Overwhelming Evidence Linking Neonicotinoid Insecticides To Massive Die-off Of Bees And Songbirds - Herbs Info

Overwhelming Evidence Linking Neonicotinoid Insecticides To Massive Die-off Of Bees And Songbirds

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Neonicotinoidsphoto © milkovasa – fotolia.com (under license).

The manufacturers of the Neonicotinoid insecticides continue to pull the wool over the eyes of both politicians and an uneducated public – stating that there is no scientific consensus linking the correct use of the pesticides with the decline in pollinator populations.

I initially set out to list all the studies showing evidence of the damage to bees and birds by these pesticides, but the sheer volume of evidence was too great.

I was shocked and made furious by what I found. The evidence against these pesticides is, as you will see imminently, completely overwhelming. There’s so much evidence that this article turned into a ‘monster article’ and a catalogue of scientific reports. These studies are real, verifiable (all links at the foot of the article) and appear in even the most prestigious journals such as Nature. I’ve nowhere near listed all the studies.

So if someone states that there is “no scientific evidence” that neonicotinoid pesticides are linked to the bee and songbird declines, just show them this page.

As the saying goes, “If you’re not outraged, you aren’t paying attention”.

A Very Brief History Of Neonicotinoid Insecticides

Pollination is essential to our agricultural system. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated 10 years ago that of the slightly more than 100 crop species that provide 90 percent of food supplies for 146 countries, 71 of these crop species are bee-pollinated (largely by wild bees), and several others are pollinated by thrips, wasps, flies, beetles, moths and other insects. [1]

Neonicotinoid insecticides were first introduced in the 1990s. Imidacloprid was registered in 1994, Thiamethoxam was approved in 1999. [2]

France was the first country to come out against neonicotinoids. Honey bee colony collapses occurred in France from 1994 (immediately after the introduction of the neonicotinoids) through 1999 and were linked directly to Imidacloprid, the most widely used neonicotinoid at the time. The situation was described as “catastrophic” and a scathing report “History of the French Bee Disaster from 1994-2003” stated:

“The science was ignored, corrupted, distorted and buried for over ten years… any scientist who dared to stand up for the truth was threatened, intimidated, bullied or transferred. Scientific careers were ruined, people’s lives were seriously damaged.” [3]

A stark documentary on the French bee catastrophe is available on Youtube (In French with English subtitles): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9boueJGtLPY The summary statement under the video reads:

“In 1994 more than 400,000 bee-colonies died within days of the sunflowers blooming; the beekeepers could actually watch bees dying on the sunflowers – as soon as they had drunk the nectar and collected the pollen. The ground beneath the sunflowers was ‘crunchy’ with dead bees – and the hives were soon empty apart from the queen and a few nurse bees. The only new factor in the environment was that the sunflowers had been treated with’Gaucho’ and its constituent insecticide Imidacloprid. The beekeepers lobbied the govt. to carry out urgent research; the facts were quickly known – the pollen and nectar contained imidacloprid – and the bees were being poisoned: acutely and sub-lethally.
However, the government refused to act; the regulators refused to act; the food safety agency refused to act – despite overwhelming scientific evidence that imidacloprid was the direct cause of the mass-bee-kill. Eventually – after three years of mass bee deaths – the beekeepers marched on Paris; the Minister of Agriculture banned the use of Imidacloprid on sunflowers and maize. The ban was enacted in 2000AD – but the British and American governments – along with their scientists and regulators have completely ignored the French evidence and experience. More than 4 million bee colonies have died in America since 2006; nobody knows how many have died in the UK.”

In 2008, Germany revoked the registration of clothianidin for use on seed corn after an accidental release that resulted in the death of millions of nearby honey bees. [2]

Another of the first countries affected was Italy. The neonicotinoids were banned from use after bee die-offs before the 2009 growing season – and Italy’s 2009 corn sowing was neonicotinoid-free corn. What did they find? “No cases of widespread bee mortality in apiaries around the crops. This had not happened since 1999.” In 2010, one year after the ban was enforced, bee populations were reported to have “bounced back”. Moreno Greatti, from the University of Udine stated, “Bee hives have not suffered depopulation and mortality coinciding with maize sowing this year. Beekeepers from Northern Italy and all over the country are unanimous in recognizing that the suspension of neonicotinoid- and fipronil-coated maize seeds.” [4]

In 2013, the European Union and a few non EU countries restricted the use of certain neonicotinoids. [2]

