back to article Disappearing bees mystery: Boffins finger regicide pesticides

Boffins investigating the ongoing mystery of disappearing bees have linked commonly used pesticides to their decline. A moss carder bumblebee A moss carder bumblebee. Credit: David Goulson Two studies, one by UK researchers and one in France, have suggested that neonicotinoid insecticides, which have been in use since the …


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  1. JohnSmitty

    What about Australia...

    Unless these bee botherers include references as to why this hasn't happened in Australia as well they probably aren't worth listening to.

    1. Kugutsu

      Re: What about Australia...

      Its most probably a contributing factor, not an absolute cause. There are many things that can negatively affect bees - I myself lost 2 colonies this spring. What finished them off was three weeks where the temperature didn't rise above -10°C, but the reason why they couldn't deal with this was probably due to the long, long active season in 2011 which allowed varroa mite populations to grow out of all proportion, and weaken the colonies more than usual. My smaller than usual colonies survived the mild winter, as they came out a bit in January when the temperature rose enough, but they couldn't survive the cold that followed. Pesticides may have played a role in weakening the bees still further, perhaps in reducing their resistance to mites, disease or the cold. All in all, it is very hard to say exactly why bee colonies die out - the thing that killed them is often the final straw rather than the absolute cause. Many of the straws are not directly or effectively human-controllable (weather, disease, pests, predators), however if there is a factor we can reduce then it should certainly be investigated.

      Australia is thus far lucky in that they do not have varroa, which is by far the most widespread and damaging honeybee pest, killing brood, weakening colonies and spreading disease. I wish them every success in keeping the mites out.

      1. P. Lee Silver badge

        Re: What about Australia...

        Indeed. The world is far more complex than the marketers with pet scientists like to portray it.

        Bees are pests when they sting, but they are also a rather important part of the ecosystem. "Pesticide" is a marketing term. Its a poison intended to kill insects. Which it does. For some reason, people are surprised when it works on the cuddly insects.

      2. Graham Wilson

        @Kugutsu -- Re: What about Australia... It's only a matter of time.

        "Australia is thus far lucky in that they do not have varroa."

        It'll be only a matter of time, tragically. Biosecurity Australia and the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) policies NOW run along the lines of 'commercial risk' instead of 'exclude if there's any potential threat'.

        We've seen this recently where New Zealand, a country with a long history of fire blight infection in apples, can now import apples into a clean, fire blight-free Australia. Not long ago, importing apples into Australia from NZ would have been absolutely unthinkable!

        In fact, recently NZ took Australia to the WTO to be able to import apples into Australia and won its case--such as is the power of free trade and commercial lobbying.

        This is what happens when countries sign--err sorry, are forced to sign--WTO and other international treaties which sign away state autonomy.

        It'll be too late when we citizens eventually realize that in this 'democracy' our votes have only about 1/3rd value when staked up against commercial lobbying and international trade pressures.

  2. Chris Miller
    Thumb Up

    "fuzzy flower-furtlers"

    And a very merry Friday to you, too.

    1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: "fuzzy flower-furtlers"

      Yep, I loked this one too :)

  3. peyton?

    Non-toxic pesticides

    Kind of an oxymoron really.

    1. Ross 7

      Re: Non-toxic pesticides

      She missed out the "to people" bit :) And the word "mostly".

      It's still toxic to people, just not very. It's a really effective neurotoxin against insects though. That's why the "Scientists are also in two minds about the potential harm of neonicotinoids, with some claiming that the actual doses used in the wild aren't enough to do any bee-related damage" quote is a tad silly.

      Doesn't take much to kill indirectly. Add in the fact it's a very stable chemical and will hang around in the soil, water, plant cells etc and you can see how a bee could get overexposed over a stretch of time.

      1. Charles Manning

        Some pesticides are used in hives

        Varroa mite pesticides, for instance, are in the hive to kill varroa but not kill the bees.

  4. jonathan keith

    Shocking news

    Insecticides harm insects. Who could possibly have forseen such a thing?

  5. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

    So they....

    ...didn't just buzz off then...

  6. Jonasme


    Leaked internal reports by the Environmental Protection Agency showed that industry-run studies used to demonstrate some neonicotinoids’ environmental safety were shoddy and unreliable.

    No surprise that the 'crop protection' industry looked after its own interests first.

    25% of our crops use these pesticides. It's about time we did proper testing before use (IT angle!).

    There have been problems with neonicotinoids for years, but in the UK we seem to do nothing.

    Even the British Beekeepers Association has taken sponsorship money from Bayer the producer of these bee killing pesticides.

  7. David Pollard

    "Scientists are in two minds"?

    There definitely seem to be two camps. One of them is apparently funded by agrochemical companies such as Bayer.

    Indeed "some [are] claiming that the actual doses used in the wild aren't enough to do any bee-related damage." But research in recent years shows clearly enough that non-lethal doses of a number of widely distributed agrochemicals can a) disorientate the bees' navigation; b) generally weaken the hive; and c) act synergistically.

    See, for example,

  8. 0_Flybert_0

    Albert Einstein: “If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live. No more bees, no more pollination … no more men!”

    1. Anonymous Coward


      We can fsck with the financial system and many other systems, but destroying the bee population is very, very dangerous for mankind. I can't believe the government research agencies don't look into this issue at maximum intensity. Just stop looking for cancer and focus on the bees, because cancer will be the smallest problem as soon as the bees are gone !

