Bee Bits - Randy Oliver

Nevada County Beekeepers Association Newsletter - June 2014  Bee Bits, Randy Oliver, Contributor

As this odd season progresses, it just keeps getting stranger and stranger. Normally, I observe our Himalayan blackberry to begin flowering at my low-elevation yards on McCourtney Road a full month before my higher elevation yards around GV and NC. But last week the vines were at exactly the same stage of flowering in both areas. What this presages for our honey flow, I have no idea, but the foragers that I observed appeared to be filling their crops with nectar, and I’m able to shake nectar that tastes like blackberry from colonies in some yards. So I’m guardedly optimistic.

Water for bees will likely be an issue this summer. I suggest that you train your bees to water sources now, before they get hooked on the neighbor’s bird water bath. A plastic wading pool with a drip of water, aquatic plants, and floating chunks of pine bark is attractive to bees.

On the pesticide forefront, Dr. Lu of Harvard Medical School released another “study” claiming that neonics caused CCD. Again, his methods and conclusions are an embarrassment to the scientific method of investigation. I posted a critical blog at Of interest is that after posting my critique, I received appreciative emails from bee researchers from across the country, who thanked me for publicly saying what they felt themselves. Politics are such that many of them feel constrained from saying embarrassing things about a Harvard researcher. Amusingly, one reporter called me and said that he had first interviewed Dr. Lu, and then phoned the USDA lab for their take on Lu’s findings. The reporter told me that the USDA had referred him to me; he was curious why our top researchers would steer him to a beekeeper out in the sticks : )

I’m currently writing a series of articles for ABJ covering the history of honey bee domestication, and how this has led to the problems that we’re having with bees today. My current article will come out in the June and July issues, and includes some very interesting findings about the genetics of our feral survivor stocks. These findings suggest to me that we should be paying far more attention to those “wild” colonies of bees that have been able to survive despite the impact of varroa.

On the bee nutrition front, the large trial that I ran over the winter clearly demonstrated the benefit of feeding pollen sub in the foothills. But there didn’t appear to be any added benefit when natural alder pollen was coming in. I’m starting a new trial this week to confirm that hypothesis. Thanks to those members who helped me set it up.

If you haven’t supered up your hives for the honey flow as of yet, I suggest that you do it now! I have no idea whether the honey flow will be weak or strong, or short or long, but if you don’t provide the bees with a place to store surplus honey, they won’t be able to do so.

I’m always interested in grafting from “survivor stock”—colonies that are productive, gentle, and that have survived for at least two full seasons without mite treatment. Please let me know if you have one (colonies on movable combs only—not bee trees—as I need to be able to graft from a brood comb).

Read Randy Oliver's blog about Dr. Lu's study of neonics and CCD at:
Read more from Randy Oliver at:


The New Harvard Study on Neonics, May 2014

Scientific Beekeeping    By Randy Oliver   May 16, 2014

The New “Harvard Study” on neonics, May 2014

Dr. Lu of Harvard Medical School, who has no background with honey bees, attempted to run an experiment in 2012 (The 2012 Harvard Study) that would “prove” that the seed treatment of corn put so much imidacloprid into high fructose corn syrup that the feeding of such was the cause of CCD.  Although both the notion and the way in which the “study” was run were preposterous, and were dismissed by all serious bee researchers, it nevertheless got a lot of press.

Thoroughly chastised by the bee research community for his amateurish attempt to perform bee research, Dr. Lu recently released yet anther study, again in a journal practicing questionable peer review.


Update: May 16, 2014

My criticisms of Dr. Lu’s studies have raised a great deal of interest.  I’d like to explain my position.  As a beekeeper who makes his living from having healthy colonies of bees, I am acutely interested in the causes of colony morbidity and mortality.  Without a doubt, pesticides can cause colony morbidity or mortality, which I’ve covered in my Sick Bees series of articles (e.g., The Slaughter of the Innocents).  The neonicotinoid class of insecticides are no exception, and I’ve detailed problems associated with them in The Neonicotinoids–Trying to Make Sense of the Science.  But I’ve also done on-the-ground reality checking on the effects of neonics upon those bees and beekeepers at Ground Zero of neonicotinoid use in The Extinction of the Honey Bee.  Although I initially suspected that neonicotinoids may have been a likely cause of Colony Collapse, my extensive research does not support that hypothesis.

I’ve also run (or participated in) a number of studies on the actual causes of colony collapse, and have published a widely-accepted model of its progression (A Model of Colony Collapse).  Any of several factors  may be involved in colony collapse, including pesticides.  In short, sudden colony depopulation is typically due to the troika of varroa, viruses, and nosema, exacerbated by poor nutrition, beekeeper-applied miticides, and chilling–which may...


(Note from LACBA Secretary, Stacy McKenna: "Actually, the article is pretty good, particularly in that it points out that the research study is pretty crappy. The above is Randy Oliver's take on the "research".")