Beekeepers suspected maize, Zea mays L., treated with imidacloprid to result in substantial loss of honey bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae) colonies in Belgium. The objective of this study was to investigate the potential impact of maize grown from imidacloprid-treated seeds on honey bee mortality. A survey of 16 apiaries was carried out, and all maize fields treated or not with imidacloprid were located within a radius of 3,000 m around the observed apiaries. Samples of honey, beeswax, and bees were collected in three colonies per apiary and analyzed for pesticide contain by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry and gas chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. We first found a significant correlation between the number of colonies per apiary and the mortality rates in an apiary. In addition, this mortality rate was inversely correlated with the surface of maize fields treated and not with imidacloprid, suggesting that this pesticide do not interact with bees’ fitness. Moreover, a very large number of our samples contained acaricides either prohibited or ineffective against Varroa destructor (Anderson & Trueman) (Acari: Varroidae), suggesting that the treatment methods used by the beekeepers to be inadequate for mite control. Our results support the hypothesis that imidacloprid seed-treated maize has no negative impact on honey bees.

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Author notes


Department of Functional and Evolutionary Entomology, FUSAGx, 5030 Gembloux, Belgium.


Department of Infectious and Parasitic Diseases, Epidemiology and Risk analysis applied to the Veterinary Sciences, University of Liege, 4000 Liege, Belgium.


Laboratory of Mass Spectrometry (CART), University of Liege, 4000 Liege, Belgium.


Department of Animal Health, Institute of Tropical Medicine, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium.