Neonicotinoids, Bees and Honey

Neonicotinoids, or neonics, are used to protect crops from pests and account for 30 % of the global pesticide market. They are now known to be responsible for the decline in bee populations worldwide, and can be found in the plants, pollen and nectar of the plants sprayed. Colony collapse disorder and lowered reproductive success rates are seen in many countries. Bees, including their nests and their honey, are contaminated. 

To demonstrate the widespread exposure to neonics in bees, hives and honey, Professor Edward Mitchell of the Crown Research Institute, Landcare Research, and head of the biodiversity lab at the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland, led a study that demonstrated that three quarters of the honey consumed throughout the world contains neonics. The study was conducted in 2015 and 2016 and analyzed 198 honey samples from around the world. The honey was tested  for the five most commonly used neonics: acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam. 

The results:

75% of the honey samples contained at least one of the five tested substances
30%  of all samples contained a single neonic
45% contained between two and five neonics
10% contained four or five neonics


Sohma Naturals is an organic skincare manufacturer that uses Ikaria Honey in a number of their organic anti-aging and healing skincare. 

Honey contains vitamins B and C, as well as live enzymes, and is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial. It is topically used for wound healing and provides nourishment to all skin types.

Sohma Naturals commissioned the lab at the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland to conduct similar testing using Ikaria Honey in Dec. 2017. We are currently awaiting the results, however given the fact that there is a complete absence of pesticides on the entire Island of Ikaria, we have high hopes and full faith that the test results will come back negative. 

The highest levels of neonics were found in North America and some traces were found in samples of Manuka honey from New Zealand. Even though strict regulations and special rules through the Environmental Protection Agencies try to limit and prohibit spraying near hives or crops likely to be visited by bees, it is obvious that exposure is inevitable. The European Union restricts the use of three neonics due to recent incidents of colony collapse disorder. Although New Zealand hives have not yet been affected by this disorder, Manuka honey contains some neonics. The New Zealand harvesters of Manuka honey say that this is likely due to the fact that Manuka honey may be mixed with clover and ‘cheaper’ honeys that do contain higher concentrations of neonics. Dr David Pattemore, a Plant and Food Research pollination scientist, wrote in that there was no net effect of neonicotinoids on honey bees in New Zealand because as he noted,  the number of hives is on the increase. He cites instead that colony death is more severe with more traditional, non-neonicotinoid pesticides rather than neonicotinoids, admitting that Manuka honey from New Zealand generally contains, in whole or in part, concerning levels of pesticides.

Further studies could confirm harm or dismiss our concerns of neonics in bee populations, but when honey is tested for contaminants and  the results are positive, we should be concerned. Agricultural use of pesticides is not pro-active and once the effects of such widespread use is felt in the tiniest of species, we need to reverse the process immediately.

Our focus at Sohma Naturals is to utilize raw material in its cleanest form in keeping with the blueprint of nature. Ikaria honey is our best bet!

To read more on the effects of neonics – studies and petitions:

Pesticide traces in NZ honey surprises researcher

Damage confirmed

"Early studies of the impacts of neonicotinoid insecticides on insect pollinators indicated considerable harm. However, lingering criticism was that the studies did not represent field-realistic levels of the chemicals or prevailing environmental conditions. Two studies, conducted on different crops and on two continents, now substantiate that neonicotinoids diminish bee health (see the Perspective by Kerr). Tsvetkov et al. find that bees near corn crops are exposed to neonicotinoids for 3 to 4 months via nontarget pollen, resulting in decreased survival and immune responses, especially when co-exposed to a commonly used agrochemical fungicide. Woodcock et al., in a multi-county experiment on rapeseed in Europe, find that neonicotinoid exposure from several nontarget sources reduces overwintering success and colony reproduction in both honeybees and wild bees. These field results confirm that neonicotinoids negatively affect pollinator health under realistic agricultural conditions."
See - Science, 30 Jun 2017: Vol. 356, Issue 6345 p. 1395, p. 1393; see also p. 1331


"Experiments linking neonicotinoids and declining bee health have been criticized for not simulating realistic exposure. Here we quantified the duration and magnitude of neonicotinoid exposure in Canada’s corn-growing regions and used these data to design realistic experiments to investigate the effect of such insecticides on honey bees. Colonies near corn were naturally exposed to neonicotinoids for up to 4 months—the majority of the honey bee’s active season. Realistic experiments showed that neonicotinoids increased worker mortality and were associated with declines in social immunity and increased queenlessness over time. We also discovered that the acute toxicity of neonicotinoids to honey bees doubles in the presence of a commonly encountered fungicide. Our work demonstrates that field-realistic exposure to neonicotinoids can reduce honey bee health in corn-growing regions.
Chronic exposure to neonicotinoids reduces honey bee health near corn crops"

-N. Tsvetkov1, O. Samson-Robert2, K. Sood1, H. S. Patel1, D. A. Malena1, P. H. Gajiwala1, P. Maciukiewicz1, V. Fournier2, A. Zayed1,*

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Science  30 Jun 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6345, pp. 1395-1397
DOI: 10.1126/science.aam7470