Oral toxicity of essential oils and organic acids fed to honey bees (Apis mellifera).
Timothy A Ebert, Peter G Kevan, Bert L Bishop, Sherrene D Kevan, and Roger A Downer
Natural plant products have been studied for potential use as in-hive fumigants for suppression of parasitic mites and other pests. A more direct application through direct feeding of bees would avoid problems with fumigant volatility in cold climates and provide a more systemic route of exposure for the target pest. However, there must be a balance between toxicity to hive pests and toxicity (safety) to the bees.We focused on adult bee toxicity when testing ten products: cineole, clove oil, formic acid, marjoram oil, menthol, oregano oil, oxalic acid, sage oil, thymol, and wintergreen. Each product was tested at several concentrations in a sugar syrup fed to bees over several days, and dead bees were counted daily. Oxalic acid was the most toxic of the products tested. Menthol and cineole had mortality levels no different from controls fed plain syrup after 8 days of treatment. At 14 days of treatment, wintergreen was the least toxic, but neither menthol nor cineole were a part of the testing that went to 14 days. Our results indicate that the tested products could all be used safely for treating bees orally if dose is carefully managed in the hive.