Scientists Say Agriculture is Good for Honey Bees, at Least in Tennessee

CATCH THE BUZZ By: Ginger Rowsey, University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture July 11, 2017

agriculture and honey bees.jpg

In a recent study, researchers with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture found the overall health of honey bees improved in the presence of agricultural production, despite the increased exposure to agricultural pesticides. – Credit: Scott Stewart

While recent media reports have condemned a commonly used agricultural pesticide as detrimental to honey bee health, scientists with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture have found that the overall health of honey bee hives actually improves in the presence of agricultural production.

The study, “Agricultural Landscape and Pesticide Effects on Honey Bee Biological Traits” which was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Economic Entomology, evaluated the impacts of row-crop agriculture, including the traditional use of pesticides, on honey bee health. Results indicated that hive health was positively correlated to the presence of agriculture. According to the study, colonies in a non-agricultural area struggled to find adequate food resources and produced fewer offspring.

“We’re not saying that pesticides are not a factor in honey bee health. There were a few events during the season where insecticide applications caused the death of some foraging bees,” says Mohamed Alburaki, lead author and post-doctoral fellow with the University of Tennessee Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology (EPP). “However, our study suggests that the benefits of better nutrition sources and nectar yields found in agricultural areas outweigh the risks of exposure to agricultural pesticides.”

Alburaki and fellow researchers established experimental apiaries in multiple locations in western Tennessee ranging from non-agricultural to intense agricultural production. Over the course of a year, colonies were monitored for performance and productivity by measuring colony weight, brood production and colony thermoregulation. Colony thermoregulation, or the ability to maintain an optimal temperature within a hive, is an important factor in brood development and the health of the resulting adult bees.

According to the study, hives located in areas with high to moderate agricultural vegetation grew faster and larger than those in low or non-agricultural areas. Researchers suggest the greater population sizes enabled better colony thermoregulation in these hives, as well.

Meanwhile, bees located in a non-agricultural environment were challenged to find food. Although fewer pesticide contaminants were reported in these areas, the landscape did not provide sustainable forage. In fact, during the observations, two colonies in the non-agricultural areas collapsed due to starvation.

Disruptions and fluctuations in brood rearing were also more notable in a non-agricultural environment. Interestingly, brood production was highest in the location that exhibited a more evenly distributed mix of agricultural production, forests and urban activity.

“One possible explanation for this finding could be the elevated urban activity in this location,” says Alburaki. “Ornamental plantings around homes or businesses, or backyard gardens are examples of urban activity that increase the diversity of pollen in an area. Greater pollen diversity has been credited with enhancing colony development.”

Researchers also evaluated trapped pollen from each colony for pesticide residues. Low concentrations of fungicides, herbicides and insecticides were identified, but at levels well below the lethal dose for honey bees. Imidacloprid was the only neonicotinoid detected, also at sub-lethal levels.

Agricultural pesticides, particularly neonicotinoids, are considered by some to be a key factor in declining honeybee populations. The UTIA study found that higher exposure to pesticides in agricultural environments did not result in measurable impacts on colony productivity.

“We train agricultural producers on careful selection and conscientious application of pesticides to reduce bee exposure,” says Scott Stewart, Integrated Pest Management Specialist with UT Extension, “but it’s becoming more clear that the influences of varroa mite and food availability are more important factors in honey bee health than agricultural pesticides.”

EU Agrees Total Ban On Bee-Harming Pesticides

The Guardian      By Damian Carrington     April 27, 2018

The world’s most widely used insecticides will be banned from all fields within six months, to protect both wild and honeybees that are vital to crop pollination.

People protest ahead of the historic EU vote on a full neonicotinoids ban at Place Schuman in Brussels, Belgium. Photograph: Olivier Matthys/AP The European Union will ban the world’s most widely used insecticides from all fields due to the serious danger they pose to bees.

The ban on neonicotinoids, approved by member nations on Friday, is expected to come into force by the end of 2018 and will mean they can only be used in closed greenhouses.

Bees and other insects are vital for global food production as they pollinate three-quarters of all crops. The plummeting numbers of pollinators in recent years has been blamed, in part, on the widespread use of pesticides. The EU banned the use of neonicotinoids on flowering crops that attract bees, such as oil seed rape, in 2013.

But in February, a major report from the European Union’s scientific risk assessors (Efsa) concluded that the high risk to both honeybees and wild bees resulted from any outdoor use, because the pesticides contaminate soil and water. This leads to the pesticides appearing in wildflowers or succeeding crops. A recent study of honey samples revealed global contamination by neonicotinoids.

Vytenis Andriukaitis, European commissioner for Health and Food Safety, welcomed Friday’s vote: “The commission had proposed these measures months ago, on the basis of the scientific advice from Efsa. Bee health remains of paramount importance for me since it concerns biodiversity, food production and the environment.”

The ban on the three main neonicotinoids has widespread public support, with almost 5 million people signing a petition from campaign group Avaaz. “Banning these toxic pesticides is a beacon of hope for bees,” said Antonia Staats at Avaaz. “Finally, our governments are listening to their citizens, the scientific evidence and farmers who know that bees can’t live with these chemicals and we can’t live without bees.”

Martin Dermine, at Pesticide Action Network Europe, said: “Authorising neonicotinoids a quarter of a century ago was a mistake and led to an environmental disaster. Today’s vote is historic.”

However, the pesticide manufacturers and some farming groups have accused the EU of being overly cautious and suggested crop yields could fall, a claim rejected by others. “European agriculture will suffer as a result of this decision,” said Graeme Taylor, at the European Crop Protection Association. “Perhaps not today, perhaps not tomorrow, but in time decision makers will see the clear impact of removing a vital tool for farmers.”