    2. Wombling_Free

      no, look it's very simple.

      Albert Einstein was a physicist. A pretty good one.

      He was NOT the world's leading expert of everything.

      Yes, he was smart. At physics. Not terribly good at writing symphonies, and he was a completely crap stonemason. His lead-light window skills are, frankly, LAUGHABLE.

      He came up with no great insights into the deeper workings of DNA, and made no progress WHATSOEVER in the conundrum of RNA-based origins of life.

      You want to quote Einstein - cite primary sources or GTFO.

  9. Spoonsinger

    Pesticides cause

    No shit Sherlock.

  10. christopher hinton

    I hate to harp on but....the chemical designed to kill bee-like creatures has a detrimental effect on bees? No way. A story from 5 years ago about some wacky types who claimed neonicotinoids might be on be one of the reasons for the decline in bee numbers:

    Whilst I agree that this might not be the only factor at work here, it seems reckless to do anything other than place a ban on the use of the these agents in farms and gardens while their affects are more closely studied.

    1. Scott 1


      " seems reckless to do anything other than place a ban on the use of the these agents in farms and gardens while their affects are more closely studied."

      So they can switch to the more toxic alternatives?

  11. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    How about *several* causes for declines in bee nubers/species/colonies

    But for a somewhat similar situation (and the agri-chemicals industries handling) you might like to look up the effects of organ-phopherous (also non-lethal, to farmers) sheep dips and the actual effects on some of them.

    Curiously similar to those of Gulf war veterans exposed to nerve gases.

    A good question *might* be what kills the Verona mite?

    1. Charles Manning

      Serious overmanagement is a big cause

      In days of yore, bees were kept in one location, bred naturally and slowly acclimatised to their conditions.

      These days, bees are highly managed, in many ways.

      In USA, bees are routinely bred up in the south, then are trucked north to pollinate crops. When they get to the end of the road the hives are killed off and the whole game starts over again the next year.

      Queens are routinely killed and the hive re-queened. This helps to control varroa but also keeps the queen vigorous.

      As a result of these activities, bees just never get a chance to adapt to their environment. This makes them highly prone to other factors such as chemicals and loss of habitat.

  12. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Colony Collapse

      Err? This is a joke, right?

    2. Lghost

      Re: Colony Collapse

      Oi!! amanfrommars1 does the "strange posts with caps" gig here ..

      and he makes a great deal more sense..

      I presume the tin foil lined coat is yours..

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Colony Collapse

      Ah! —I knew there had to be a logical explanation.

    4. Esskay

      Re: Colony Collapse

      Sure, it could be the weather radar... but have you considered:

      The Neann OBT - RAV's new Oxygen Resuscitator, introduced in 2002

      Drug Treatments for Skin Disease Introduced in 2002 (this one at least sounds worthy of sensationalism)

      Section 79BA of the New South Wales Housing Code Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 introduced in 2002 (pdf file)

      the Postgraduate Education Loan Scheme (PELS) introduced in 2002

      And that's just the first page of google results for "introduced in 2002"!!! There could be literally millions more arbitrarily linked events in 2002 that caused a dubious statistical rise in a "disease du jour".

      Besides, I thought the favourite tin-foiltard explanation for autism was flu immunisation? Or have enough celebrities stopped endorsing that crackpot theory for it to become "uncool"?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Esskay Re: Colony Collapse

        You missed one, I think that was the year I had a nasty verruca as well.

        But to the best of my knowledge I don't remember waiving it in any Bee's faces, but I wouldn't rule it out on that basis.

    5. Charles Manning

      Re: What changes were implemented in these time frames?

      78% reduction in the cost of tin foil.

  13. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

    Symptoms on't fit the findings

    IIRC the lost bees just disappeared. Out in the wilds where busy bees play the radio interference doesn't cover that particular ground.

    Seasonal factors are cyclic and as old as apiarismy~istisisation, whatever.

    The bees near hives left by the missing bees do not rob the honey left behind.

    Why do the bees go off without taking the honey with them?

    How do sick bees or leaderless ones manage to accumulate honey?

    If it was pesticide or organophosphate poisoning, they wouldn't just disappear en mass. They'd die like flies or sick bees.

    If it was a slower poisoning the bee keepers would notice it happening. If not at first; then with the second or third hive. If not the second or third hive; the second or third season.

    1. Kugutsu

      Re: Symptoms on't fit the findings

      Bees mostly die while out foraging, so a colony can seem empty when you open it up. This study supports this, as it states that bees get lost on their way home, so there will be no dead or sick bees to find - as they have died out in the fields, a long way from their hive.

      Also, bees are quite hygienic creatures, and if possible they cart their dead out of and away from the hive. A dead bee is pretty hard to spot in long grass, and if there's not a pile of dead bees right outside the doorstep (not a good sign), then probably you wont spot them at all.

      Beekeepers notice colony losses, but as I stated in an earlier post, it is hard to identify the cause, and most probably there is no one cause, but a combination of many. And even then, identifying the causes doesn't mean you can do anything about most of them...

  14. Wombling_Free

    Situation normal

    1. develop pesticide or industrial technique that makes modern life a microscopic bit better.

    2. fail to take into account mind-boggling complexity of ecosystems

    3. break planet.

    4. oops.

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