Open Letter to the BBKA

BBKA Endorsement of Pesticides

The BBKA notes that there has been some renewed criticism of the BBKA policy of engaging with Agro - Chemical companies following a recent incident in Germany associated with a product marketed by Bayer.

The BBKA does not endorse the particular product in question, but does endorse other products marketed by the same company.

The policy of the BBKA established some years ago and endorsed by its membership at an Annual Delegates Meeting, is one of constructive engagement with such companies to ensure that the products are sold with the correct instructions to farmers in relation to when and how to spray to ensure that honey bees are not affected.

In arriving at this policy the BBKA acknowledges that not all its membership agree with the policy, but equally the clear majority do. We accept that some of our members are for example committed to a purely organic way of farming and do not agree with the use of any pesticides or genetically modified products. The BBKA takes the view that they must represent all of their membership in the best way it can for benefit of beekeeping as a whole and to do this we recognise that we exist in a world where chemicals are used.

Members of the BBKA technical committee met the relevant companies periodically to ensure that we are aware of products coming onto the market, and discuss their possible effect on honey bees. We review the products we already endorse in the light of any new evidence that may become available and ensure that the instructions to farmers remain pertinent. We also provide the companies with advice about the habits of honey bees to assist in their formulation of new products.

With the recent well documented problems affecting honey bees throughout the World and in the UK, the BBKA is committed to raising the awareness of the plight of the honey bee, and is doing its upmost to persuade all interested parties including in particular the UK Government that urgent research is needed into the reasons for the decline of the species. In particular the BBKA is keen that research is undertaken to establish if new treatments can be developed into controlling the varroa mite as this remains the number one reason for the reduction in honey bee numbers in the UK at the current time.

Martin Smith

BBKA Chairman

Is this a company that you would want to be associated with?

Bayer Drugged Hemophiliacs With HIV

What happened next?

The BBKA finally published a statement about the pesticide poisoning incident in Germany. Does it support our German colleagues? Does it challenge Bayer to produce accurate data for its products? Or is it another impotent, non-event, quite possibly written by Bayer's PR company? You be the judge.
Comments posted on the same page and subsequently censored by BBKA
Phil Chandler
May 25, 2008 11:41pm [ 1 ]

Pathetic, spineless rubbish - you should be ashamed of yourselves for trotting out such drivel. These companies are poisoning bees all over the world with their filthy products, and all you can do is let yourselves be used by them to promote more poisons. I challenge you to prove your statement that the majority of beekeepers support your position. We should support our German and French colleagues by calling for a ban on all pesticides that kill bees.

Graham White
May 26, 2008 12:27am [ 2 ]

"In arriving at this policy the BBKA acknowledges that not all its membership agree with the policy, but equally the clear majority do." The BBKA Executive is in complete 'denial' about its appalling actions and policies on endorsement of pesticides.

FACT: The membership of BBKA was never consulted about the setting up of BBKA Enterprises - nor about its endorsement of lethal insecticides for cash payments from Bayer, Syngenta etc - until almost TWO YEARS AFTER that deal had been put in place. It was only due to Durham BKA noticing large payments of cash in the Annual Accounts that the issue came into the light.

"In arriving at this policy the BBKA acknowledges that not all its membership agree with the policy, but equally the clear majority do"

Has the BBKA ever held a poll of members to ASK them if they agree with taking cash for endorsing pesticides?

Bayer is currently using BBKA's name and logo to market 'Decis' - a pesticide with the active ingredient Deltamethrin. Bayer quotes BBKA as saying that it is safe for bees 'if used in the correct manner'. The advertising then goes on to state that Decis has a 'very long duration of action' - and implies that it remains lethal on the crop for weeks after application. So BBKA's advice that bees should be kept-indoors on the day of spraying is meaningless. Deltamethrin kills bees for days - possibly weeks after application. BBKA is actively endorsing a product which is lethal to bees - was designed to be lethal to any winged insect.

CURRENT CRISIS There is mounting evidence that the Neo-Nicotinoid family of systemic neuro-toxins are having a devastating effect on bees worldwide. Imidacloprid, Fipronil and now Cloanthinidin - have all been cited in mass-die-offs of tens of thousands of bee colonies in France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and the USA. Imidacloprid - manufactured by Bayer- has been banned in France since 1998; it was banned in Germany last week - along with Fipronil and Cloanthinidin. There is mounting evidence that the global use of these deadly, highly persistent, neuro-toxic insecticides - are probably at the root of Colony Collapse Disorder. The mass colony collapses have all occurred in areas where these pesticides have been introduced as a 'blanket solution'. Here in the UK Imidacloprid is used on approx 2.4 million hectares of Oilseed Rape, Potatoes, Peas, Beans, winter wheat and barley. In France and the USA it is the dominant pesticide on all sunflowers and maize crops.

