Living Bees Electrocuted at Otago Uni

Living Bees Electrocuted at Otago Uni

Today is Day 3 of Our Biggest Exposé Yet!

It's the 3rd day of our 12 Days of Christmas University of Otago exposé and the experiments that we are exposing today involve our beloved honey bees!

Honey bees are well loved by us humans - we know that they are hard working pollinators that help create the world we live in. Yet sadly, they are not exempt from cruel animal experiments…


We discovered two different papers involving bees - Both involved electric shocks.

The experiments:

  • Thousands of honeybees were collected from all over the Otago region and frozen to death, so that they could be tested for traces of a specific pesticide.
  • Because traces of the pesticide were found in these bees, more bees were captured for additional tests.
  • These bees were put on ice to stop them from moving, then they were trapped in tiny harnesses.
  • Instead of their precious honey, they were fed sugar water. Half of them were also fed the pesticide, to compare the effects and were left like this until the next day.
  • While some bees died, the ones who made it through the night were “trained” to associate a specific smell with a sugar reward.
  • Bees were then cooled again, strapped into metal frames and given electric shocks. They had to learn to expect a shock with a specific smell.
  • They were also subject to several electric shocks of different voltages to explore the effect on sensitivity.

It doesn’t stop there. In an experiment published two years later, bees were:

  • Bees were harnessed, and their heads were cut open.
  • A tiny electrode was placed in part of their brain and a wire was inserted into their bodies.
  • The bees were then electrocuted at different voltages to see how their brain would react.

Why was this done? One study was investigating the effects of a common pesticide on the bee’s memory and sensitivity. The other looked at how the stress of being shocked in various ways affects their brains.

We had to do a bit of digging to find the “justification” for one of the experiments. According to one of the funders of the research, they were trying to find out how stress affects bees, to try and enhance their long-term survival. If ethics were a higher priority, an alternative way of finding this out would have been used.

This image of a bees head being cut open was taken directly from one of the papers we are exposing. In the paper it has the following caption: Figure 1. Brain of the honey bee, Apis mellifera.Placement of the recording electrode (arrow) in the right vertical lobe.


Graphic footage: Watch the video below to see what sort of things the animals used in the experiment we've exposed today would have had to endure... 

This is a visual representation we've created since obtaining real footage of these experiments is near impossible!


Under NZ law bees are not considered animals, so these experiments didn’t need any approval from an Animal Ethics Committee. Bees are left vulnerable and unprotected.

 The University of Otago shouldn’t be treating these hard-working pollinators this way.

Exposing this experiment is part of the ’12 Days of Christmas’ campaign that we are running to call attention to the University of Otago after they built a new $50 million animal lab in Dunedin.


Here are three ways you can help today:

  1. Donate now to help fuel our important campaigns against animal testing. 
  2. Sign our petition aimed at ending animal experimentation: Help us by calling on the New Zealand Government to start prioritising non-animal-based research methods and replacing the use of animals in science!
  3. Grab one of our gifts that keep giving! We have a series of special Christmas packs that you can get for your loved ones, these contain special posters or prints — we even have a special Honey Bees Lovers Pack.


Find out more

  • Learn more about our 12 Days of Christmas campaign, which is exposing more cruelty at Otago. We will be uploading a new experiment that we are exposing to this page every day until the 12th December.
  • Find out why Otago University is at the centre of this campaign.
  • Read more about this story in the media
  • Access the the full paper we have exposed above on our references page