Bayer counters European bee studies
“The problem with these two new studies is that people are saying they show that neonicotinoids are responsible for the bee colony loss problem or the pollinator decline problem, but they don’t really show that at all,” Fischer said.
“Really, the study in France was not a surprise to us. With the dose level that they tested, we would have expected the kind of effect that they saw. The particular chemical that they used in the test was not a Bayer CropScience product. Thiamethoxam is marketed by a different company,” he noted. “But the study in France tested an exposure that is much higher than the level bees would be exposed to in fields.”
He said he was confident that bees would not have strayed away from the colonies at a lower dose of product used in real agricultural settings because no such effects have been seen in previous field dose studies.
“What they really saw with the study in the UK was an affect several weeks after they stopped feeding the bumble bees imidacloprid. They fed the colonies imidacloprid at 6 to 12 parts per billion in pollen in the laboratory and then moved those colonies out into the field where they foraged nature food, and it was after the imidacloprid feeding stopped that they really saw the main effect, which was a reduction in the production of queens,” Fischer explained.
Fischer suggested this study protocol has not been fully investigated to validate the approach, and it is something that needs to be looked at in more depth.
The Washington Post article gave no attention to what has been recognized as a major cause of colony health problems—parasitic mites. Varroa mites and disease vectors associated with the mites have been proven to be a main cause of bee deaths and colony collapse. “Those are the main problems causing health problems in honeybees, and pesticides either play no role at all or they play a very minor role,” Fischer said.
Bayer CropScience has noted that the neonicotinoid family of insecticides is used extensively in Australia, but varroa mites are not present. The result is that bee health has not been compromised in that country from the use of the insecticides.
“In my mind, it seems in some cases that the insecticide work done is overshadowing what we know to be a real threat to bee health, and that is varroa mites,” said Jack Boyne, Ph.D., director of communications, Bayer CropScience.