A Sample Of Studies Finding Harmful Effects Of Neonicotinoids

It has been established that pesticides contaminate not only bees but pollen, wax and other areas of beehives. A 2010 study published in PloS One reported finding “121 different pesticides and metabolites within 887 wax, pollen, bee and associated hive samples. Almost 60% of the 259 wax and 350 pollen samples contained at least one systemic pesticide, and over 47% had both in-hive acaricides fluvalinate and coumaphos, and chlorothalonil, a widely-used fungicide. In bee pollen were found chlorothalonil at levels up to 99 ppm and the insecticides aldicarb, carbaryl, chlorpyrifos and imidacloprid, fungicides boscalid, captan and myclobutanil, and herbicide pendimethalin at 1 ppm levels. Almost all comb and foundation wax samples (98%) were contaminated with up to 204 and 94 ppm, respectively, of fluvalinate and coumaphos, and lower amounts of amitraz degradates and chlorothalonil, with an average of 6 pesticide detections per sample and a high of 39.”

The study concluded “The 98 pesticides and metabolites detected in mixtures up to 214 ppm in bee pollen alone represents a remarkably high level for toxicants in the brood and adult food of this primary pollinator. This represents over half of the maximum individual pesticide incidences ever reported for apiaries. While exposure to many of these neurotoxicants elicits acute and sublethal reductions in honey bee fitness, the effects of these materials in combinations and their direct association with CCD or declining bee health remains to be determined.” [5]

Bees exposed to sub-lethal levels of pesticide have been found more susceptible to disease. [6] This is a big problem that is conveniently being sidestepped by pesticide manufacturers – who are eager to blame the bees’ decline on other pathogens, yet will not accept that bees’ susceptibility to these pathogens has been linked to sub-acute levels of the pesticides. This is interestingly similar to the scenario found in non-organic agriculture, where it was found that disruption of the “natural balance” with artificial fertilizers and pesticides weakened the plants’ resistance to diseases.

A 2012 study published in Science provided evidence that nonlethal exposure of honey bees to thiamethoxam (neonicotinoid systemic pesticide) causes high mortality due to homing failure at levels that could put a colony at risk of collapse. [7]

An October 2013 study by Italian researchers demonstrated that neonicotinoids disrupt bees’ immune systems, making them susceptible to viral infections to which the bees are normally resistant. [8]

Another serious issue is that of the cumulative effects of combined pesticides at levels lower than the levels of individual pesticide testing. Certain fungicides thought to be safe for bees have been found to act synergistically with some neonicotinoids, increasing the latter pesticides’ bee toxicity by 200 to 1,000 fold. [9] A recent study published in the prestigious Nature has provided evidence that not only does combined pesticide exposure severely affect individual-level traits in bees, but that combinatorial exposure to pesticides increases the propensity of colonies to fail. [10]

In 2010 a leaked EPA memo [11] proved that they were aware of the danger to bees and other creatures from neonicotinoids – yet still permit the chemicals to be sold. [12] Why is this being allowed to continue despite damning evidence against the pesticide?

Clothianidin – A Neonicotinoid Pesticide In Focus

Clothianidin, manufactured by Bayer, was first given conditional registration for use as a pesticide by the United States Environmental Protection Agency in 2003. By curious coincidence, Colony Collapse Disorder hit the USA in 2004 – just one year later. [13]

The approval was conditional pending the completion of additional safety study to be done by December 2004. Bayer did not complete the safety study until 2007. Clothianidin continued to be sold under conditional registration, and in April 2010 it was granted an unconditional registration for use as a seed treatment for corn and canola. However, in response to concerns raised by beekeepers, in November the EPA released a memorandum stating that some of the studies submitted did not appear to be adequate and the unconditional registration was withdrawn. [14]

The EPA continues to maintain the registration status for clothianidin despite the fact that the registrant has failed to supply satisfactory studies confirming its safety. An alliance of beekeepers and environmental groups filed a petition on March 21, 2012 asking the EPA to block the use of clothianidin in agricultural fields until they have conducted a review of the product. The petition was denied, but the petitioners state that they are aware that the EPA has moved up its registration review of clothianidin and other neonicotinoids in response to concerns about their impacts on pollinators, however they note that this process is projected by the EPA to take six to eight years and is thus grossly insufficient to address the urgency of the threat to pollinators. [14]

In January 2013, the European Food Safety Authority stated that neonicotinoids including clothianidin pose an unacceptably high risk to bees, concluding, “A high acute risk to honey bees was identified from exposure via dust drift for the seed treatment uses in maize, oilseed rape and cereals. A high acute risk was also identified from exposure via residues in nectar and/or pollen.”

Clothianidin is rated as “highly toxic to honey bees” with oral acute toxicity 48-hr LD50 at 2.8-3.79 nanograms per bee. The chemical is systemic, highly water soluble persists in soil for years (half life of 148 – 1155 days in soil) [13] and may accumulate in soil if applied on an ongoing basis.

