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The Classroom

The Classroom – April 2018

- April 11, 2018 - Jerry Hayes - (excerpt)

The Classroom - American Bee Journal
Q Lithium Chloride

Have you ever seen this article about Lithium killing varroa? Is there any truth to what it is saying about treating varroa mites?

Thank you!


I copied Section 11 of the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for Lithium chloride for you.

It is waaaay too early to tell if this accidental ‘discovery’ is real or imagined as nobody else has duplicated it as of yet. Everybody sure is excited about it though.

Lithium chloride is not a benign chemical by any stretch of the imagination. Take a look at the oral, dermal dust toxicity below in the MSDS. Then add in that it is cancer causing, effects the central nervous system and cardiovascular systems. And, passes through the placenta and is excreted in human mother’s milk. And much more!!

If it is the silver bullet for Varroa would this ever get through the EPA/FDA regulatory hurdles for honey bees, who make a wholesome food product like honey? My fear is that—and I will guarantee you—some beekeepers will experiment with this and the regulators will jump in and give us all a blackeye for using this off label. And every mother in the country will think honey will hurt their kids.

Ugh. Jerry



Routes of Entry: Inhalation. Ingestion. Toxicity to Animals: WARNING: THE LC50 VALUES HEREUNDER ARE ESTIMATED ON THE BASIS OF A 4-HOUR

EXPOSURE: Acute oral toxicity (LD50): 526 mg/kg [Rat]. Acute dermal toxicity (LD50): >2000 mg/kg [Rabbit]. Acute toxicity of the dust (LC50): 5.57 mg/l 4 hours [Rat]. Chronic Effects on Humans:

MUTAGENIC EFFECTS: Mutagenic for mammalian somatic cells. Mutagenic for bacteria and/or yeast. TERATOGENIC EFFECTS: Classified POSSIBLE for human.

DEVELOPMENTAL TOXICITY: Classified Reproductive system/toxin/female, Reproductive system/toxin/male [POSSIBLE].


Other Toxic Effects on Humans: Hazardous in case of skin contact (irritant), of ingestion, of inhalation. Special Remarks on Toxicity to Animals: Lowest Published Lethal Dose: LDL – Route: Oral; Dose: 200 mg/kg/3D Special Remarks on Chronic Effects on Humans: May affect genetic material (mutagenic). May cause adverse reproductive effects (male and female fertility, other paternal effects, fetotoxicity) and birth defects. May cause cancer based on animal data. No data for humans has been found at this time. Human: passes through the placenta, excreted in maternal milk.

Special Remarks on other Toxic Effects on Humans: Acute Potential Health Effects: Skin: Causes skin irritation. Eyes: Causes eye irritation. Inhalation: May cause respiratory tract irritation. Ingestion: May be harmful if swallowed. May cause gastrointestinal tract irritation with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It is an antidepressant/antipsychotic and may affect behavior/Central Nervous System (drowsiness, mental confusion, somnolence, muscle weakness, contraction, spasticity, tremors) it ingested in high doses. It may also affect the brain (degenerative changes), metabolism (anorexia)), vision (blurred vision), blood, urinary system, cardiovascular system, and liver. Chronic Potential Health Effects: Chronic ingestion may affect behavior/central nervous system and cardiovascular system, and have similar affects to acute ingestion.

Q More Lithium

Good Morning, Jerry.

I have been reading about controlling varroa just like all my beekeeping peers, and recently read the above article. I didn’t know anything about lithium chloride, and so I called a pharmacist friend who also keeps bees. He suggested I check with you to see what the scoop is on this metal. Is this process under scrutiny? Is it used widely in the industry and I am not aware of it? I’m not one to easily assume there’s a silver bullet, but if this stuff works, why not use it? Does it find its way from the bees into the honey somehow? I just wonder what the down side of lithium is. I know it’s been used in treatment of bipolar disorders for a long time, but I wonder what you know about its use in honey bees against varroa?

Thanks for your column in ABJ—I always read it first.

Ron Rynders


Just back from speaking in Canada.

Certainly peculiar findings. The article discounts the effectiveness of RNAi and encourages the usage of a highly reactive alkali metal as a systemic pesticide. Lithium chloride (salts) don’t degrade, so once it is in the hive, it will stay until it is pooped out or the bees die.

There has been no additional peer reviewed research and there are no regulatory approvals and no product.

Waaaay too early to say this is the answer to Varroa control. But, some beekeepers will get some and try it. And these are the ones who say the environment is poisoning their bees. We beekeepers are an interesting species.


As a long-time listener of NPR, when I saw this your name popped right in my head.

“Honeybees Help Farmers, But They Don’t Help The Environment”

P.S…..we have not yet met, but hearing all about your work with bees and pollinators and the impacts on our food system. Fascinating!



Nice to almost meet you.

I listened to it as well yesterday as I was in my garage building a couple of bluebird houses.

Short story from my view point is that honey bees are not just ‘livestock’. Honey bees can forage efficiently in about a 2-2.5 mile radius of their colony looking for flowering entomophilous (pollinator friendly) plants that supply nectar and pollen for their needs. Because of this relationship and partnership with the flowering plant, the plant can reproduce as honey bees move pollen (male) to a flower location that allows an embryo to be fertilized and set a seed as a result. Plants can’t get up and walk around, pick out a mate and have sex to have children. This amazing plant-bee cross species partnership is nothing short of incredible.

Many solitary bees are much, much better pollinators than honey bees. They are not a superorganism like honey bees, which have 30-50,000 individuals and are thus good pollinators because of redundancy. Rather non honey bees are solitary or maintain small colonies such as bumble bees with a few hundred colony members. They are many times not generalist pollinators like honey bees, but rather have specific plant collaborations and do not forage more than a few hundred yards from their nesting locations.

Soooo, both honey bees and other bees are needed and they both fill agricultural and environmental needs and gaps. They complement each other. For the listeners of NPR, they are most likely part of the group that represents the 40 MILLION acres of suburban lawns in the US, using tons of chemicals to keep the lawns looking like the 18th hole at Augusta and 10’s of thousands of gallons of water above and beyond rainfall. Convert 10%, 20%, 30% of 40 MILLION acres to pollinator friendly flowering plants and this would help much more than trying to sell this false perception to a non-informed audience on Saturday morning NPR.

An opinion is like a nose, everybody has one. That is mine. :-)

Q   Old Honey in a Barn

Dear Mr. Hayes,

I’m a beekeeper and have been offered honey by someone, who has had it stored in metal barrels in their barn. Is there somewhere to send a …