Experimental study on the toxicity of imidacloprid given in syrup to honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies



Two groups of eight honey bee colonies were fed with two different concentrations of imidacloprid in saccharose syrup during summer (each colony was given 1 litre of saccharose syrup containing 0.5 µg litre−1 or 5 µg litre−1 of imidacloprid on 13 occasions). Their development and survival were followed in parallel with control hives (unfed or fed with saccharose syrup) until the end of the following winter. The parameters followed were: adult bee activity (number of bee entering the hive and pollen carrying activity), adult bee population level, capped brood area, frequency of parasitic and other diseases, mortality, number of frames with brood after wintering and a global score of colonies after wintering. The only parameters linked to feeding with imidacloprid-supplemented saccharose syrup when compared with feeding with non-supplemented syrup were: a statistically non-significant higher activity index of adult bees, a significantly higher frequency of pollen carrying during the feeding period and a larger number of capped brood cells. When imidacloprid was no longer applied, activity and pollen carrying were re-established at a similar level for all groups. Repeated feeding with syrup supplemented with imidacloprid did not provoke any immediate or any delayed mortality before, during or following the next winter, whereas such severe effects are described by several French bee keepers as a consequence of imidacloprid use for seed dressing in neighbouring cultures. In any case, during the whole study, mortality was very low in all groups, with no difference between imidacloprid-fed and control colonies. Further research should now address several hypotheses: the troubles described by bee keepers have causes other than imidacloprid; if such troubles are really due to this insecticide, they may only be observed either when bees consume contaminated pollen, when no other sources of food are available, in the presence of synergic factors (that still need to be identified), with some particular races of bees or when colonies are not strong and healthy. Copyright © 2004 Society of Chemical Industry