The UK’s National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said the ban was regrettable and not justified by the evidence. Guy Smith, NFU deputy president, said: “The pest problems that neonicotinoids helped farmers tackle have not gone away. There is a real risk that these restrictions will do nothing measurable to improve bee health, while compromising the effectiveness of crop protection.”

A spokesman for the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs welcomed the ban, but added: “We recognise the impact a ban will have on farmers and will continue to work with them to explore alternative approaches.” In November, UK environment secretary Michael Gove overturned the UK’s previous opposition to a full outdoor ban.

Neonicotinoids, which are nerve agents, have been shown to cause a wide range of harm to individual bees, such as damaging memory and reducing queen numbers.

But this evidence has strengthened recently to show damage to colonies of bees. Other research has also revealed that 75% of all flying insects have disappeared in Germany and probably much further afield, prompting warnings of “ecological armageddon”.

Prof Dave Goulson, at the University of Sussex, said the EU ban was logical given the weight of evidence but that disease and lack of flowery habitats were also harming bees. “Also, if these neonicotinoids are simply replaced by other similar compounds, then we will simply be going round in circles. What is needed is a move towards truly sustainable farming,” he said.

Some experts are worried that the exemption for greenhouses means neonicotinoids will be washed out into water courses, where they can severely harm aquatic life.

Prof Jeroen van der Sluijs, at the University of Bergen, Norway, said neonicotinoids will also continue to be used in flea treatments for pets and in stables and animal transport vehicles, which account for about a third of all uses: “Environmental pollution will continue.”

The EU decision could have global ramifications, according to Prof Nigel Raine, at the University of Guelph in Canada: “Policy makers in other jurisdictions will be paying close attention to these decisions. We rely on both farmers and pollinators for the food we eat. Pesticide regulation is a balancing act between unintended consequences of their use for non-target organisms, including pollinators, and giving farmers the tools they need to control crop pests.”

Major Pest Control Company Announces a Huge Change to Protect Bees

Huffington Post    By Chris D'Angelo    April 12, 2016 

A commonly used insecticide is suspected of contributing to the collapse of bee populations.

In an effort to better protect the planet’s most important pollinators, pest control company Ortho says it will remove from its products a class of chemicals thought to be linked to declining bee populations.


The company, a division of Scotts Miracle-Gro, said in an announcement Tuesday it would “immediately begin to transition away from the use of neonicotinoid-based pesticides for outdoor use.” 

Tim Martin, general manager of the Ortho brand, says the decision came after carefully considering the potential threats of the chemicals, called neonics for short, to honey bees.

“While agencies in the United States are still evaluating the overall impact of neonics on pollinator populations, it’s time for Ortho to move on,” Martin said in a statement. “We encourage other companies and brands in the consumer pest control category to follow our lead.”

The decline in bee populations, both in North America and around the world, is well-established. A nationwide survey last year by researchers at the University of Maryland, for example, found that U.S. beekeepers lost 42 percent of honey bee colonies between April 2014 to April 2015. This is an especially alarming statistic considering bees pollinate 75 percent of the fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in the United States.

Today, bees face a host of threats, including the parasitic varroa mite, disease, poor nutrition from the loss of foraging habitat, and a lack of genetic diversity, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Neonicotinoids, a common insecticide used to fight off a variety of pests, are also suspected of playing a role in the pollinators’ collapse. The EPA is currently reviewing the neonic class of pesticides to assess its risk to bees and other pollinators, but a study last year found that chronic exposure to the chemicals, which are believed to attack the central nervous system in bees, can impair bumblebees’ learning and memory.

second study, published last month in the journal Functional Ecology, found neonics can impact a bumblebee’s ability to forage. “If exposure to low levels of pesticide affects their ability to learn, bees may struggle to collect food and impair the essential pollination services they provide to both crops and wild plants,” Nigel Raine, a senior author of the paper, said in a statement.

Honey bees, seen here, pollinate 75 percent of the fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in the U.S. Photo: Bjorn Holland via Getty Images

The Associated Press reports that Ortho plans to eliminate neonicotinoids from three of its products by 2017 and from another five by 2021.

Larissa Walker, pollinator program director at the Center for Food Safety, called Ortho’s announcement a “much needed win for bees and other pollinators.”

“Research continues to point to neonics as a prime culprit in bee population losses and poor colony health,” Walker said in a statement. “We are glad to see that Ortho is moving away from using these bee-toxic chemicals, and we hope that other garden and nursery companies will follow suit.”

While Ortho’s decision is good news for bees, parent company Scotts Miracle-Gro has not always protected the world’s vulnerable critters. In 2012, Scotts was ordered to pay $12.5 million after pleading guilty to illegally applying toxic insecticides to bird seed.

Ortho’s recent announcement comes less than a week after Maryland lawmakers voted in favor of a measure that would ban the consumer use of such products. While the bill has been hailed by beekeepers and environmental groups, others say it falsely blames homeowners and ignores science. It remains unclear whether Maryland’s governor will sign the bill.

UC Davis Conference to Explore the Science Behind Neonicotinoids

Bug-Squad    By Kathy Keatley Garvey   August 6, 2015

DAVIS--“Truth or Myth: Neonicotinoids and Their Impact on Pollinators: What Is the Science-Based Research?”

That's the topic of a special conference -- open to the public –set from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 9 at the UC Davis Conference Center, 550 Alumni Lane. UC Davis researchers and state officials will address the crowd, announced conference coordinator Dave Fujino, director of the UC Davis-based California Center for Urban Horticulture.

