Working for you; Mosquitoes are flying and the bees are dying

Pollinator Stewardship Council Working for You

Board Members and staff of the Pollinator Stewardship Council (PSC) actively participate in State and Federal Committees, task forces, and coalitions to improve the lives of beekeepers, and the pollinating environment for managed and native pollinators.

During June, Board member, Steven Coy traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in the EPA’s Pollinator Protection Workgroup, and then he presented testimony to the full Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee of EPA. He spoke to the issues of concern for beekeepers.  First, the continued reliance on best management practices (BMPs) for crop pollination services, are in the end, voluntary.  Even when growers and beekeepers agree upon a practice that best protects pollinators and the crop, incidents such as damage to 80,000 colonies at the end of almond bloom create havoc as best management practices are “thrown under the bus” at the expense of the beekeeper.   While beekeepers support training and education in the use of pesticides, and practices to protect pollinators; education is futile if it is not backed up with enforcement.

Mr. Coy expressed beekeeper concerns about risk mitigation.  Moving bees may mitigate or reduce risk for that particular set of colonies, but it does not reduce the risk to native species. If managed colonies are moved the crop suffers reduced pollination time, and an extended residual toxicity pesticide delays pollination further as bees may have to wait seven to fourteen days to return to a field.  Lastly, where is a safe place to move bees to avoid drift, and have a pesticide-free food source within mono-agriculture?   For those crops that attract bees, but are not needed for pollination, such as corn, soybean, and cotton, BMPs should be used in a manner to protect beneficial and incidental insects.   A sterile field environment is not natural nor healthy for the ecosystem.  The BMPs for these crops should include management techniques that will find the balance between killing the pest, and preserving the beneficial insects. However, moving bees does not address the real problem.  The real problem is the miss-application of the pesticide product and/or the initial improper risk assessment of the product by the EPA.  Applying pesticides in a manner that protects managed bees (whether present or not) will reduce the impact on the non-target organisms.

“The mission of EPA is to protect human health and the environment.” Protecting non-target organisms—managed and native pollinators, is the responsibility of the EPA.  EPA uses pesticide label guidelines to protect pollinators and the environment.   Recently, EPA has begun to adjust their pesticide labels.  A new label was proposed for just four neonics; then that was changed; then they changed it again.  The revised label reflects pollinator protections for clothianidin, dinotefuran, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, tolfenpyrad, and cyantraniliprole.  It appears the label is attempting to restore old protective measures of no applications of bee toxic pesticides to bloom.  However, the five exceptions within the new label guidelines negate the “do not apply,” and allow for pollinators to be killed per the label.

Mr. Coy expressed beekeeper concerns the EPA should not allow the States to create risk mitigation measures that are weaker than the federal standards. When each state or EPA region creates their own mitigation measures for pollinators, beekeepers and growers will be hard-pressed to know procedures in ten EPA regions, and fifty states.  Honey bees provide a great resource to mono-agriculture, and are necessary to pollinate the crops in mono-agriculture.  The Biological and Economic Analysis Division (BEAD) of EPA must revise their economic analysis of honey bees and other pollinators, to consider the full value contributed by pollinators.  The economic analysis needs to account for the true value of the bee colony, its production potential (honey, bees, pollination fees, etc.), the value added to the crop through pollination, and the subsequent products from the pollinated crop.  When managed pollinators have a total calculated economic value to the production of crops and the health of agriculture and the ecosystem, their importance as integral to the food supply will be fiscally recognized.

Board members along with representatives from the American Honey Producers Association, the American Beekeeping Federation, and the National Honey Bee Advisory Board participated in the Summit at the White House in late spring which resulted in the President’s Memorandum to protect pollinators.  Pollinator Stewardship Council (PSC) Board members and staff join with other bee industry leaders serving on the Honey Bee Health Coalition, as well as the Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee at EPA, and the Pollinator Protection Workgroup at EPA.  PSC Board members and staff are leaders in or members of their respective State and local Beekeeping Associations.

Pollinator Stewardship Council Board members are NOT compensated to serve on these state and national committees and task forces.  No matter the level of the task force, Clinton Global Initiative, White House, or State Association leader, bee industry leaders are not compensated for their time or travel.  Participants in these work groups make the time for monthly conference calls, pay for airfare, hotel, and meals to Washington, D.C., and may meet quarterly in person at regional locations around the country to work for the protection, longevity, and viability of beekeepers and the beekeeping industry.  We are beekeepers working for beekeepers. We need your support for legislative actions, we need your funding support for the bee kill evidence kits and lab analysis project, we need your support to provide educational programs about the impact of pesticides upon pollinators and beekeeping.

