The Australian Government’s Neonicotinoid Report Discredits the Lu “Harvard” Study

May 13, 2014

Editor’s Note:  The Australian government recently released a comprehensive assessment of neonicotinoids and pollinator health.  The report study, Overview Report: Neonicotinoids and the Health of Honey Bees in Australia, attached here, dismiss the Lu et al (2012) (“Harvard”) study as not credible. 

The Australian government report was included in CRE’s comments to DEFRA, the UK’s Deparment of Food and Rural Affairs, on their pollinator protection consultation. CRE’s detailed science-based comments on neonicotonoids and honey bee health are attached here.

CRE also discussed problems with the Harvard 2012 study on the Review of Bee Health Decline IPD here.  An independent detailed analysis of the critical flaws in the Harvard 20112 study is available here while an overview of some of the flaws in the new 2014 study is available here.

The following is from p. 35 of the Australian governemt report.


This study by Lu et al, often referred to in the literature as ‘the Harvard study’, explicitly linked neonicotinoids to CCD and has been the subject of heavy criticism. It has been noted in particular that (1) bee colonies were fed ‘astronomical’ levels of imidacloprid-laced corn syrup; (2) that the sample sizes were far too small; and (3) that the symptoms the colonies subsequently suffered did not, in fact, mimic the symptoms of CCD. The flaws in this study are detailed in Randy Oliver’s Scientific Beekeeping website at . Oliver concluded that the Lu et al. results actually showed that feeding colonies for four weeks with HFCS spiked with imidacloprid at field-realistic levels (1) did not have any negative effects; and (2) then feeding the colonies with extremely high levels of the insecticide for another nine weeks still did not harm them enough to cause mortality during treatment or for three months thereafter ( [Emphasis added]

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