EPA assessments show that exposure to treated seeds through ingestion may result in chronic toxic risk to non-endangered and endangered small birds (e.g., songbirds). [14]

Seed coating with neonicotinoid insecticides was introduced in the late 1990s and since then, European beekeepers have reported severe colony losses in the period of corn sowing (spring). [15] A 2012 study found a close relationship between the deaths of bees and the use of pneumatic drilling machines for sowing corn seeds coated with clothianidin and other neonicotinoid insecticides. Field tests found that foraging bees flying through dust released during such planting may encounter exposure high enough to be lethal. They concluded: “The consequent acute lethal effect evidenced in all the field sowing experiments can be well compared with the colony loss phenomena widely reported by beekeepers in spring and often associated to corn sowing.”[15]

Another 2012 field study published in 2012 found that doses of clothianidin and imidacloprid in amounts that bees might be exposed to during foraging can affect orientation, foraging, learning ability and brood care. Bees disappeared at the level of 1 ng for clothianidin, while bee losses were registered for imidacloprid at doses exceeding 3 ng.”[16]

Further research published in 2012 found extremely high levels of clothianidin and thiamethoxam in planter exhaust material produced during the planting of treated maize seed. The study also found neonicotinoids in the soil of each field sampled, including unplanted fields. [17]

Bumble bees too appear to be affected; not just honey bees. [18] A 2012 study in Science concluded “neonicotinoids… may be having a considerable negative impact on wild bumble bee populations across the developed world.” [19]

IT’s NOT JUST BEES………. Birds Too

In March 2013, the American Bird Conservancy published a commentary on 200 studies on neonicotinoids – calling for a ban on neonicotinoid use as seed treatments because of their toxicity to birds, aquatic invertebrates, and other wildlife. [20]

In the July 2014 issue of the journal Nature, a study based on an observed correlation between declines in some bird populations and the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in the Netherlands demonstrated that the level of neonicotinoids detected in environmental samples correlated strongly with the decline in populations of insect-eating birds.[21] An editorial published in the same edition [22] found the possible link between neonicotinoid pesticide use and a decline in bird numbers “worrying”, pointing out that the persistence of the compounds (half-life of 1000 days) and the low direct toxicity to birds themselves implies that the depletion of the birds’ food source (insects) is likely responsible for the decline and that the compounds are distributed widely in the environment.

Wired magazine also reported on this in depth in July 2014, noting that the approval process for insecticides is deeply flawed as it relies solely on direct toxicity studies, not considering indirect effects via the food chain. [18]

Observers in numerous places in the UK have commented that songbird populations appear to be a fraction of what they were before.

On, and on the insanity goes… Have we learned nothing since The Silent Spring?

The Shadow Of The Past

I have barely touched, here, on the shenanigans and dark history of the companies responsible for the continued manufacture of “death chemicals”. It’s more sickening than you could possibly imagine – and to report on the chicanery and political manipulation of the pesticide corporations would create enough material to fill a large volume.

I will leave you with one tidbit: Bayer Cropscience, the largest manufacturer of neonicotinoids, remarked in 2013 after the EU ban – “Bayer remains convinced neonicotinoids are safe for bees, when used responsibly and properly…” [23]

Do you trust them? It should be known – Bayer has an extremely dark past. They were once part of IG Farben, arguably the most deplorably evil cartel in all of history. Historical fact: In 1951, Bayer welcomed back with open arms to the position of supervisory board chairman Fritz ter Meer who had previously been found guilty of crimes against humanity on account of his role in the management of Monowitz (part of Auschwitz). One of the directors of IG Farben, he oversaw the IG Farben Buna Werke factory at Auschwitz, where ghastly human experiments were conducted and some 25,000 forced laborers under utterly deplorable conditions, with a life expectancy of three to four months. At the IG Farben Trial (Nuremberg War Trials) he was found guilty of “War crimes and crimes against humanity through participation in the enslavement and deportation to slave labor on a gigantic scale of concentration camp inmates and civilians in occupied countries, and of prisoners of war, and the mistreatment, terrorization, torture, and murder of enslaved persons.”. Meer was sentenced to a paltry 7 years but released after three years and went back to a top position at Bayer… [24]


[1] FAO Spotlight (2005) – “Protecting the pollinators” – http://www.fao.org/ag/magazine/0512sp1.htm

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neonicotinoid

[3] https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B7FCgF0BwlDGMEV0RU82YmxYQUk/edit

[4] “Nicotine Bees” population restored with neonicotinoid ban – http://www.treehugger.com/clean-technology/nicotine-bees-population-restored-with-neonicotinoids-ban.html

