Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Wine Grape Insecticide Imidacloprid Linked to Bee Colony Collapse

If you have been following the news lately you might have heard about scientists' discovery linking bee colony collapse to an insecticide named imidacloprid

Good recent coverage of this linkage can be found in the current New Yorker article Silent Hives by Elizabeth Kolbert (read it here). You can also listen to the Living on Earth podcast coverage with Harvard professor Alex Lu who conducted one of the definitive experiments.

Further underscoring the cause and effect relationship, Lu and other researchers note that bee colony collapse coincides with the introduction of Imidacloprid in the 1990s.

Imidaclorprid is widely used, applied to more than 140 food crops.  According to statistics collected by California's Dept. of  Pesticide Regulation and published in their annual reports, California wine grape growers have been increasing their use of this neurotoxin dramatically. 

The 2010 report on pesticide use by commodity shows that this insecticide was the second most widely used pesticide on wine grapes. (First place went to oils, which are generally non toxic.)

In 2009, some 34,000 pounds of imidacloprid was applied to 182,000 acres of wine grapes - about 36% of vineyards.

Bayer, the maker of most Imidacloprid, is disputing the three studies (a British one and a French one in addition to the Harvard study).

UPDATE - MAY 3, 2013

The EPA and USDA's recent study concluded that this and other neonicotinoids are implicated as one of many factors contributing to bee colony collapse. However, among nations in Europe where these insecticides have been banned (Italy, Germany and Slovenia), Italy has reported that bee populations were restored to normal balances after banning the neonicotinoids.

Imildacloprid is a common insecticide in the U.S. and in California. It is used in California on a number of crops, including wine grapes.


New research has now linked imidacloprid to negative effects on child development.


  1. It's worth mentioning that wine grapes probably play little role in colony collapse, as they are not bee-pollinated. Still, this class of chemicals is an ugly thing. There are better ways.

  2. it's true bees don't pollinate wine grapes. But wine grape pesticides do harm bees. Widely used grape pesticide are among those banned by the EU.

    Experts predict that California's lucrative almond industry, whose crops are pollinated by bees, may have 1/3 fewer bees available for pollination this year, which could have severe economic impacts.