BBKA has known about the French crisis since 1998 - and about the subsequent legal ban on Imidacloprid. It has known since last week about the events in Germany, Italy and France. But BBKA has given no public comment, no statement,no Leadership of any kind to the beekeeping community in what is an emerging global crisis. Why has there been this colossal failure of leadership, this failure to engage with the most pressing issue of the day?

Many of us believe that the secret deal done with the pesticide manufacturers - without recourse to BBKA's membership - has effectively silenced BBKA on ANY issue to do with the pesticides crisis. Once you are taking £20,000 a year from pesticide manufacturers like Bayer - and cosying up to them - giving them a prominent stand at Stoneleigh - attending meetings and conferences together - once you are 'in bed' with a pesticide multinational - you can't very well turn around and start criticising them about another product that is wiping out half of Europe's bees. Where is BBKA's solidarity with French and German beekeeping associations? Where is BBKA's campaign to get the same insecticides which were banned in France and Germany - banned here?

The answer is that BBKA Executive cannot come out and campaign for a ban on these pesticides in the UK - because that would endanger the £20,000 a year they receive from Bayer et. al. Many of us believe that the BBKA Executive has sold the organisation's 'inheritance' - the brand name and independence of the organisation - for a mere £20k a year. BBKA has gagged itself - and is continuing to self-censor its policies and statements - which are now in the service of the pesticides industry.

If Martin Smith thinks this issue will go away if he just issues anodyne statements - he is very wrong. If the French and the German governments were correct to ban Imidacloprid - and correct in identifying it as the cause of the loss of hundreds of thousands of colonies in Europe - then we are in for a very tough time in the UK. This pesticide is already IN the sap, pollen and nectar of every single acre of Oilseed Rape in these islands; it is even in Levington Compost as 'added plant protection'.

My advice to BBKA's executive is to 'think again' and listen to the membership. Listen to our fellow beekeepers in Germany, France, Italy and America. The choice is very plain. BBKA can ditch Bayer and Syngenta - tell them to keep their bribes, start to speak out on the issue of pesticides and offer the beekeeping community genuine, far-sighted leadership; emulate the French and sign the UNAF 'Charter for Bees'. OR - BBKA can continue to ignore the membership, keep taking the cash from Bayer, ignore our French and German friends - and remain in denial about what is killing our bees.

But the Executive had better make its mind up quick - because events are overtaking them very, very fast.

Gary Fuqua
May 26, 2008 12:29am [ 3 ]

The canary in the mine has died. Drastic action is needed. Agrichemical corps are probably responsible. In Germany and France, this is the case. If Beekeeping associations don't think drastic action is necessary, God help us. IMO, BBKA's position is negligent.

Rosemary Wells
May 26, 2008 1:57am [ 4 ]

Your stance is as illogical as it is dangerous for bees and beekeepers worldwide. "Correct instructions to farmers" is worthless and irrelevant after the fact that bee populations are proven to be dying from the use of a number of Bayer chemicals. My heart goes out to British beekeepers who are shackled with organizations like the BBKA who put the interests of large chemical companies over the economic interests of their constituents and over the health of the bee population worldwide.

May 26, 2008 5:15am [ 5 ]

You should should support your European colleagues by calling for a ban on all pesticides that kill bees.

John Blake
May 26, 2008 5:50am [ 6 ]

I don't understand how the BBKA can possibly continue to accept money from, and endorse the products of, manufacturers of chemicals which clearly are not un the best interests of bees. Speaking for myself, I want this commercial link severed immediately, and for the BBKA to stop trying to sit on the fence. The excuse of ensuring that the products are sold with the correct instructions for farmers is transparent and pathetic, as the manufacturer is legally bound to do this anyway. Please stop this endorsement immediately, as it cannot be in the interests of bees and beekeepers, but only for financial gain.

May 26, 2008 7:58am [ 7 ]

Congratulations! German bees are dying because of Bayer's poisons and the BBKA supports Bayer. My collegues have lost thousands of hives, honey, pollen and other products are contaminated and the BBKA supports Bayer. Stop that silly behaviour!