“We are pleased to have such a knowledgeable lineup of UC Davis researchers who will clarify the issue of impact of neonicotinoid impacts on pollinators by...


Examining The Neonicotinoid Threat To Honey Bees   American Chemical Society  July 8, 2015

The decline of honey bees has been a major concern globally for the past decade. One of the factors that could be contributing to the decline is the use of insecticides—specifically neonicotinoids—that persist in rivers and streams. Researchers now report in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters that although sunlight plays an important role in degrading pollutants, its effects on neonicotinoids can diminish dramatically even in shallow water.

Neonicotinoids protect crops from pests, such as whiteflies, beetles and termites. They are a popular tool in a farmer's arsenal, but they end up washing into surface waters and soil. Some research has suggested the  play a role in the disappearance of bees, a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder. But scientists didn't fully understand the fate of neonicotinoids in the environment, an important factor in determining how they might contribute to the disorder. Charles S. Wong and colleagues wanted to investigate sunlight's effects on these insecticides in water.

Out of five neonicotinoids the researchers tested in water under simulated sunny conditions, three degraded considerably within minutes.

Two took a few days to break down. But a depth of just 3 inches of water was enough to shield at least one, thiamethoxam, from the degrading effects of the sun. The researchers say that this persistence at shallow depths could increase the chances aquatic life and other wildlife, including bees, could get exposed to the insecticide.

Read more at:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by American Chemical Society.

Chemical Landscape and Nursery Industry Says Bee-Friendly Habitat is "Not Viable"

Beyond Pesticides    Source:  E&O News    March 11, 2015

Ed Szymanski Franklin MA Honey bee on Turkish Rocket, my front yard

The White House’s recommendations for pollinator-friendly landscaping at federal facilities are “largely unachievable,” according to trade groups AmericanHort and the Society of American Florists. The groups believe that growing plants that attract and feed honey bees, wild bees, butterflies and other pollinators without a reliance on persistent, systemic and toxic pesticides that can harm them is “not a viable recommendation.” This comes in spite of several initiatives already taken by nurseries across the country to limit or restrict the use of systemic neonicotinoid pesticides on nursery and ornamental plant production.

Last fall, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) announced new guidelines for federal agencies to incorporate pollinator friendly practices at federal facilities and on federal lands.

Critical to pollinator health within these guidelines is a requirement that agencies should “[a]cquire seeds and plants from nurseries that do not treat their plants with systemic insecticides.” Further, the document states that, “Chemical controls that can adversely affect pollinator populations should not be applied in pollinator habitats. This includes herbicides, broad spectrum contact and systemic insecticides, and some fungicides.” Concurrent with CEQ’s announcement, the General Services Administration (GSA) also stated it is in the process of internally reviewing pollinator friendly guidelines for facility standards at “all new project starts.” Systemic pesticides like neonicotinoids have been linked to bee decline, and are noted for their contamination of pollen and nectar, as well as their persistence in soil and water. Visit What the Science Shows.

But in a letter submitted last month to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, which is spearheading the White House’s directive to establish a federal Pollinator Health Task Force to respond to declining pollinator populations, AmericanHort and the Society of American Florists took issue with CEQ’s suggestion that agencies avoid plants treated with systemic insecticides.

According to the groups, the recommendation in CEQ’s guidelines for pesticide restriction would impede the use of neonicotinoids, and would clash with state and federal requirements to treat for invasive pests. “We are concerned that some of the guidance recommendations provided in the ‘pollinator’ addendum are largely unachievable by industry, as they are not reflective of federal and state regulatory requirements and do not account for the significant pest challe nges that our segment of agriculture faces,” the letter states.

The groups believe that foregoing neonicotinoids could violate legal requirements to keep nurseries free of “all injurious insects,” including the emerald ash borer, the Asian longhorned beetle and other pests. Recommending that plant material be sourced only from suppliers that can “verify no insecticide treatments” is not a viable recommendation and could influence some growers to take greater risk and potentially spread problematic and invasive pests and disease on federal properties,” they wrote.

The letter also questions the guidance’s definition of integrated pest management (IPM), especially methods that promote use of biological controls, like predatory insects, to protect plants. CEQ in its guidance notes that IPM, “places an emphasis on the reduction of pesticide use and the implementation of preventative and alternative control measures.” However, the groups believe that CEQ’s IPM recommendations alter and expand the legislative definition of IPM by highlighting one perspective of IPM above other considerations. The letter states this “is not appropriate and is not reflective of the intent of IPM. Risks and benefits must be taken into consideration when making these decisions and the CEQ language suggests otherwise.” The letter requests edits to the definition of IPM in CEQ’s guidance document and also a removal of statements regarding sourcing plant material from growers that have not used insecticides or systemic insecticides and replace with statements for sourcing of plant material from growers who have adopted an IPM program in their plant production practices.

Plants can be grown without neonicotinoids and other systemic pesticides       

It is a common myth perpetuated by the pesticide, agricultural, and horticultural industry that growing plants without pesticides cannot be done. But while these two national industry groups charge that creating pollinator habitat without toxic inputs cannot be done to protect pollinators, several smaller nurseries and retail outlets have already pledged to not use systemic neonicotinoids to grow their plants and protect pollinators. Focused on their owe operations, Behnke Nurseries Co. in Maryland has issued a policy statement to their stores that prohibits the application of neonicotinoids to its plants and recommends using least-toxic alternatives. Bachman’s 21 locations in Minnesota are eliminating neonicotinoids on their nursery stock and outdoor plants. Taking it to the next level, Bachman’s is also working with suppliers to discontinue the use of neonicotinoids. Cavano’s Perennials, MD, Blooming Nursery, OR, North Creek Nurseries, PA, Suncrest Nurseries Inc, CA, Desert Canyon Farm, CO, and others have either discontinued or never used neonicotinoid pesticides in their nursery operations. Additionally, BJ’s Wholesale Club (over 200+ locations) is asking its vendors to discontinue neonicotinoid use. Home Depot also has plans to work with its suppliers to transition from neonicotinoid reliance.

