Could Your Pets Flea Product Be Causing Bees to Disappear?

bees So I’m sure you’ve all heard (or maybe some of you haven’t) about the disappearance of bees within the last few years. Honestly I’d heard it mentioned before here and there but didn’t think anything of it until I came across an article in Dogs Naturally about how we as pet parents could be contributing to this problem. That bit caught my attention…fast. What could I possibly be doing to make bees disappear? I mean seriously, I just planted three rows of sunflowers in my mom’s garden not too long ago for these little boogers (which by the way died probably because they never got pollinated… I could be wrong, don’t quote me on that). Well as it turns out I had, at one point or another, been inadvertently contributing to this widespread phenomena simply by using a flea medication specifically the spot-on treatment Advantage, which I’m sure many of you have heard of and quite possibly have used in the past, just like I had. I mean it’s relatively cheap, cheaper than Frontline, especially if you buy it at Walmart and it gets the job done.

What Is It & Why Does It Cause Bees To Disappear?

The active ingredient in Advantage is Imidacloprid making up 9.1% of the total product, pyriproxyfen at 0.46% and then a variety of other unknown ingredients weighing in at 90.44%. Imidacloprid was the first neonicotinoid insecticide to be introduced in the US to the home garden and pest control markets, being one of the top used chemicals for lawn treatment, insects on fruit trees, termites in your home and crops not only in the US but also in a number of countries around the world. A neonicotinoid insecticide being a pretty new and also very popular class of insecticides that account for almost 20% of the global pesticide market.  This type of insecticide isn’t murdering honeybees per se but it isn’t necessarily helping their cause. You see, after the first application is administered it stays in the soil causing the surrounding plants to take up the chemical which then results in it showing up in the pollen the following year. Honeybees being the little powerful pollinators that they are will then mosey on over to these crops, handle their business and that’s when everything starts to go downhill. These guys then start to grow weak, disoriented and then when they try and find their way back home (to the hive) they can’t so they disappear and eventually die off. There were many theories to the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) as it was coined in 2006 ranging from radio waves, cellphone towers, parasites, to overworked bees but among beekeepers the general consensus was that imidacloprid was the culprit and you can undoubtedly see why.

Why Should I Care?

If you live on planet earth and eat food then this applies to you and you should care. Not so much because the honeybee industry is losing a ridiculous amount of money (this industry being valued at $14-20 billion dollars) but because it’s posing a threat to the worlds food supply.  Threat? Food Supply? What??? Yea, my ears perked up and my eyes widened when I read that bit too. I’m a foodie and ever since becoming a vegetarian all I eat are fresh fruits and vegetables so you can see the concern etched across my face when I find out that there’s a possibility that the foods I love most won’t be around for long if the honeybees don’t stop disappearing! Aside from producing amazing honey, honeybees pollinate about one-third of the food we consume! Without them we would have no access to a variety of fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, cherries, kiwis, apples, peaches, blackberries, melons, cantaloupe, apples, citrus, and avocados. In addition cucumbers, soybeans, squash and nuts would be out of the question as well. Can you imagine how bare grocery stores would be if we didn’t have these types of foods available? It would be a sad, sad day… for me at least. So the next time you see a bee in your home (like I have on several occasions now that I think about it) remember that these guys are lost and try and refrain from stomping on them… like I have in the past because I’ve been so terrified of them, and instead think about how much these little guys do for us!

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Lori Waters

Lori Waters

Animal Expert Extraordinaire! at The Litter Sitter, inc.
Lori Waters is the author and voice behind Thee Inside Poop as well as the owner and operator of The Litter Sitter, a local dog walking and pet sitting company in Miami Beach, FL. When she's not busy blogging and taking care of clients' pets you can find her running around with her german shepherd Zoey or having in-depth conversations with her two fur balls, Michi and Oakley!
Lori Waters

  • Jan K, Wag N Woof Pets

    I did not know that about Advantage (I almost switched to it a couple years ago)!! I know all about the bees, I am a gardener, and I saw the decline of bees when my own squash family plants did not get pollinated and all the veggies died before they could grow. Now, last year they did a little better, and this year they are doing even better. Guess what? I started gardening organically a couple years ago and stopped using Frontline in favor of all natural flea treatments. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.
    Great post!!

  • This is an interesting theory. I’ve also heard that fleas are becoming resistent to topical flea and tick medications in some areas of the country – so not only are pets not protected, but we can still be potentially harming the ecosystem with these strong pesticides.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Thanks for this post, Lori. I have finally made the commitment to do all natural pest control this year and knowing I am not only helping my own pets health but helping the bees means so much to me!

  • We use Frontline. Does this flea med cause the same potential problem?

    • Frontline isn’t linked directly to the Colony Collapse Disorder but it is highly toxic to bees 🙂

  • annstaub

    Hmmm very interesting! Have not heard this before. I’m a fan of Advantage and have used it in the past. We have had a bee hive here at my house for years under a building. My family owns a nursery here so it’s great for them. But last year, they hybridized to killer bees and one day attacked my father while he was mowing the field on his tractor as he usually does. They also were randomly stinging people. For safety purposes, they had the hive removed. =/

    • Oh no, he wasn’t allergic to bees was he? Hmm wonder if their erratic behavior had anything to do with the insecticide? I wouldn’t be surprised if it did! I’ve used Advantage in the past too but found that it wasn’t as effective as some of the other stuff out there. I’ve been experimenting with my farm (pets) to try and find an alternative flea treatment but it can get a little hard with flea infestations being so ridiculous where I live! Got any suggestions?

      • annstaub

        No, I don’t think he is. I doubt it was the flea medicine affecting their behavior. It’s just something that can happen over time with hives. They can hybridize into African killer bees. I have horrible fleas here and I usually have to use a chemical treatment. I try not to when the fleas aren’t bad. I use some neem oil spray from Wondercide, and have used some natural spot on treatments from Only Natural Pet with decent success. I’m thinking of ordering some DE from Only Natural Pet for my carpets soon.

        • I’ve used DE before and it’s worked for my shepherd and 2 cats, the only thing it’s a bit dusty. My husband hates it because it gets all over his TV and xbox… geeez bite me! But it works, I just have to apply it every few weeks and vacuum every fee days 🙂 might have to check out Only natural pet, I’ve used need oil in the past and it didn’t work for me. As a matter of fact it gave my dog a rash =/

        • Do some research on DE around rats and fish, Ann! I have never used it because it can’t be used around birds but I thought I once saw an article about DE dangers to other pets!

          • annstaub

            Oh dang, thanks so much for the reminder Bethany. I should have realized with their sensitive respiratory tracts.