Mosquitoes are Flying and the Bees are Dying

It is summer in the city, and local governments have started their mosquito abatement programs.  Concerned for public health, municipalities spray insecticides and larvicides through communities to control mosquitoes.  While some communities have pro-active programs to alleviate standing water and other breeding areas for mosquitoes, the preferred practice is to spray and fog our cities, roadways, ditches, and waterways with pesticides.  Of the typical pesticides used for mosquito control, most are applied by trucks spraying the product as it drives down your street, or along the side of road. A random perusal of various state and city mosquito abatement processes conflict as to the “best time” to apply the pesticides in order to cause the least harm to honey bees and native pollinators.  Sadly, far too many of the extension documents and state guidelines claim bees are not active after 3 p.m. which is just blatantly false.  Honey bees and native pollinators will forage blooming plants until the sun sets.  To fully protect honey bees and native pollinators from mosquito control pesticides, they should only be applied when it is dark; as in the sun has set, the moon is up, and the street lights are lit.  Dark is dark, not twilight, not sunset: dark. Bee kills across the U.S. in agriculture are typically due to tank mixes and prophylactic use of pesticides on plants grown from pesticide coated seeds.  In urban and suburban areas, mosquito abatement practices are causing unnecessary bee kills.  Some cities offer beekeepers the opportunity to “opt-out” of mosquito spray applications near their property.  However, the “opt-out” process is sometimes cumbersome.  One Massachusetts community went from 400 people opting out, to only 100 opting out the following year due to a change in the application process requiring certified letters to be sent to the local government.  Some cities like Boulder, Colorado, post actions residents can take to protect themselves from mosquitoes, in order to reduce the use of pesticides, and take responsibility for your own person and property.  Even if a beekeeper opts out of having their property sprayed for mosquitoes, pesticides drift: onto water, and blooming plants.  Not all mosquito control products have a short residual toxicity, and can last on the blooming plants, and in water.  The next day when bees drink from a puddle or stream, or collect nectar from a bloom containing a mosquito control pesticide the honey bee or native pollinator may die.

Typical mosquito control products listed on local government mosquito control websites are: methoprene, Bti, Bsp, temephos, sumithrin, malathion, permethrin, and chlorpyrifos.  Not all of these products are applied individually, and even if they are, they are always mixed with surfactants or oils, and “other ingredients” for which there is little information.

Summary of mosquito control pesticides:

  1.     methoprene- (affects the development of egg/larva)  moderately to highly toxic to fish and crustaceans; relatively non-toxic to birds; low toxicity to adult bees, but bee larvae may be more sensitive.
  2.     Bti (Bacillus Thuringiensis)  – not toxic to bees, has been used in hives from control of wax moth. However, “very high concentrations of B.t. var. tenebrionis, which is used against beetles such as the Colorado potato beetle, reduced longevity of honey bee adults but did not cause disease.”  Initial studies also did not show results of Bti upon native pollinators such as butterflies.
  3.     Bsp (Bacillus sphaericus)  -not toxic to bees
  4.     temephos- highly toxic to bees, aquatic organisms, and is moderately to highly toxic to birds.
  5.     sumithrin – extremely toxic to bees, aquatic life, and poisonous to cats and dogs.
  6.     malathion – highly toxic to bees, and to freshwater and estuarine aquatic organisms, moderately toxic to birds.
  7.     permethrin –  toxic to fish and bees
  8.     chlorpyrifos – very highly toxic to bees, birds, freshwater fish and invertebrates

Interestingly, many mosquito control products speak to addressing mosquito larvae in water, and then imply the pesticides in the water will not harm bees.  Yet, bees do drink water.  So, if a pesticide lingers in the water, bees will encounter the pesticide there, as well as on blossoms, and guttation droplets on plants.  Far too many mosquito control documents ignore the fact bees drink water, and mislead the pesticide applicator stating bees stay in their hives after 3 p.m.  Those two issues lead to great harm being caused to honey bees and native pollinators.  Every living creature needs clean, pesticide free water to drink; and “busy as a bee” means on warm, hot days they work from sunrise to sunset.  Only wind, cold, and rain keep the bees in their hives.

“Insecticide toxicity is generally measured using acute contact toxicity values LD50 – the exposure level that causes 50% of the population exposed to die. Toxicity thresholds are generally set at:

highly toxic (acute LD50 < 2μg/bee)
moderately toxic (acute LD50 2 – 10.99μg/bee)
slightly toxic (acute LD50 11 – 100μg/bee)
nontoxic (acute LD50 > 100μg/bee) to adult bees.”

(Pollinator protection requirements for Section 18 Emergency Exemptions and Section 24(c) special local need registration in Washington State; Registration Services Program Pesticide Management Division Washington State Dept of Agriculture, Dec 2006;  Hunt, G.J.; Using honey bees in pollination Purdue University, May 2000)
One mosquito control product is a combination of prallethrin, Sumithrin® and  piperonyl butoxide.  The label clearly states: “This pesticide is highly toxic to aquatic organisms, including fish and aquatic invertebrates. Runoff from treated areas or deposition of spray droplets into a body of water may be hazardous to fish and aquatic invertebrates. Do not apply over bodies of water (lakes, rivers, permanent streams, natural ponds, commercial fish ponds, swamps, marshes or estuaries), except when necessary to target areas where adult mosquitoes are present, and weather conditions will facilitate movement of applied material beyond the body of water in order to minimize incidental deposition into the water body.  Do not contaminate bodies of water when disposing of equipment rinsate or wash waters.  This product is highly toxic to bees exposed to direct treatment on blooming crops or weeds. Do not apply to or allow drift onto blooming crops or weeds when bees are visiting the treatment area, except when applications are made to prevent or control a threat to public and/or animal health determined by a state, tribal or local health or vector control agency on the basis of documented evidence of disease causing agents in vector mosquitoes, or the occurrence of mosquito-borne disease in animal or human populations, or if specifically approved by the state or tribe during a natural disaster recovery effort.”

