Overview report on bee health and the use of neonicotinoids in Australia

February 2014

The APVMA has completed a broad overview of issues relating to honeybee health in Australia, with a particular focus on the use of neonicotinoid ('neonics') insecticides. During the preparation of this report titled Overview Report - Neonicotinoids and the Health of Honeybees in Australia (PDF, 1.75Mb) | (DOC, 374kb) we consulted with a wide range of stakeholders including:

  • national bee experts from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the NSW Department of Primary Industries, the WA Department of Agriculture and Food, the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, and the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC)
  • the manufacturers of imidacloprid and thiacloprid, thiamethoxam, clothianidin and sulfoxaflor
  • international experts within other regulatory agencies, including the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency
  • primary industry associations including Cotton Australia and canola growers
  • bee keepers, honey packers and exporters
  • the Australian Government Department of the Environment
  • Australia's representatives to a Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry global workshop on insect pollinators(external site) and the OECD's Pesticide Effects on Insect Pollinator Expert Group (external site).

In addition, we examined a large number of published scientific papers and reports as well as three published risk assessments on clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam carried out by the European Food Safety Authority.

The report:

  • summarises information about honeybee health in Australia and overseas, including the wide range of threats to bees (including bee pests and diseases)
  • provides information about what the neonicotinoids are and how they are used
  • considers their likely risks to insect pollinators in Australia, on a crop-by-crop basis
  • considers their risks in relation to other pesticides
  • provides a list of information sources for growers and beekeepers about pollinator protection.

Recommendations and research suggestions

This overview report makes several recommendations to external agencies/organisations as part of a wider risk management strategy for the use of insecticides. The report also makes several suggestions for research and monitoring, the results of which would be likely to provide a better understanding of some of the factors relevant to honey bee health in Australia.

Next steps

This overview report also outlines the next steps the APVMA will be undertaking to help reduce the risks to bees from the use of all insecticides, not just neonicotinoids.

We are investigating whether our current data requirements for testing of insecticides are adequate to address scientific concerns about the subtle effects of neonicotinoids and other pesticides on honey bees and other insect pollinators. We are also looking at the consistency and adequacy of bee warning statements on the labels of pesticide products.

Subject to detailed scientific assessments underway and consultations with our regulatory partners (particularly the Department of the Environment), there are several regulatory options available to help reduce the risks that pesticide use may present to honeybees and other insect pollinators. Options could include formal chemical review of the neonicotinoids or a more limited label review to strengthen bee warnings and use instructions.

As our assessment progresses or when significant new information becomes available, we will update our website.

Further information:


Chief Regulatory Scientist (Pesticides)

Phone: +61 2 6210 4701
Email: communications@apvma.gov.au

Last updated on 1 October, 2014