Depopulation of hives in Galicia - Spain due to the action of neurotoxic agents

Depopulation of hives in Galicia - Spain due to the action of neurotoxic agents

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By Rafael M. Díaz Nieto

In recent years we are witnessing, alarmed and helpless, a great decrease in the number of pollinators, both of bees that are in the hands of man and of the rest of the wild insects. How could it be otherwise, the hand of man has a lot to do with this problem.


Since prehistoric times, man knew how to take advantage of the tireless work of bees. Egyptians, Greeks, Romans ..., the history and evolution of man is intimately linked to the bee. For centuries its wax illuminated our nights, and its products feed us and even heal us, and we are not the only species on the planet that does so, since the main value of the bee does not lie in the products it harvests, but in its essential work as a pollinator of plant species, which both optimizes crop yields and guarantees the biodiversity of the environment. The bee, being the main and most effective pollinator, plays a fundamental role in nature, since more than 70% of plant species require their laborious good work for their reproduction. The disappearance of the bee would entail a serious problem of maintenance and balance of nature.

In recent years we are witnessing, alarmed and helpless, a great decrease in the number of pollinators, both of bees that are in the hands of man and of the rest of the wild insects. How could it be otherwise, the hand of man has a lot to do with this problem, which we can qualify, without a doubt, as the biggest beekeeping problem in recent times.

A decade ago, the National Union of French Beekeepers (UNAF), alerted to a decrease in bee populations, due to the use of neuronal systemic insecticides that use Imidacloprid and Fipronil as active ingredients.


This new generation of neurotoxic systemic active substances have been sold in Spain since the mid-1990s, although their use became popular around 2000. Affected bees lose their orientation system and cannot return to the hive, thus, the hive it is losing population until there are no bees. It is a proven fact that the gradual poisoning of bees initially affects the most populated and powerful hives in the apiary.

These products act on plants in a systemic way, poisoning them from the inside, with which the pesticide appears in pollen and nectar. If it is the seeds that were treated, the poison remains in the soil and is absorbed by the plants that later grow in the semented area. This side effect lasts in the field for at least 2 years, and with sufficient efficiency to continue killing bees and eliminating fauna from the ground. At the end of the process, the hives are left empty of bees and with the brood capped and the reserves intact.

"It is not more science and technology that the field is needing, but more heart"

Claude bourgignon

IMIDACLOPRID.- A few years ago Nihon Bayer Agrochemicals K.K. developed a group of molecules called "neunicotinoids" derived from nicotine. Its deadly action in insects is exerted on the central nervous system, irreversibly blocking nerve receptors.

Phytosanitary products containing Imidacloprid are used as a spray to treat aphids and other parasites, as well as for the treatment of the seed of potatoes, corn and other cereals or legumes.

Imidacloprid is 10,000 times more powerful than nicotine itself, and it breaks down into eight metabolites, sometimes with more powerful action than the active substance itself.

FIPRONIL.- Discovered by the French Rhone Poulenc laboratories at the end of the 80s, fipronil is the active principle of the insecticide marketed as Regent TS, which has been marketed since 1997 to treat corn, sunflower and other cereals seeds.

Its main purpose is to fight against larvae, but insects that come into contact, including bees, die from overexcitation, since it affects nerve transmissions.

Fipronil is also contained in gardening and veterinary products to kill parasites in companion animals.

The US Environmental Protection Agency classified fipronil as carcinogenic (a product that can cause cancer) because laboratory animals exposed to it developed benign and malignant thyroid tumors. One of the products resulting from its decomposition by light (fipronil-desulfinil) is ten times more toxic than fipronil itself.

Its main trademarks are:

-Imidacloprid (Bayer) .- Gaucho ® (80% imidacloprid), for the protection of seeds (corn, sunflower, beans, etc.), and Confidor® (20%) and Escocet ® (35%) for spray application to fruit trees, legumes and vegetables.

-Fipronil (Basf) .- Regent ®, also for the treatment of seeds, and anti-fleas of domestic animals.

It is paradoxical that Confidor, with 20% active material, indicates in its instructions for use "very dangerous for bees" and the rest of the products, with much higher percentages, do not make any mention of their high danger.

One of the researchers who has studied the phenomenon the most is the French Marc Edouard Colin, from the University of Montpellier, who says: "With traditional insecticides it takes several micrograms to kill a bee. However, with five nanograms of fipronil we have discovered that they die. It is one thousandth of that with traditional products. "


The problem is widespread in Europe and affects equally in all those countries where these products are marketed.

FRANCE.- The effect in France, beekeepers say, is a lower production, 90 billion bees killed in 10 years due to pesticides, and an increase of 24% in honey imports in a country that was one of the main European producers. UNAF estimates 1,000,000 hives lost in recent years, has led protests against these pesticides, bringing the matter to justice, and promoting actions such as the demonstrations in front of the Bayer factory in Cremony in October 2000.

Bayer CropScience France, the former manufacturer of the Regent TS, and its CEO, Franck Garnier, were prosecuted by a French judge, who ordered the precautionary suspension of said insecticide.

The same judge then prosecuted the German company BASF Agro and its president, Emmanuel Bustream, current manufacturers of the Regent TS, for "sale of toxic agricultural products harmful to human or animal health."

Chronic intoxication by ingesting contaminated nectar, in a few days the foraging bee ends up with memory and orientation disorders, as well as physiological ones. The bee is unable to return to the hive.

GERMANY, BELGIUM AND ITALY.- In general there is talk of a 50% mortality, and currently various tests and studies are being carried out at the government level, and large protests by beekeepers.

SPAIN.- In Galicia this problem is occurring unevenly, all the regions with agricultural or livestock activity are being greatly affected, and their incidence percentages are increasing. The autochthonous forest areas are being saved and until recently the littoral forest mainly composed of large extensions of eucalyptus. Now the gonipterus of the eucalyptus is beginning to be treated with Confidor (imidacloprid), therefore, there are no longer safe areas on the Galician coastline.

Galician beekeepers from the Ferrol region (La Coruña) were among the first to suffer from the problem. The apparent cause can be attributed to the large existing rural population spread, with its corresponding orchards and fruit farms, all of them very modernized and supposedly well treated. In our region there are about 25 agricultural cooperatives, and as many stores and warehouses where the star product to combat parasites in general are the neurotoxic remnants. All this, what causes is that for six years we have been suffering a terrible mortality that is decimating our apiaries, in this short period we have lost more than 80% of the beekeeping herd.

It can be confirmed that municipalities such as Narón, Moeche and San Saturnino, with an entrenched and highly developed beekeeping tradition, the hives have completely disappeared.

6 years ago this region had 125 members of the Galician Beekeeping Association (AGA), now there are only 38 left, of which more than half are without bees.

The evil that the disappearance of our friends and collaborators the bees produces is in the environment, therefore it does not affect equally in all places, and of course it is not caused by the typical diseases, well known by beekeepers, nor derived from the presence of virus. According to the reports referenced at the end, the new remaining neurotoxic pesticides (fipronil and imidacloprid) are slow intoxication and sublethal, producing the loss of orientation of the bee, and consequently the total depopulation of the hives, leaving the brood and all the brood intact. honey. There are no symptoms, the hives simply lose population until they are without bees. The fact that taking time, when relocating the affected hives in virgin areas without agro-toxic treatments, and that over time they recover, makes us think that the cause of the disease is the neurotoxic remnants IMIDACLOPRID and FIPRONIL, so widely used today.

Those of us who can at the moment weathered the storm by relocating the apiaries in places free from these treatments, which as a general rule are the large expanses of eucalyptus that are so abundant in these latitudes. Now, with the gonipterus being discussed with the Confidor, there are no more secure settlements left.


Practical tests carried out in the Ferrolterra region.- On several occasions we have acted in the following way, before the first symptoms appeared, where a minimum loss of population was detected, we have relocated half of the apiary to areas free of agro-toxic treatments, suppressing them tables with pollen reserves. The relocated hives survived and recovered, while the non-relocated ones were without population in a short time.

Studies carried out in river waters by the Department of Chemical Technology and Environment of the Department of Industrial Engineering II of the University of La Coruña.- Due to the concerns on the subject shown by the municipality of Narón, a research work was carried out on river waters with very worrying results obtained. The work was made public on May 11, a brief summary of it is made below:





Micrograms / liter


mg / L


All the water samples taken present concentrations higher than the detection limit of the technique for IMIDACLOPRID, but in the case of FIPRONIL one of the samples, specifically Sample No. 1, presents values ​​lower than 0.06 mg / L.

We also consider it interesting to collect as necessary information the values ​​that on the presence of pesticides in water are included in Spanish legislation.

DDT (total)25µg / L0.8 mg / L
Aldrin10 ng / L0.02 mg / L
Dieldrin10 ng / L
Endrin5 ng / L
Isodrin5 ng / L
Atrazine1 µg / L1 µg / L
Dichlorobenzene20 µg / L20 µg / L


  • Individual
  • Set

0.1 µg / L

0.5 µg / L

(i) Quality of the waters of the estuaries of Galicia (Law 8/2001).

(ii) Quality objectives in the Hydraulic Public Domain Regulation (RD995 / 20009).

(iii) Limits for the emission of wastewater discharges to the estuaries of Galicia (Annex IV of Law 8/2001).

(iv) Maximum allowable concentrations in drinking water (RD 1138/1990).

In accordance with current legislation, on values ​​of presence of pesticides in water, values ​​of the order of nanograms can be seen for various products, that is, much lower than those found in the samples under study in small rivers in the studied area.

LD50 (nanogr) / bee
By ingestionBy contact

Marce E. Colin.- To kill a bee it takes several micrograms of conventional insecticides. However, with five nanograms of neurotoxic they already die. It is one thousandth of that with conventional products.

In Resolution B5-0000 / 2003, dated June 23, 2003, of the European Parliament on the difficulties faced by European beekeeping (see reference information), among other things, the following is stated: Point A: “ … Beekeepers have to face serious problems related to the loss of the beekeeping herd (above 80%)… PB:… the loss continues to worsen from year to year. P.D: .. a geographical and temporal synchronization is observed in the appearance of these symptoms, due to the use of new generations of neurotoxic systemic active substances. PE:… the symptoms are new and do not resemble other pathologies already known and controlled by beekeepers. FP:… this new generation of products (particularly IMIDACLOPRID and FIPRONIL) used in extremely low doses (a few ppb) have effects toxic ... PK: ... today we know that from 2% to 3% of the population suffers from pathologies linked to dysfunctions of the nervous system in places directly affected by neurotoxic products ... PL- Considering that farmers should be avoided at any price face once again a scandalous food contamination of the “EEB” type, for which they would not be responsible but the first victims. Q. I.- Calls for preventive measures to be taken with regard to the use of new generations of remaining neurotoxic products.

Studies by Dr. Marc E. Colin, from the Department of Comparative Pathology at the University of Montpellier (France). Work published in the specialized magazines "Lábeille de France et lé apiculteur" (nº 908, Nov. 2004) and in Vida Apícola (nº 128, Nov./Dec. 2004).

Their conclusions are clear and conclusive. These products produce tremors in the bees, exaggerated cleaning behavior, poor orientation and, finally, the disappearance of foraging plants, not necessarily linked to mortality in front of the piquera; symptoms very different from those caused by viral diseases. Imidacloprid is a nicotinoid that acts on the central nervous system. It is 10,000 times more potent than nicotine itself and causes tremors, cramps and immense muscle weakness that leads to the death of the insect. It breaks down into 8 metabolites, sometimes with a stronger insecticidal action than the active material itself. He also says that imidacloprid receptors have already been found in man.

