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Skepticism, Science & Pseudoscience

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(35,773 posts)
Thu May 15, 2014, 12:17 PM May 2014

The Harvard Study on Neonicotinoids and CCD [View all]

This study was already picked apart by another DU poster, but this is another fair piece. The study made little sense in context of past studies showing many factors are in play, but that doesn't stop many people from buying into it and pushing the usual hyperbole forward. Ugh.


"A recent press release by the prestigious Harvard School of Public Health claims that one of their researchers has found that Colony Collapse Disorder was caused by a common insecticide used on corn. As an informed beekeeper and environmentalist, I feel that this study calls for standard scientific scrutiny to see whether their claims actually have merit.

At first glance, the study indeed appears to support the hypothesis that chronic exposure to field realistic doses of imidacloprid during summer and fall can lead to late winter collapse of the treated colonies. But the devil is in the details…

The study got off to a good start—several colonies were fed different “field realistic” doses of imidacloprid in syrup, and colony populations and brood area were measured. Had the authors stuck to this original design (which has already been performed numerous times in several countries) the results would have been meaningful. Indeed,after a month of feeding such syrup, the investigators did not observe any adverse effects upon the colonies due to the insecticide!

But then, since the lead investigator seemed to be eager to “prove” that CCD is caused by imidacloprid, he dreamed up the fantastic scenario that in the winter of 2006/2007 that for some inexplicable reason the nation’s supply of HFCS was contaminated with high levels of imidacloprid. My reading of the paper suggests that the author knows little about bees, little about pesticides, nothing about HFCS, had no understanding of the distribution of systemic pesticides in plants. This paper is an example of authors so bent on “proving” that imidacloprid is the cause of CCD, that they strain credulity with some of their assumptions and reasoning, and even by changing the experimental protocol midstream!


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