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Bayer & EPA Causing Colony Collapse Disorder With Clothianidin?

This is an interesting story and is not getting as much play as it should.  It is the first news that has made me think we may have a serious idea of what might be causing bee colonies to disappear, commonly called Colony Collapse Disorder.

This is a must read–why?  Because a pesticide called clothianidin was approved for use in the US in 2003 (this pesticide is banned in France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia).  Colony Collapse Disorder was first on the Beekeeper RADAR in the winter of 2004/2005 and became a media headline in 2006.

A beekeeper by the name of Tom Theobald wrote an article for Bee Culture magazine this past summer about clothianidin. It is a pesticide produced by Bayer that is absorbed by plants and then released in pollen and nectar to kill pests.  Basically, anything that pollinates can get a dose.

After the article came out, an Environmental Protection Agency employee contacted Theobald and told him that his article led to a study about the pesticide.  He asked if could get a copy of the study and the EPA employee emailed it over .  You can look at a PDF of it here.

Here are some interesting quotes from that memo that raised BIG RED FLAGS to me in several areas of my life:

As a beekeeper:

“Clothianidin’s major risk concern is to nontarget insects (that is, honey bees). Clothianidin is a neonicotinoid insecticide that is both persistent and systemic. Acute toxicity studies to honey bees show that clothianidin is highly toxic on both a contact and an oral basis. Although EFED does not conduct RQ based risk assessments on non-target insects, information from standard tests and field studies, as well as incident reports involving other neonicotinoids insecticides (e.g., imidacloprid) suggest the potential for long term toxic risk to honey bees and other beneficial insects. An incident in Germany already illustrated the toxicity of clothianidin to honeybees when allowed to drift off-site from treated seed during planting.”

“This compound is toxic to honey bees. The persistence of residues and potential residual toxicity of Clothianidin in nectar and pollen suggests the possibility of chronic toxic risk to honey bee larvae and the eventual instability of the hive.”

As a birder:

“This compound is toxic to birds and mammals. Treated clothianidin seeds exposed on soil surface may be hazardous to birds and mammals. Cover or collect clothianidin seeds spilled during loading.”

And can I point out as a birder who loves hummingbirds, which are a native pollinator–are they affected by this too??

As a fishing enthusiast:

“This product is toxic to aquatic invertebrates. Do not apply directly to water or to areas where surface water is present or to intertidal areas below the mean high-water mark. Do not contaminate water when cleaning equipment or disposing of equipment washwaters. Do not apply where runoff is likely to occur. Runoff from treated areas may be hazardous to aquatic organisms in neighboring areas. Apply this product only as specified on the label.

What do we need to do? Get the EPA to recall this pesticide now!  This is not a matter of “Oh no, Neil and I might lose our cute bees,” this is a matter of, “Holy crap, this affects the world wide food supply!”

15 comments to Bayer & EPA Causing Colony Collapse Disorder With Clothianidin?

  • And why in the world are we using this stuff?!? Ack!

  • Saw this as a news item and thought of you guys. Hopefully this will stop the stuff from being used.

  • Terry Hickman

    As a state government employee (not your state), I recommend anyone wanting to be taken seriously by EPA should contact their own Regional Office to find out if there are currently any Public Notices or other opportunities for the public to comment about this subject. If so, great – ask them for the materials, the Public Notice text, whatever there is – and then write snail-mail letters. Like it or not, snail mail letters still have the most wallop with government agencies. If it turns out there are public hearings coming up, prepare your talk, practice it, attend the meeting, and stand up and say your piece proudly. DO NOT BE AFRAID – those government people are THERE to find out what the public thinks. There’s no need for anyone to feel intimidated or like their view doesn’t count. IT DOES.

    One could contact the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in their state also, and persist until you find someone who can talk to you about the USFWS stand on this issue. Develop a helpful mutual relationship with your contact person, and ask to be kept up to date on any new developments about colony collapse disorder. Same with your state agencies that are concerned with the environment and wildlife. You will be amazed how helpful state and fed employees can be when you do your homework, relate to them at a professional and polite level, and show them you’re not going away. Oftentimes government employees have personal opinions they can’t express publicly, and they welcome citizens standing up for what’s right.

  • peter

    As this class of pesticides (neonicotinoid) is banned in many large European countries, it would be interesting to know if these countries have incidences of colony collapse disorder (CCD) that are higher or lower than other European countries that have not banned neonicotinoid pesticides. Also, is there a correlation between the use of neonicotinoids from 2003 and the rate of CCD. Correlation does not of course imply causation, but using Europe as a geographic test case and the US for longitudinal test case could if nothing else point to a strong causal relationship. Forget the honey producers and beekeepers, you need to get the fruit and vegetable farmers involved. Unfortunately they do not produce any of the big three (or four) huge agribusiness crops (soy, wheat, corn) and thus do not have the clout with congress that Bayer, Monsanto, ADM and the argi-business has.

  • Ma’am, I am a big fan of yours, but the typo in your headline–”colonly”– had me thinking this entry was about something else entirely.

  • @Teri

    Thank you so much for the input–I really do appreciate tips like that. I think that accomplishes far more than a Facebook petition.

    @Cult of Truth

    Thanks for the edit–it’s fixed. You’ll know that I have been abducted by aliens when this blog is free of typos.


    That is an excellent question and I’m going to see what I can find out on that. To the Interwebz!

  • Martha May

    Heroes spin-off show idea: Save the bees. Save the world.

    I’d watch it. And if they sold honey online, or wax products, I’d buy some too.

  • Deborah Lyle

    I am not going to buy any Bayer product in protest to what is happening with our bees and other insects and birds. Boycott all Bayer products until they get rid of this pesticide and go organic.

  • I found you because I was searching for a way to respond to the article on Huff Post about Tom Theobald and am grateful to your commenter for providing the advice I needed! Yup, a major amount of the food supply is pollinated by bees and an even larger amount of the visual beauty our souls need is too! Thanks for spreading this important info.

  • cleone

    Any chance that pollen being released is an inhalant irritant? Sinus problems, allergies…

  • Andy

    For starters, thanks to Sharon for posting this news about the potential link between CCD and the pesticide in question. It deserves more attention than its getting.

    Secondly, thanks to Terry Hickman above, for the excellent advice on how to be productive in your activism, should you choose to get more involved in this issue.

    But now to be a stinker, to Deborah Lyle above, a proposed boycott of Bayer products is pointless and while it may make you feel good to have this kind of knee-jerk reaction, ideas like that, if actually implemented (which is seldom possible), cause far more harm than good. I think it is safe to assume that the vast majority of people who work at Bayer are good hard-working people and if it was proven that a Bayer pesticide was causing CCD that even they would fully support the product being retired, even if it might mean some financial impact to their employer. Proposing a boycott of Bayer products would (A) do nothing and (B) if it did anything, it would only hurt these people and not move toward your desired goal of reducing the use of harmful pesticides.

    Kudos to Sharon for reporting on this and I’m sure she’ll keep all her readers informed on the topic as news becomes available.


  • Joanna

    I found this after I read your post, about the EPA’s shoddy job in approving this pesticide.

  • fran

    Clothianidin has just been approved (in November) for use in Canada on potatoes, but there is still a slightly open window with regards to MRLs (Maximum Residual Levels) – comments are being accepted still at the bottom of the page in the following Health Canada link.
    (If you have a comment to make, note the document number at the top of the page – you will need it on the form in the link.)

  • thom

    Gaucho/Poncho are the names that I.G. Farben sells the insecticide under in Europe.