Honeybee Die-Off: German Federal Consumer Protection Office Bans Seed Pickling Agents Containing Clothianidin Due to Their Proven Toxicity to Bees

Pesticides from BayerCropsScience causes heavy bee losses in Baden

Honeybee Die-Off: German Federal Consumer Protection Office Bans Seed Pickling Agents Containing Clothianidin Due to Their Proven Toxicity to Bees

In the wake of the massive die-off of honeybees in southern Baden, clothianidin, an agent manufactured by the agribusiness corporation BayerCropScience and used to pickle seed of genetically modified plants such as maize (corn), was detected in numerous bee samples. Scientists have unambiguously identified clothianidin as the cause of the honeybee die-off.

The analyses of the Julius Kühn Institute to date irrefutably show that the bees were poisoned by the plant protection agent clothianidin, which was abraded from maize seed. Contact poisoning was determined in all but one of the 30 samples submitted to the JKI honeybee poisoning study group for testing. The first eleven chemical tests for clothianidin confirmed without exception the direct relationship between the dead honeybees found and the pickling agent. Further testing is needed to determine whether other components or plant protection agents also play a role. For many years it has been standard practice to pickle corn seed with clothianidin to protect it against cut worms and frit flies, but such seed is deployed on only small parts of the maize fields.

The situation is different in parts of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria, in which the western corn root beetle, which is under quarantine according to EU Directive 200/29/EG, was discovered last year for the first time (see the press releases of the former BBA dated 25 July and 22 August 2007). Consequently, it was necessary to establish infestation and security zones around the outbreak areas. In these zones, the entire maize fields were seeded with maize seed that had been pickled with clothianidin in quantities significantly greater than normally applied.

The honeybee and plant samples submitted to the JKI to date were all taken from the Rhine valley in Baden-Württemberg and a few from the region of Passau in Bavaria. To date there are no signs of infestations in other states in Germany.

An expert consultation held at the JKI today, in which the approval-holder, the approving agency (BVL) and the JKI took part pursued the analysis of the root causes of this disaster, which experts characterize as extreme, further with the aim of preventing reoccurrences in future. Experts suspect that pickling might not always have been performed in the necessary quality, so that greater abrasion occurred during planting. The seed companies deliver the seed to the farmers already pickled, and use different adhesive agents during the pickling process. Suspicion is also centered on the pneumatic seed drills, which together with the wind may have caused flowering plants such as dandelions, canola and fruit trees to be more heavily contaminated with clothianidin than previously suspected.

Clothianidin is highly soluble in water. It is not yet clear whether honey may have been contaminated. Initial investigations here are already in progress in Baden-Württemberg. However, it is clear that the honeybees collected pollen from a variety of sources, and the pollen analyses of the JKI have not identified any unusual pollen accumulations to date.

As the agency which approves plant protection agents in Germany, the Federal Consumer Protection Office (BVL) issued an order indefinitely revoking its approval of seed treatment agents for maize and canola containing clothianidin on 15 May, effective immediately, as a precautionary measure on account of possible further effects on the natural balance (see press release of BVL dated 16 May at

Background information on the honeybee poisoning study group at JKI:

The honeybee poisoning study group at the Julius Kühn Institute (formerly “Biologisches Bundesanstalt”) analyzes honeybee samples when there is reason to suspect that they were killed through the improper use of plant protection agents. Beekeepers send dead bees and plant material to Braunschweig. The analyses are carried out in multiple steps; the biological tests and the pollen analyses are performed in Braunschweig. The sophisticated mass spectrometer analyses of specific chemicals are performed in the Berlin office of the JKI (Institute for Ecological Chemistry, Plant Analysis and Stock Protection).

May 26, 2008 8:23am [ 8 ]

This is pathetic. Accepting money from corporations in exchange for tacit acceptance of their products is against all common sense and moral standards. Pesticides kill things, that's what they are for. Any pesticide puts every living thing that comes into contact with it under stress. Stress lowers resistance to disease. More disease means more sales of more chemicals. Bees have survived for thousands of years without chemicals.