Beyond Pesticides also has a comprehensive directory of companies and organizations that sell organic seeds and plants. Included in this directory are seeds for vegetables, flowers, and herbs, as well as live plants and seedlings.

Mounting scientific evidence points to the role of pesticides in bee declines across the globe, especially to neonicotinoids (eg imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam) which, even at low levels, have been shown to impair foraging, navigational and learning behavior in bees, as well as suppress their immune system to the point of making them susceptible to pathogens and parasites. Last week, beekeepers, farmers, businesses and environmental advocates rallied in front of the White House to deliver over 4 million petition signatures that call on the Obama administration to protect pollinators, and over 125 groups sent a letter to the White House.

While industry deflection tactics are working to shift focus away from their pesticide products,local efforts provide a promising opportunity for communities across the United States to stand up for pollinators. Eugene (Oregon), Skagway (Alaska), Ontario (Canada), and the European Union have all instituted either permanent or temporary bans on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. With one in three bites of food reliant on bees and other insects for pollination, the decline of honey bees and other pollinators due to pesticides, and other human-made causes demands immediate action. Visit Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective webpage to learn more about the issue and what can be done to protect pollinators.

Join us in person to help us continue the fight to protect butterflies and other pollinators from neonicotinoids. This spring is Beyond Pesticides’ 33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, FL, April 17-18th 2015. Early bird registration is in effect until March 15, so make your plans to register today!
 All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.
Source: E&E News

EPA Approves Another Bee-Harming Pesticide

Pesticide Action Network    January 25, 2015  By Paul Towers

As concerns about bee declines mount, EPA announced earlier today the approval of another neonicotinoid pesticide, flupyradifurone. This chemical acts on the same nicotinyl acetylcholine receptors in bee’s brains that are now known to cause harmful effects. In its public statement about the pesticide registration, EPA called the pesticide “safer” than other neonics, contrary to evidence. The pesticide’s chemical structure is very similar to imidacloprid, another neonicotinoid which has been linked to bee-harming impacts, including decreased foraging, impaired mobility and impaired communication. That insecticide was approved by the agency in 1994.

Emily Marquez, PhD, staff scientist for Pesticide Action Network, released the following statement:

"EPA's decision to register yet another bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticide flies in the face of the science. The new insecticide, flupyradifurone, is virtually identical to its older counterparts, and a step in the wrong direction. The agency's own assessment points to problems with flupyradifurone, both alone and in combination with other pesticides."

"Instead of investing in meaningful solutions and truly safe alternatives, the agency continues to approve hazardous pesticides. Given the continuing dramatic declines in bee populations, and EPA's responsibility to lead the White House Pollinator Health Task Force, the agency should hardly be approving another bee-toxic pesticide for market."

Read at: PANNA

Bee Losses. Pesticides or Habitat Loss? EPA Uncertain

CATCH THE BUZZ    By Kim Flottum  November 26, 2014

By Paul Bedard, in Washington Secrets.

Over 100 scientists worldwide, citing 800 studies, are demanding that the Obama administration follow Europe’s lead and put a moratorium on the use of a new-style pesticide blamed for the deaths of 30 percent of American honeybees every year.

In a letter to the EPA and Agriculture Department, the scientists said there is overwhelming evidence from 800 studies that the pesticide family called neonicotinoids are to blame for the substantial declines in honeybees, bumblebees and butterflies, all pollinators needed to help farmers produce billions of dollars worth of food every year.

“The 108 signers of this letter therefore urge you to take immediate action to protect bees and other pollinators, particularly from pesticides known to be harmful,” said the letter provided to Secrets.

Despite actions by the European Union and some U.S. cities and states to limit use of the “neonics,” the administration is taking a go-slow approach.

“We share concerns about the decrease in the honey bee population, without question,” EPA Director Gina McCarthy told Secrets during a recent media roundtable sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.

She seemed to blame the decade-long die-off of bees on development. “There are a number of factors that need to be considered, a lot of it could be attributable to habitat loss, and much of it might be,” she said.

McCarthy added that the EPA, under President Obama’s direction, is looking into the issue and holding listening sessions around the nation, but is not ready to act until the agency has thoroughly studied the science of the pesticides.

“There is no resolution off the table,” she said. But, she added, the agency won’t be “quick to judge.”

The scientists, from schools such as Harvard University and University of California, and as far away as Germany, however, said the issue has already been studied. They cited a June 2014 worldwide review of 800 studies by 29 independent researches that blamed the bee kills onneonics, which are typically treated on seeds and can stay in the ground for years.

They are blamed for disrupting the homing ability of bees heading back to the hive, a key issue on Colony Collapse Disorder.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at

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National Pollinator Week: Checking in on Colony Collapse Disorder

Food Safety News     By James Andrews    June 20, 2014

The week of July [June] 16 is being celebrated as National Pollinators Week in an effort to bring more awareness to the integral role that pollinators such as bees, birds, and the other flying creatures play in the life cycles of an estimated 75 percent of the world’s crop varieties and 35 percent of total crop production.

The occasion is also a time to reflect on the current understanding of colony collapse disorder (CCD), the phenomenon causing a spike in die-offs of honey bee populations around the world over the past decade.

