maize and sunflowers. Italy, Germany, and Slovenia have also suspended certain uses of the neonicotinoids based on concerns for bees.

Does it seem a coincidence that the remaining North Carolina bee population is only two percent of that of 20 years ago, when 20 years ago is exactly when imidacloprid emerged on the market (patented in 1986 and approved by the U.S. EPA in 1994)?

There may be secondary causes of bee population decline such as the varroa mite, malnutrition (caused mostly by single-crop planting) and use of chemicals in the hive, but the immediate solution seems crystal clear. Imidacloprid completely compromises the immune system of the honey bee and other pollinators, therefore making them unable to fight off disease and parasites. France, Italy, Germany and Slovenia have banned imidacloprid, yet here in the U.S., Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is somehow still a big “mystery.”

As Ms. Parker stated in her article, “Bees are directly responsible for pollinating nearly 90 percent of the world’s commercial plants, from fruits and vegetables to coffee and cotton.” Do we really want to find out if Albert Einstein was right when he said that man would only survive four more years after the bees completely disappear? This is a serious problem, yet we (including a good many beekeepers) sit back, complacent, and allow the politics and pocketbooks of the chemical industry to dictate our fate. Let’s start reading labels and stop using products on our lawns, our crops, and on our pets that contain Imidacloprid, and save our bees (and ourselves).

Patricia Monahan, Beekeeper
Submitted via email


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