Michael Duckett
May 26, 2008 9:42am [ 9 ]

I am really sad to learn that the BBKA is in any way linked to chemical Companies. It is certainly not the place of a craft charity to endorse ANY Agro Chemical products. The BBKA ends up giving credability to products which it cannot know the full facts. Please stop this. Or at least ballot the members.

juliette newsham
May 26, 2008 9:44am [ 10 ]

As a member and new beekeeper I was shocked to see in the Observer yesterday that BBKA has dealings with pesticide companies. Here I am learning all I can about bees and varroa and trying to find a way to keep this pest under control without resorting to chemicals. Now I find out that BBKA is in league with companies dedicated to chemical solutions for every ill with profit in mind. I belive that all disease has a meaning and we need to look for that meaning. It is a warning, an indicator that things are out of balance. We all know this from our own health; we succumb to pests and diseases when we are in a weakened state. An experienced bee keeper wrote in the local bee newsletter that perhaps we need to change emphasis from honey extraction and profit to concentrating on keeping healthy bees. I think he is right and smaller scale bee keeping by the informed educated hobbyist may be the way forward. I think the BBKA stance that one can engage with the agro-chemical companies for mutual benefit is misguided. Clearly the most benefit accrues to them because it makes their products acceptable. It would seem to me that it is like engaging with the manufacturers of arms to discuss the whys, hows and wherefores of killing.It simply won't do to remind us that we live in the 'real world' and that chemicals are part of that world. The BBKA needs to take a more brave and radical stance. Say no to the chemical companies and promote bee keeping as a way of saving the planet to the small keeper. Look at the growth of the organic movement. However you need to promote a way of bee keeping that does not cost so much to set up,which is a deterrent to many. As an organic food grower and seeker of non-chemical solutions to problems, I would like the BBKA to desist from involvement with chemical companies. Perhaps many BBKA members are stuck in old solutions that no longer work. I was very uncomfortable with many practices I witnessed on the bee keepers course I attended and I suspect many of the people undertaking them are unhappy but they feel the ends justify the means. People must feel there is an alternative in order to move forward into a new way of doing things. Where is the BBKA in this movement?

Dr P Williams
May 26, 2008 10:24am [ 11 ]

The BBKA position of taking money from agro chem companies has become untenable. Provide the membership with balanced arguments for both sides-now, allow a vote on the issue and then act on the result, before more damage is done.

Patrick Moulsdale
May 26, 2008 10:42am [ 12 ]

As long as the BBKA supports such organisations there is little point in any research being done as the solution to such a problem starts with those involved taking all the personal responsibility that they can. If beekeepers do not take responsibility how can we expect the government to do so? I will not be completing the BBKA petition.

mark stott
May 26, 2008 12:27pm [ 13 ]

Surely BBKA should be taking a strong line against the use of insecticides. Its bad for bees and bad for the enviroment. By taking money from these companies it raises questions as to the loyalities (rightly or wrongly) and devalues the whole organisation.

Bernhard Heuvel
May 26, 2008 12:49pm [ 14 ]

Beekeepers have to unite to save the bees. Today 12.000.000 tons of synthetic chemicals are released every day (!) into the athmosphere by humankind. Every day. This alone is threatening the bees and all life forms on Earth. In the pacific ocean there is a cloud of plastic floating twice the size of Texas. There are more plastic particles than there is plankton in the ocean. Because of industrial agriculture there is little wild forage left for the bees to stay healthy. The bees are bio-indicators for the state of health of a bio-region. They clearly indicate right now, that the environments health is going down rapidly. A lot of problems are caused by our way to consume, which of course feeds the chemical industry, which in turn kills life on Earth. Start thinking how much chemicals your way of life releases, stop using it. Please do not support the chemical industry which of course encourages the use of chemical products. As is plastic, pesticides and such. It goes without saying that chemical companies support the ideas of chemical usage. But a beekeeper association of course should act for beekeeper and their beloved bees. Of course they should. So stand up, take responsibility for the bees and don't support chemical companies anymore, who did kill the bees (France, Italy, Netherlands as far as I know of), kill the bees right now (Germany) and will kill the bees. If we don't stop supporting them.

John Salt
May 26, 2008 1:43pm [ 15 ]

You speak in half truths ! ... The BBKA enterprise Company was set up in 2000 when you went into covert signed contracts with various agrochemical companies and without any consultation with your membership. It was not until 2005 that this relationship was challenged at an ADM by Durham beekeepers.

