Posted 10 Jan 2011

Open Letter to the British Bee Keepers Association

Since 2001, the British Bee Keepers Association has been receiving in the region of £17,500 per annum from pesticide manufacturers Bayer, Syngenta, BASF and Belchim in return for the BBKA's endorsement of several insecticides as 'bee-friendly'.

The BBKA policy of accepting money from such corporations, taken without consulting the membership, has been condemned by many of its members, other European bee keeping associations and some NGOs as unethical.

While the Executive have now changed their mind again and have dropped the direct endorsement of pesticides, there are still some very important questions that remain unanswered.

And - importantly - they have not ruled out accepting money from the pesticide manufacturers under other pretexts.

We call on the BBKA to sever all financial ties to manufacturers, sellers and promoters of any substance known to be or likely to be toxic to bees or other insects.

Philip Chandler, Friends of the Bees
Dr. Hugh Salvesen, Trustee, Natural Beekeeping Trust

This letter is supported by:
(A number of other people wrote to indicate their support, but were unable to include their names here due to conflicts of interest, or for other reasons.)

These are the key questions that need answering if the BBKA wishes to be seen as fairly representing the interests of British bees and bee keepers:

(1) When the BBKA Executive made the decision to endorse the initial four insecticides, what due diligence procedures did it employ that led to the conclusion that these insecticides were 'bee-friendly'? Did the manufacturers provide peer-reviewed, independent research to back up their claims?

(2) Was the Executive aware, for example, of the research (i) published in 1995 - 6+ years before the decision - that demonstrated deltamethrin (one of the endorsed pesticides) to be deadly to bees, even in extremely small doses? And the research (ii) published 1993 that clearly states 'Cypermethrin is highly toxic to bees'?

(3) If the Executive was aware of this research, what led it to ignore or override its findings?

(4) If the Executive was not aware of this research, does it still consider that it undertook due diligence before endorsing these pesticides?

(5) Did the Executive, during the subsequent years of endorsement, keep a review on published research about the endorsed pesticides?

(6) And is the Executive familiar with the research (iii) published in 2005 that shows both cypermethrin and deltamethrin to be 'highly toxic to honeybees'? If not, please review your answer to Q5.

(7) It is clear from Dr Bernie Doeser's review of the science (sent to BBKA November 2 2010) that the very pesticides the BBKA endorsed are very far from being 'bee-friendly'; in fact three of them are among the five most toxic pesticides in their class.(iv)

In the light of this review, do you still think you made the right decisions? And will you be taking up Dr Doeser's generous offer of expert help and advice in such matters?

(8) In the light of the above, the BBKA executives who were responsible for the endorsement policy appear to have been either:
(a) negligent in their assessment of published research, or

(b) reckless in their endorsement of products known to be toxic to bees.

Which do you consider to have been the case?

(9) Why did the BBKA Executive fail to support their colleagues in Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Belgium in a call for the systemic, neurotoxic, neonicotinoid insecticides Imidacloprid, Thiamethoxam and Clothianidin to be removed from the European list of permitted agricultural chemicals? (v)

(10) What measures do you propose to put in place to ensure that:
(a) BBKA takes a firm stance against the introduction into our environment of unnecessary toxic chemicals, especially the widely-condemned neonicotinoids? (vi)(vii)

(b) BBKA members are not again embarrassed by having to apologize to the rest of the world for being represented by a body that endorses bee-killing chemicals?

(c) Members of the BBKA Executive, whether elected or co-opted, make a full, public declaration of any financial, academic or research interests that they hold in partnership with pesticide companies, the agricultural, pharmaceutical and food industries, - or any other industry that could be deemed a conflict of interest.

(d) BBKA supports the organic/pesticide-free farming movement, including the Soil Association, the Wholesome Food Association, Garden Organic and the Biodynamic Agricultural Association, in their encouragement to farmers to use non-chemical growing methods?


(i)May 1995, Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Volume 14, Issue 5, pages 855�860, the summary of which reads:
Foraging activity of bees is currently disturbed by treatments with pyrethroid agrochemicals. To discover eventual troubles of spatial orientation of the foragers, we exposed bees to sublethal doses of deltamethrin sufficiently low to avoid motor inco-ordination or muscular troubles. In an insect-proof tunnel, bees were trained to forage at a feeder 8 m from their nucleus. When temperature and global radiance conditions were optimal, some foragers were caught, exposed to a deltamethrin dose 27 times lower than its LD50, and released after 20 min of recovering. Among the contaminated bees, 54% took flight toward the sun and 81% did not come back to their nest within 30 s (which is 3 times longer than the mean time of control bees). Because pyrethroids are known to disturb learning and memory, we cannot conclude if this disorientation is due either to a trouble of information storage (wrong spatial perception or phototropism increase), or to a trouble of information retrieval (bad comparison of actual and memorized patterns). Routine chemical analysis of exposed bees does not detect residues of deltamethrin 3 hours after bee sublethal exposure, although bees evidenced alteration in the flight.

(ii) Alpha-cypermethrin is the active ingredient in BASF's 'Contest', one of the endorsed pesticides. See: Pesticide Information Profile (A Pesticide Information Project of Cooperative Extension Offices of Cornell University, Michigan State University, Oregon State University, and University of California at Davis), 1993 NB - "The recommended application rates of alpha-cypermethrin are lower than those of cypermethrin because the former is biologically more active."

(iii) Contact Toxicity of Some Insecticides to Apis Mellifera and Apis Cerana, J. Asia-Pacific Entomol. 8(1): 113-115 (2005)

(iv) Dr Bernie Doeser, Observations on the Effectiveness of the BBKA endorsing Four Pesticides Also with ref to Bulletin of Insectology 56 (1): 103-109, 2003 ISSN 1721-8861


(vi) Concern over Imidacloprid, Graham White 'According to James Frazier, PhD., professor of entomology at Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, "Among the neonicotinoids, clothianidin is among those most toxic for honey bees; and this combined with its systemic movement in plants has produced a troubling mix of scientific results pointing to its potential risk for honey bees through current agricultural practices. Our own research indicates that systemic pesticides occur in pollen and nectar in much greater quantities than has been previously thought, and that interactions among pesticides occurs often and should be of wide concern." Dr. Frazier said that the most prudent course of action would be to take the pesticide off the market...'

(vii) Dr Henk Tennekes, A Disaster In The Making (2010)