[5] Mullin CA, Frazier M, Frazier JL, Ashcraft S, Simonds R, vanEngelsdorp D, et al. 2010. High Levels of Miticides and Agrochemicals in North American Apiaries: Implications for Honey Bee Health. F. Marion-Polled. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20333298

[6] Pettis JS, vanEngelsdorp D, Johnson J, Dively G. 2012. Pesticide exposure in honey bees results in increased levels of the gut pathogen Nosema. Naturwissenschaften. http://www.moraybeedinosaurs.co.uk/neonicotinoid/Pettisetal2012Naturwissen.pdf

[7] A Common Pesticide Decreases Foraging Success and Survival in Honey Bees (Science, 2012) http://www.sciencemag.org/content/336/6079/348

[8] Neonicotinoid clothianidin adversely affects insect immunity and promotes replication of a viral pathogen in honey bees (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013) http://www.pnas.org/content/110/46/18466

[9] Mechanism for the differential toxicity of neonicotinoid insecticides
in the honey bee, Apis mellifera (Crop Protection, 2004) https://www.global2000.at/sites/global/files/Mechanism%20for%20the%20differential%20toxicity%20of%20neonicotinoid%20insecticides.pdf

[10] Combined pesticide exposure severely affects individual- and colony-level traits in bees (Nature, 2012) http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v491/n7422/full/nature11585.html

[11] Clothianidin Registration of Prosper T400 Seed Treatment on Mustard Seed
(Oilseed and Condiment) and Poncho/Votivo Seed Treatment on Cotton (EPA, Nov 2010) http://www.panna.org/sites/default/files/Memo_Nov2010_Clothianidin.pdf

[12] http://www.beyondpesticides.org/dailynewsblog/2011/01/usda-research-links-neonicotinoid-pesticides-to-bee-deaths/

[13] Pesticides and Honey Bees: State of the Science (PANNA, 2012) http://www.panna.org/sites/default/files/Bees&Pesticides_SOS_FINAL_May2012.pdf

[14] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clothianidin

[15] Assessment of the Environmental Exposure of Honeybees to Particulate Matter Containing Neonicotinoid Insecticides Coming from Corn Coated Seeds (Environ. Sci. Technol., 2012) http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es2035152

[16] RFID Tracking of Sublethal Effects of Two Neonicotinoid Insecticides on the Foraging Behavior of Apis mellifera (PLoS One, 2012) www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0030023

[17] Multiple routes of pesticide exposure for honey bees living near agricultural fields. PLoS One. (2012) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22235278

[18] Not Just Bees: Controversial Pesticides Linked To Bird Declines http://www.wired.com/2014/07/neonicotinoid-bird-declines/

[19] Neonicotinoid Pesticide Reduces Bumble Bee Colony Growth and Queen Production (Science, 2012) http://www.sciencemag.org/content/336/6079/351

[20] The Impact of the Nation’s Most Widely Used
Insecticides on Birds (American Bird Conservancy, March 2013) http://extension.entm.purdue.edu/neonicotinoids/PDF/TheImpactoftheNationsMostWidelyUsedInsecticidesonBirds.pdf

[21] Declines in insectivorous birds are associated with high neonicotinoid concentrations (Nature, July 2014) http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v511/n7509/full/nature13531.html

[22] Be Concerned – A possible link between neonicotinoid pesticide use and a decline in bird numbers is worrying (Nature, July 2014 – Editorial) http://www.nature.com/news/be-concerned-1.15516

[23] http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/apr/29/bee-harming-pesticides-banned-europe

[24] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IG_Farben_Trial


“Follow The Honey” – 7 ways pesticide companies are spinning the bee crisis to protect profits (Friends Of The Earth, April 2014) http://libcloud.s3.amazonaws.com/93/f0/f/4656/FollowTheHoneyReport.pdf

Quantification of Imidacloprid Uptake in Maize Crops. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2005, 53, 5336−5341 http://www.unaf-apiculture.info/presse/Bonmatin337.pdf

Imidacloprid impairs memory and brain metabolism in the honeybee (Pesticide Biochemistry and Physiology, Feb 2004) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048357503001469

Exposure to Sublethal Doses of Fipronil and Thiacloprid Highly Increases Mortality of Honeybees Previously Infected by Nosema ceranae (PLoS One, 2011) http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0021550

Pesticides and their involvement in Colony Collapse Disorder (jointly published in American Bee Journal and Bee Culture, 2011) http://www.beeccdcap.uga.edu/documents/CAPArticle16.html

The impact of neonicotinoid insecticides on bumblebees, Honey bees and other nontarget invertebrates (Buglife, The Invertebrate Conservation Trust, 2009)


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