The Pollinator Stewardship Council has pointed out previous EPA approved labels that start out protecting pollinators, and then include “exceptions” allowing for pollinators to be sacrificed.  Even in the above label’s environmental hazard statement two exceptions: to apply to bloom, and to water are allowed with full understanding honey bees and native pollinators will be killed.

Beekeepers should be able to protect their honey bees.  As a community we should protect our native pollinators.  As individuals we can be proactive to protect our property from mosquitoes, and protect our honey bees and pollinators from the adverse impact of mosquito abatements.  If a health risk is established, a short residual toxicity mosquito control product should only be applied after the sun has set, when it is dark. Then, and only then will honey bees and native pollinators have a chance to survive mosquito abatements.

Report any bee kills due to pesticides to the Pollinator Stewardship Council.  Email us via our website at  or call us Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. eastern at 832-727-9492.  You should also report your bee kill to your State Apiarist / Dept. of Agriculture, the U.S. EPA, and your local/state beekeeping association.



Visit our research pages on our website for more information about managed and native pollinators and the impact of pesticides upon them.

“Conflicts of interests, confidentiality and censorship in health risk assessment: the example of an herbicide and a GMO”

by Gilles-Eric Séralini, Robin Mesnage, Nicolas Defarge, Joël Spiroux de Vendômois


We have studied the long-term toxicity of a Roundup-tolerant GM maize (NK603) and a whole Roundup pesticide formulation at environmentally relevant levels from 0.1 ppb. Our study was first published in Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) on 19 September, 2012. The first wave of criticisms arrived within a week, mostly from plant biologists without experience in toxicology. We answered all these criticisms. The debate then encompassed scientific arguments and a wave of ad hominem and potentially libellous comments appeared in different journals by authors having serious yet undisclosed conflicts of interests. At the same time, FCT acquired as its new assistant editor for biotechnology a former employee of Monsanto after he sent a letter to FCT to complain about our study. This is in particular why FCT asked for a post-hoc analysis of our raw data. On 19 November, 2013, the editor-in-chief requested the retraction of our study while recognizing that the data were not incorrect and that there was no misconduct and no fraud or intentional misinterpretation in our complete raw data – an unusual or even unprecedented action in scientific publishing. The editor argued that no conclusions could be drawn because we studied 10 rats per group over 2 years, because they were Sprague Dawley rats, and because the data were inconclusive on cancer. Yet this was known at the time of submission of our study. Our study was however never attended to be a carcinogenicity study. We never used the word ‘cancer’ in our paper. The present opinion is a summary of the debate resulting in this retraction, as it is a historic example of conflicts of interest in the scientific assessments of products commercialized worldwide. We also show that the decision to retract cannot be rationalized on any discernible scientific or ethical grounds. Censorship of research into health risks undermines the value and the credibility of science; thus, we republish our paper.

“Influence of dinotefuran and clothianidin on a bee colony”

Toshiro Yamada–Kazuko Yamada–Naoki Wada

Recently it has become a serious problem that honeybees suddenly vanish in their colony, which is referred to as a colony collapse disorder (CCD). We have made it clear by the field experiments for about four months what effect neonicotinoid pesticides such as dinotefuran and clothianidin have on the occurrence of CCD. Eight colonies consisting of about ten-thousand honeybees in each colony were investigated under the practical beekeeping conditions in our apiary. In this study foods containing dinotefuran of 1ppm to 10 ppm or clothianidin of 0.4ppm to 4 ppm were fed into a beehive. Three levels of concentration were 10 (high-conc.), 50 (middle-conc.) and 100 (low-conc.) times lower than that in practical use. The changes of adult bees, brood and the pesticide intake in each colony were directly examined. They suggest that each colony with the pesticide administered collapses to nothing after passing through a state of CCD, the high-concentration pesticides seem to work as an acute toxicity and the low- and middle-concentration ones do as a chronic toxicity. CCD looks mysterious, but it is just one of situations where a colony dwindles to nothing. We have proposed a CCD occurrence mechanism based on our results. The NMR spectral  analyses of dinotefuran and clothianidin in aqueous solution give the speculations that both are thermally stable under the heating condition of 50°C × 24 hours and dinotefuran is radiationally stable under the ultraviolet-irradiation condition of 310 nm× 50 W / m 2 but clothianidin is unstable.