Fipronil belongs to the phenylpyrazole family and its action and characteristics are very similar to those of imidacloprid. Regarding contamination in plants, this work shows mean values ​​in corn of 3.5 microgr./kg in pollen and 1.9 microgr./kg that the lethal dose 50 (LD50) of the bee is 4.5 ng ( one thousand times less than the micro) per ingestion and 24 ngr per contact. Regarding fipronil, the data were 4 ngr per ingestion and 6 ngr per contact. Bees fed for 10 days with syrup contaminated with 0.1 microgr / kg of imidacloprid caused the mortality of 40% of the bees. With syrup contaminated with fipronil with 0.01 microgr, it caused the death of up to 65% of the individuals after 10 days. For Colin these insecticides pose a serious problem for the environment due to the dispersion of highly toxic molecules in air, water and soil, but even for consumers who could find these toxins in the milk of animals fed with Regent corn silos or in irrigation or drinking water.

Studies by Dr. Claudio Porrini, from the Department of Agroenvironmental Sciences and Technology of the University of Bologna (Italy). In his lecture given at the Mediterranean Beekeeping Symposium he said the following: Some of the new insecticides do not cause high bee mortality, but they can seriously affect the behavior of the honey bee, therefore, in addition to the mortality of the bee, also colony development and other factors need to be monitored. It is necessary, he noted, to change the study protocols to be able to analyze and verify these effects. In this sense, he explained some tests carried out with imidacloprid, since problems had been detected in Italy with the cultivation of corn treated with Gaucho. Curiously, always after sowing corn with the seeds coated with this product, since with the sowing machine the imidacloprid was dispersed in the environment. The tests carried out by training bees to collect syrup from a source contaminated with different concentrations of this active matter showed that 30-60 minutes after ingestion, the bees remained “drugged” for about two hours and then when they “woke up” no longer they knew how to go back to their hives.


1.- We have managed to join forces with all the environmental groups in Galicia and part of the Agrarian unions. And we have jointly published an information booklet on the subject.

2.- Between all of us we are presenting motions in all the Town Councils to edit a side advising against the use of neurotoxic systemic pesticides, namely: Confidor in orchards, corn with Gaucho or Regent, Fumigation of eucalyptus with Confidor, dewormers for pets with these products.

3.- We hold press conferences in all the regions of Galicia informing of the catastrophe and the dangers for the bees, the environment and human health that we are suffering in a silent way.

4.- Ongoing studies.- We are carrying out a toxicological study sponsored by the Ministry of Rural Affairs and in parallel with the Department of Chemical Technology and the Environment of the Department of Industrial Engineering II of the University of La Coruña.


  • Imidacloprid and Fipronil Studies. Dr. Colin from the Laboratory of Comparative Pathology, University of Montpellier (France). "Labeille de France et lé apiculteur", nº 908, Nov.2004. Revista Vida Apícola, nº 128, Nov./Dec. 2004.
  • The bee as a bioindicator of the Environment.écnica/indice.html
  • UNAF press dossier. "The bee and the man in danger - The environmental fuse bee". Paris, January 23, 2006. Available at:
  • Studies carried out in river waters by the Department of Chemical Technology and the Environment of the Department of Industrial Engineering II of the University of La Coruña
  • Apitalia, No. 532-200
  • Abeilles & Cie, 99, mars-avril 2004-07-07. - Actu API 25. 1-2004
  • Revista Abelleira de AGA, nº 83- summer 2004. Disappearance of abellas.
  • Terra Magazine by Círculo Gacela, Oct./Dec. 2004.- Beekeeping mortality.
  • Presentation “Beekeeping Mortality in Ferrolterra due to pesticides” of the “1st Galician Beekeeping Forum”,

Information available on the Internet


* Rafael M. Díaz Nieto - President of the Northwest Beekeeping Cooperative "APINOR". - Head of the Ferrolterra Delegation of the Galician Beekeeping Association. Posted at

Video: What Causes Hives - What Causes Hives -- And How to Never Get It! Causes of Hives (June 2022).


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