Some of the pesticides you endorse, such as Hallmark are listed on the manufacturers web site as 'Highly Toxic to Honeybees' but you have a caveat saying they are only 'bee friendly' if you don't spray the bees.? Advising farmers to adhere to the code of conduct for spraying pesticides i.e. * Spray in the evening or very early morning when fewer bees are foraging. * Take care to prevent drift toward hives in the treated field. * Avoid triazole fungicide tank mixes. * Give local beekeepers as much notice as possible. I was inspecting my bees last Wednesday, two hives open and a tractor drove down the fence line some 30ft away and spraying. I closed up the hives and jumped into the field and hailed the tractor to stop .... What are you spraying ? Weeds ... Yes, but what chemical? Don't know...I didn't make up the tank mix... Do you not inform Beekeepers ? Don't have to ... not law!... Do you ever inform beekeepers ? Used to, but just don't bother nowadays....

This was a contract sprayer who sprays one field after another from morning till dusk. It shows a typical attitude amongst many farmers and contract sprayers.

Scottish Farmers Cereal Union spokesman ... David Haughton ... said in 2004 BBC Radio Grass Roots programme ... as part of a national quality assurance scheme arable farmers had to adhere to guidance on the use of insecticides and use a variety that were 'bee friendly' Ergo … The Scottish Farmers Cereal Union are insisting their members use ‘bee friendly’ pesticides ... the ones the BBKA endorse ?.... which are listed as highly toxic to honeybees.

You endorse Decis ... manufactured by 'Bayer' The same company whose products have been withdrawn on mainland Europe.

Moray Beekeepers wrote to the BBKA in Feb 05 saying we found the actions of the BBKA in their policy of endorsements as untenable ... only to be answered by saying we very close to being the subject of legal action.

Chris Asmann
May 26, 2008 1:58pm [ 16 ]

Nice to see the comment section has a request to 'Please be civil' There is no civil comment to the situation here. It's deplorable and disgusting. How is it possible that a beekeeping organization has an endorsement on an insecticide? Did someone forget that bees are insects? BBKA management's defense of their collusion with Bayer makes the next step obvious: Members must remove the tainted management and elect people who actually care more about the bees than the money. Whenever something bad is happening that seems too stupid to believe, just follow the money and you'll understand.

May 26, 2008 2:25pm [ 17 ]

"Currently it [the BBKA] is campaigning to raise the level of Government funding for research into the diseases which threaten to wipe out our honey bees." What is the point campaigning to increase Government funding, when the cause of the bee deaths is already known? It is completely unacceptable that the companies producing the poisons which are killing bees are also sponsoring the BBKA. The BBKA must end these "sponsorships" now.

john crosskey
May 26, 2008 2:35pm [ 18 ]

I urge the BBKA executive to think again about accepting funding from manufacturers of pesticide products. It clearly compromises the perceived independence of BBKA in matters of agrochemical safety issues.

Geoffrey E Gilbert
May 26, 2008 3:14pm [ 19 ]

Bayer is a company founded on the bones of holocaust victims,so it is no suprise to me they are adding the honey bee to thier neglective, destructive machine of money making,chemical pumping,environment destroying, in the disquise of bettering mankind.BBKA shouldnt accept thier blood money.But as with all things, money talks,honey bees die off.

Meg McKenzie
May 26, 2008 3:14pm [ 20 ]

Soon there will be few bees to do valid research on. How can the BBKA work so closely with the aggro-chemical industry and be so passive? There is a major threat to all pollinating insects including the honey-bee from sprayed chemicals in agriculture and horticulture. Perhaps the BBKA has served it's purpose as an Association of merit. A new less complacent body urgently needs to emerge. I shall be approaching Avaaz which is a web based lobbying organisation dealing with issues of dire concern to the human race. The demise of the honey-bee and the link with food pollination is up there with other very urgent concerns.

At this point, having received a straight run of 20 adverse comments, the BBKA stopped accepting comments. Shortly after this, they completely removed all comments from their site - see here. However, you are welcome to post your comments below the OPEN LETTER TO THE BBKA.

The middle column here is a replica of a page that appeared on the BBKA site in May 2008, in response to considerable pressure from members, who wanted BBKA to make a statement about their hitherto secretive relationship with certain agri-chemical companies, following a massive killing of bees in Germany by Bayer's seed dressing, clothianidin.

Initially, they asked for members' feedback, but after they had received a straight run of 20 comments, NONE of which supported their position, they closed down the feedback facility and removed all trace of the comments. Luckily, they were preserved for posterity and now appear below.

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