One of the biggest developments in CCD research from the past year has been a study from the Harvard School of Public Health on the effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on bee populations. The study found that, while non-lethal doses of these pesticides would not seem to harm the bees during spring and summer, they had dramatic effects on the bees during winter.

Six out of 12 pesticide-treated bee colonies in the study abandoned their hives after winter and died off, while only one out of six of the non-pesticide colonies died off — and that was from a different disease that killed the bees inside their hive. One of the trademarks of CCD is a low number of dead bees left behind, with most abandoning the hive to die elsewhere.

While research is still being done to clearly define the cause of CCD, at this point believed to be the cumulative effect of numerous stressors on bees, the Harvard study’s authors concluded that their experiment singled out neonicotinoid pesticides as the leading cause of the problem.

At the same time, neonicotinoids are facing more legal scrutiny on both sides of the Atlantic.

Last August, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency introduced mandatory labels on neonicotinoid pesticides that warn users to be wary of harming pollinators and advising them not to spray under certain conditions during which pollinators are most likely to be present.

In December 2013, a two-year ban on neonicotinoids went into effect in Europe in order to study how well European bee populations fare in the absence of the pesticides. The U.S. EPA will be keeping a close eye on how that ban plays out.

“Based on currently available data, the EPA’s scientific conclusions are similar to those expressed in the EFSA [European] report with regard to the potential for acute effects and uncertainty about chronic risk,” EPA stated. “However, the EFSA report does not address risk management, which, under U.S. federal law, is a key component of the EPA’s pesticide regulatory scheme.”

Chemical companies fought the European ban, saying that it placed an unfair blame on pesticides when evidence suggested a number of other factors, such as viruses and parasites, played into CCD.

Bee experts aren’t all ready to place the blame squarely on pesticides, either. As more research time focuses on CCD, more researchers are coming to the conclusion that it’s caused by a complex synergy of factors, said Dr. Gene Robinson, director of the Institute for Genomic Biology and the Swanlund Chair of Entomology at the University of Illinois.

“The simple fact of the matter is that no single factor can explain the occurrence, distribution and severity of colony collapse disorder,” Robinson said.

Researchers are increasingly designing studies that account for multiple stressors on bees — not a simple feat to achieve in a controlled study environment. Measuring one effect really well is difficult enough, Robinson noted.

At this point, Robinson said he viewed insecticides as receiving too much of the blame. He cautioned against focusing solely on chemicals when pathogens, parasites and environmental changes have shown to have a significant effect on CCD.

“Colony collapse disorder can be regarded as a warning sign for all of our interactions with the environment and the species that are important to us,” Robinson said. “There are a variety of different factors in different combinations that can all have serious effects.”

And, while conducting research is expensive and public attention may wane until the next dire news of massive die-offs emerges, Robinson said it’s incredibly important to continue understanding CCD and what it could mean for our environmental interactions on a bigger scale.

“Using honey bees as canaries in the coal mine, what does this say about other species?” he asked.

Read at:

Honeybees Protecting Humanity    Dr. Reese Halter     May 29, 2014 

Honeybees are incredible creatures. They are now being used in a massive military cleanup in Western Europe.

 Join Earth Dr Reese Halter for another SOS segment as he explains honeybees
protecting children and sniffer-dogs from lethal landmines.

Honeybees pollinate most of the food we eat and all of the cotton we wear. Each year, honeybees also produce an astounding 2.65 billion pounds of honey.

The story of the first honeybee began at least 100 million years ago - thus, it's a story
14 times older than that of the first human progenitor. Photo credit: Wolfgang Hägele.

Normally, a forager honeybee dies because after flying 500 miles in three weeks and visiting almost a million flowers, she wears her wings out. Or put another way, she works herself to death.

These admirable creatures can count to four, and they can be trained to arrive at three, four and five separate periods during 24 hours.

For the past 15 years, scientists have been training honeybees to identify over 60 different odors ranging from tuberculosis (TB) to enriched uranium, methamphetamine (crystal meth) and TNT (the main explosive in landmines).

In order to get the bees to identify a scent, the chemicals are mixed into a sugary liquid laced with a hit of caffeine, which the bees are rewarded with. The process is repeated up to five times, by which point the bees associate the smell with the food. Photo credit

The Red Cross estimates that between 50 and 100 million landmines exist in 80 countries, maiming 22,000 people (mostly children) every year.

It is every child's birthright to play in safe fields with clean air, clean water and healthy soils. All 20,000 known species of bees play an integral role in pollinating 200,000 flowering plants thus ensuring the global health of our terrestrial biodiversity. Photo credit: the

Biologists from France and Croatia have successfully trained honeybees to become "sniffer bees" to swiftly pinpoint these deadly explosive devises scattered throughout the Balkans. In fact, honeybees are now being used instead of sniffer-dogs to find over 120,000 unexploded landmines in over 9,400 sites left behind from the 1992-95 Bosnian War. And after a couple days of sniffing duty, they can be returned, unharmed, to the hive.

Sniffer-dogs cost about $9,000 each, are accurate approximately 71 percent of the time and require three months of training. Honeybees, on the other hand, are accurate 98 percent of the time, require less than 10 minutes of training, and they will prevent sniffer-dogs from being maimed by landmines.

By finding those unexploded landmines, our friends the honeybees will prevent thousands of children playing in Balkan fields from also being maimed. 

Patients breathe into a glass diagnostic tool, and when the trained bees detects the smell
of any of the diseases or hormones they move toward the tube that lead closer
to the mouth. Photo credit: Susana Soares

By the way, honeybees are also being used as early frontline detectors of lung and skin cancers, diabetes, TB, as well as monitoring fertility cycles and confirming pregnancies.

Quite simply, humans cannot live without honeybees, yet these remarkably complex creatures can easily exist without our species. Currently, honeybees are dying by the tens of billions around the globe.

The Sun Hive is a biodynamic initiative of the Natural Beekeeping Trust in the UK. Based on an ingenious combination of skep baskets made of rye straw and wooden support structures, the Sun Hive is intended to be installed at a height of at least 8 feet. The shape of the hive harmonizes with the movement gesture of the bee colony and enables the bees to design their brood nests according to their own innate criteria. The hive was designed by German sculptor, Guenther Mancke, and represents the fruits of many years of research into the nature of the honeybee colony. Photo credit.

It's time that we help our incomparable partners the honeybees by allowing them to eat honey, rather than robbing them of all their honey and sentencing them to an impoverished diet of corn syrup. Furthermore, my colleagues have irrefutably shown that using 1.6 billion pounds annually of a known bee-killing class of insecticides called neonicotinoids is not only contaminating fresh waterways and soils, it's diminishing Earth's biodiversity, and placing our global food security in dire jeopardy.

A forager honeybee's head has two antennae loaded with 3,000 sensory organs.
Their ability to distinguish between 170 odors is vital for smelling nectar, pollen,
water, tree resin and alert pheromones. Photo credit:


Read at:

Earth Dr Reese Halter is a broadcaster, biologist, educator and author of The Incomparable Honeybee and the Economics of Pollination.

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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".")

Webinar: ABF's Conversations with a Beekeeper 3/26/14

Neonicotinoids- Our Toxic Countryside
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
8:00 p.m. ET / 7:00 p.m. CT / 6:00 p.m. MT / 5:00 p.m. PT / 4:00 p.m. AKST / 3:00 p.m. HST
Graham White

Register Today for ABF's Conversation with a Beekeeper Webinars

The ABF Education Committee has been hard at work developing new ways to keep its members engaged and informed in between ABF annual conferences each year. To this end, the ABF is pleased to announce the first two sessions of the 2014 Conversation with a Beekeeper series. Most sessions take place on the Tuesdays at 8:00 p.m. ET. Be sure to keep an eye on future issues of ABF E-Buzz, as well as the ABF website at, for more information and registration details for each session.

Eugene: First City to Ban Bee Killing Neonics

Honey Colony    By Lisa Arkin   3/19/14

It started 18 months ago, when a group of passionate and dedicated bee keepers came to the Beyond Toxics office to talk with us about the bees. They were well-informed and brought published studies, revealing the role pesticides play in the demise of honey-bee colonies.

What a true grassroots group does is listen to those who are most impacted by toxic chemicals, evaluate the issue and take action. And so started the Bee Health and Pesticides movement in Oregon. I want to thank members of the Oregon Sustainable Beekeepers for alerting us.

We now have two significant wins that set new precedents for protecting bees.

On Feb. 26, at the request of Beyond Toxics and neighborhood leaders, Eugene’s City Council unanimously passed a Council Resolution, “Enhancing Current Integrated Pest Management in Parks,” which bans the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on all city property. According to bee advocates around the nation, Eugene is the first city to ban these persistent pesticides. Let’s just stop promoting chemicals that are lethal to bees, accumulate within trees, flowers and hives, and are highly bio-toxic to amphibians and birds in wetlands.

Only a week earlier, the Oregon Legislature passed a new law heralding the start of meaningful bee protections in our state. The law requires anyone applying for a pesticide license to take a course on pollinators and pesticides and pass the exam. HB 4139 also requires the Governor to establish a Task Force directed to continue the research on bee health and pesticides for legislative action in 2015.

Take note! The vote in both the House and the Senate was nearly unanimous. Strong bipartisan support says a lot for the level of concern about bee survival. True, the legislation fell short of the original bill that would have restricted neonicotinoids, but considering the lack of action by the Environmental Protection Agency and other states, Oregon has stepped up the pace for bee protection.

The few newspapers covering Oregon’s lawmaking dismissed the significance of the win with disparaging tones. Make no mistake; this is pure corporate spin attempting to negate the significance of decisive action.

Eugene’s ban on neonics sets the bar for other cities and states to take action to guard against a crisis in pollinator survival that could impact 30-70 percent of all food production. Resolution 5101 also includes clear goals around children’s health and seeks to expand the current Pesticide Free Parks program from 10 parks to, potentially, all 40 parks.

Oregon’s first, but not last, bee-protection laws set forth precautionary policies that can and should motivate other local and state governments. It is a testament to Oregon’s values on protecting the health of the natural environment that these two laws were adopted without bipartisan controversy.

Lisa Arkin is the Executive Director of Beyond Toxics. Prior to her work with the nonprofit, Lisa spent 13 years as an educator and associate professor at both Stanford University and the University of Oregon. She has since accumulated deep experience in toxics-use reduction advocacy, land-use planning, environmental protection and strategic development for nonprofit organizations. Lisa has served as Executive Director since 2005.

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Read at:  Honey Colony

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Pesticides Halve Bees Pollen Gathering Ability, Research Shows

The Guardian    By Damian Carrington   1/29/14

Scientists call for a permanent EU ban as neonicotinoid toxins are found to harm bees and deprive their young of food

Bumblebees exposed to controversial  pesticides collect just half the pollen they would otherwise harvest, according to new research, depriving their growing young of their only source of protein.

The work has been hailed as important by independent scientists because it sheds light on how the neonicotinoid pesticides can harm bees.

"Pollen is the only source of protein that bees have, and it is vital for rearing their young," said Professor Dave Goulson, at the University of Sussex and who led the study. "Collecting it is fiddly, slow work for the bees and intoxicated bees become much worse at it. Without much pollen, nests will inevitably struggle."

two-year EU ban of three neonicotinoids, the most widely used insecticides in the world, began in December, following research that showed harm to honey and bumblebees. The neonicotinoids are "systemic" pesticides, being applied to seeds so that the chemical spreads within the plants. Over three-quarters of the world's food crops require insect pollination, but bees have declined in recent decades due to loss of flower-rich habitat, disease and pesticide use.

Goulson's team tested one of the three, called imidacloprid, at low doses aimed at replicating those encountered by bees in fields. They attached tiny electronic tags to bees so their movements could be tracked and each bee was weighed on its way in or out of the nest.

Bees exposed to the neonicotinoid brought back pollen from only 40% of trips, while unexposed bees carried pollen back from to 63% of trips. Furthermore, exposed bees that did return with pollen carried 31% less than unexposed bees. Overall, the nests exposed to the pesticide received 57% less pollen. The ability of bees to collect sugary nectar did not differ significantly between the bees. The work is published in the peer-reviewed journal Ecotoxicology.

Hannah Feltham, at the University of Stirling and another member of the research team, said: "This work adds another piece to the...

Read more at:

Bad for Bees, Bad for Kids

Pesticide Action Network   By Paul Towers   1/3/14
Like many, I was lucky enough to spend the holidays surrounded by family and food. So I was especially unnerved by new evidence, released just before the holidays, that bee-harming pesticides have been linked to impaired brain development and function in children.
The science showing that neonicotinoid pesticides (or neonics) harm bees is clear. New evidence highlighting impacts on children's health is also disturbing, especially as a father. And while other countries are stepping up to protect bees and kids from neonics, policymakers here in the U.S. are still seemingly stuck. My New Year’s resolution: This year we keep high heat on EPA and insist regulators take meaningful action on pesticides that harm bees and kids.

Broad Coalition Uses Full Pags Ads - Awareness on Pollination Declines

(The following is brought to us by CATCH THE BUZZ (Kim Flottum) Bee Culture, The Magazine of American Beekeeping, published by A.I. Root Company.) 

Broad Coalition focuses Awareness on Pollinator Declines

December 2, 2013--Today, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety and Pesticide Action Network, supported by Ceres Trust and joined by more than 60 other organizations, launched a national media campaign to bring attention to the severity of pollinator declines due in part to the use of bee-harming pesticides. The campaign launch was timed to coincide with the beginning of the European Union’s two-year moratorium on three of the most potent neonicotinoids, which began yesterday. A copy of the ad is available at

As part of the national media campaign, full page ads were released in seven newspapers today, including the New York Times, citing the urgency and impact of bee declines and encouraging the public to call on EPA to take action.

“We hope this national media campaign will spur public action to combat this major threat to the environment and to our food system. We must protect bees and other pollinators from these harmful pesticides that EPA has so far failed to safeguard them from,” said Larissa Walker, policy and campaign coordinator for Center for Food Safety.

Never before has such a broad coalition of organizations come together to support pollinator protection. The breadth of the coalition highlights the importance of pollinators to so many, including beekeepers, farmers, policy makers, faith groups, consumer groups and anyone who eats food.

"Protecting bees and pollinators is an urgent matter that must bring our nation together to balance our need for a bountiful food production system and a sustainable environment," said Jay Feldman, executive director for Beyond Pesticides.

One in every three bites of food depends on bees for pollination, and the annual value of pollination services worldwide are valued at over $125 billion. In the United States alone, pollination contributes $20-30 billion in agricultural production annually.

"Honey bees play a crucial role in pollinating the world's food crops," said Gary Hirshberg, co-founder and chairman of Stonyfield, and one of the ad signatories. "So protecting bees from pesticides is not only good for bees, but also for business; the loss of honey bees is a direct threat to the ability of farmers and food companies to deliver diverse, nutritional foods."

In recent years, a number of scientific studies have linked bee declines to pesticide use. In particular, a class of systemic pesticides known as neonicotinoids have been found to harm bees — both alone and in combination with other pesticides. Neonicotinoids, or “neonics,” are often used as seed treatments and sprays on a variety of crops and ornamental plants. Even though several countries, including the entire European Union, have taken action to restrict the use of neonicotinoids, the U.S. still allows their widespread use.

“Beekeepers are losing colonies at an unprecedented rate – the losses are too extreme to keep up with, and our entire industry is at risk of collapse unless federal action is taken. Convening conferences and changing pesticide labels is lip service and window dressing to the issue, but has no substance,” said New York beekeeper Jim Doan.

Today’s ad not only brings attention to this growing issue, but leads readers to the Save-The-Bees website where they can take further action, such as supporting current legislation in Congress, contacting EPA or planting pollinator habitat in their own communities.

“The EU reviewed hundreds of scientific studies and concluded that a two year moratorium was a necessary first step. The U.S. has failed to even come close to that standard, ” said Emily Marquez, PhD, staff scientist at Pesticide Action Network. “EPA should follow the science and take action to protect bees from harmful pesticides.”

Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides, and Pesticide Action Network are coordinating efforts to reverse the troubling trend of pollinator decline through legal, policy and grassroots efforts.

The ad also appeared in the Boston Globe, the Washington PostPoliticoMinneapolis Star Tribune, the Des Moines Register and the Los Angeles Times.


