Bees & Pesticides: An Open Letter

James Asked About Safe Pesticides & Bees

James Simison, family friend and Risk Management Surveyor at Sunderland Marine, sent me a very pertinent question about bees and pesticides on LinkedIn. A little later, James’ mother, Sheila, an eminent solicitor, e-mailed me on the subject of pesticides and bees. I took the hint: it was indisputably timeĀ for an Apis open letter on this very important subject!

Hi James,

In response to your question whether I knew “a good brand of pesticide that was bee friendly“, I don’t. I don’t think that there is one.

I empathise with your line of thinking: I recently took a very disturbing video of a poisoned bee from my Oxfordshire apiary, which illustrates the ghastly effect of an unattributed poisoning on a foraging bee on the landing board of one of my hives. It is a very real problem.

Looking to the future, I believe that we are a generation away from developing personalised medicine for human beings and, similarly, from species-specific pesticides in agriculture. So there is hope.

In the meantime, honeybees have to contend with threats from varroa, nosema, the small hive beetle, the Asian hornet, insufficient forage in cities and poor beekeeping education, as well as outright poisoning.

It’s a crowded agenda and each aspect needs to be squarely addressed, rather than single-issue groups exclusively lobbying for their own ends. Complexity is an awkward reality in the active promotion of honeybee health.

It is important that we do not lose sight of the fact that the varroa mite is by far the most widespread, persistent and deadly threat to wild and maintained honeybee populations globally. Seasonal application of naturally-occurring treatments against varroa is a key element of the holistic approach to high-health bee-husbandry called Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

I’m sure that, as a risk manager surveying marine environments, you have a similarly grisly list of pathogenic threats to sea-life around our shores – and that vested interest groups vocally promote their own agendas in regard to those issues.

I wish there were a safe, effective agricultural pesticide that is bee-friendly right now. But one day, I believe that there will be a multi-faceted solution to this particular conundrum.

Looking forward to meeting in June, somewhere between a bee-hive and the deep blue sea.

Best Regards


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *