Harvard research and Bayer at odds about bee deaths
A new study released by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) blaming two neonicotinoid insecticides for being major causes of honey bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) prompted Bayer CropScience to respond with high criticism of the research.
Lead author Chensheng (Alex) Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology at HSPH, said “We demonstrated again in this study that neonicotinoids are highly likely to be responsible for triggering CCD in honey bee hives that were healthy prior to the arrival of winter.”
Lu and colleagues who have assisted him in his research were inclined to blame insecticides for bee health problems prior to this study because they issued a study report with very similar results in 2012. This is their follow-up, which Bayer CropScience contends has as much or more bias against the insecticides.
Lu released the latest study through the Bulletin of Insectology on May 9.
Bayer scientists have reviewed the study and, in their opinion, “find it to be seriously flawed” for major reasons. The Bayer scientists listed their concerns in the three following bullet points:
- “Feeding honey bees levels of neonicotinoids greater than 10 times what they would normally encounter is more than unrealistic—it is deceptive and represents a disservice to genuine scientific investigation related to honey bee health.
- Given the artificially high levels tested over 13 consecutive weeks, the colony failure rates observed are completely expected.
- Unfortunately, this latest study conducted by Dr. Lu repeats the fundamental flaws seen in his previous research and provides no meaningful information regarding honey bee risk assessment.”
Bayer also noted that the company “is committed to understanding the multi-causes that impact the health of pollinators by bringing together some of the brightest minds in agriculture and apiology to develop comprehensive solutions for bee health through its North American Bee Care Center which is part of the company’s $12 million investment in bee health in 2014.”
The Bee Care Center in the U.S. opened last month at the Research Triangle Park of North Carolina and has facilities for cooperative research with beekeepers, universities and others. Another major Bayer bee research center is in Europe.
Lu basically appears to have repeated much of the research done blaming for bee deaths and CCD in 2012; this time he included clothianidin, another neonicotinoid. He says neonicotinoids “appear to significantly harm honey bee colonies over the winter, particularly during colder winters.” He is saying that low doses of imidacloprid and clothianidin caused bees to abandon their hives over the winter and eventually die.