Beyond Pesticides, founded in 1981, works with allies in protecting public health and the environment by identifying the hazards of chemical-intensive land, building and community management practices and promoting healthy, sustainable and organic systems. More information can be found at

Center for Food Safety is a national, non-profit, membership organization founded in 1997 to protect human health and the environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture. CFS maintains offices in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, California and Portland, Oregon. More information can be found

The Ceres Trust, whose name honors the ancient goddess of agriculture, provides grants that support: research in organic agriculture at universities and to graduate students; education to create careers in the production and processing of certified organic food; programs to eliminate pesticide exposure and GMO contamination; and efforts to preserve crop biodiversity and public access to seeds.

Pesticide Action Network (PAN) North America works to replace hazardous pesticide use with ecologically sound and socially just alternatives. As one of five PAN Regional Centers worldwide, we link local and international consumer, labor, health, environment and agriculture groups into an international citizens' action network. This network challenges the global proliferation of pesticides, defends basic rights to health and environmental quality, and works to insure the transition to a just and viable society. More information can be found at


The following is from Paul Towers (Pesticide Action Network (PAN) North America): 

As you know, bees are in trouble. And so is the diversity of our food system if we don't do something to protect bees that pollinate our nation's crops. Yesterday marked the first day of a 2-year moratorium on bee-harming pesticides in Europe. But US EPA has been slow to do the same.

So we're ratcheting up the pressure on EPA. Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety and PAN, with support from the Ceres Trust and a broad coalition of supporters, are calling on the agency to follow Europe's lead with a full-page an advertisement today in seven major newspapers across the country, including the New York Times. And we need your help to spread the word to people all across the country.
Here's my blog that explains it a bit more:

And here are some simple steps you can take:

(1) Visit Please sign the petition to urge EPA to take action. It's easy and important. 
(2) Add your group to the list of supporters. Please email me back if your organization or business would like to be added to the supporter list for Let's grow an even bigger and broader coalition of folks demanding action from EPA.
                                                                                             Thanks for your support!


A World Without Bees

Time Magazine   By Bryan Walsh  8/19/13

(Photo by Hannah Whitaker for Time)

The Plight of the Honeybee

Mass deaths in bee colonies may mean disaster for farmers--and your favorite foods

You can thank the Apis mellifera, better known as the Western honeybee, for 1 in every 3 mouthfuls you'll eat today. Honeybees — which pollinate crops like apples, blueberries and cucumbers — are the "glue that holds our agricultural system together," as the journalist Hannah Nordhaus put it in her 2011 book The Beekeeper's Lament. But that glue is failing. Bee hives are dying off or disappearing thanks to a still-unsolved malady called colony collapse disorder (CCD), so much so that commercial beekeepers are being pushed out of the business.

So what's killing the honeybees?

Pesticides — including a new class called neonicotinoids — seem to be harming bees even at what should be safe levels. Biological threats like the Varroa mite are killing off colonies directly and spreading deadly diseases. As our farms become monocultures of commodity crops like wheat and corn — plants that provide little pollen for foraging bees — honeybees are literally starving to death. If we don't do something, there may not be enough honeybees to meet the pollination demands for valuable crops. But more than that, in a world where up to 100,000 species go extinct each year, the vanishing honeybee could be the herald of a permanently diminished planet.

Read more:,9171,2149141,00.html#ixzz2bgDT9cAq

Europe Bans Pesticides Thought Harmful to Bees

The New York Times  By David Jolly   4/29/13

PARIS — The European Commission will enact a two-year ban on a class of pesticides thought to be harming global bee populations, the European Union’s health commissioner said Monday.

“I pledge to do my utmost to ensure that our bees, which are so vital to our ecosystem and contribute over €22 billion annually to European agriculture, are protected,” Tonio Borg said in a statement from Brussels, where the commission is based.

Mr. Borg made the announcement after representatives of the 27 E.U. member states failed for the second time in two months to reach a binding agreement on a proposal to ban the pesticides, known as neonicotinoids. The commission had proposed the ban after...


Bees, Lies and Evidence-based Policy

(The following was submitted by Mary Beth Murril throuch LACBA Sec, Stacy McKenna)  By Lynn Dicks   2/20/13

Misinformation forms an inevitable part of public debate, but scientists should always focus on informing the decision-makers, advises Lynn Dicks.

Saving bees is a fashionable cause. Bees are under pressure from disease and habitat loss, but another insidious threat has come to the fore recently. Concern in conservation and scientific circles over a group of agricultural insecticides has now reached the policy arena. Next week, an expert committee of the European Union (EU) will vote on a proposed two-year ban on some uses of clothianidin, thiamethoxam and imidacloprid. These are neonicotinoids, systemic insecticides carried inside plant tissues. Although they protect leaves and stems from attack by aphids and other pests, they have subtle toxic effects on bees, substantially reducing their foraging efficiency and ability to raise young. 

Related stories:

EU Proposes to Ban Insecticides Linked to Bee Decline

The Guardian    By Damien Carrington  1/31/13

Three neonicotinoids, the world's most widely used insecticides would be forbidden across the continent for two years

Insecticides linked to serious harm in bees could be banned from use on flowering crops in Europe as early as July, under proposals set out by the European commission on Thursday, branded "hugely significant" by environmentalists. The move marks remarkably rapid action after evidence has mounted in recent months that the pesticides are contributing to the decline in insects that pollinate a third of all food.

Three neonicotinoids, the world's most widely used insecticides, which earn billions of pounds a year for their manufacturers, would be forbidden from use on corn, oil seed rape, sunflowers and other crops across the continent for two years.

It was time for "swift and decisive action"...