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Pesticide manufacturers' own tests reveal serious harm to honeybees
by Damian Carrington

Thursday 22 September 2016 02.00 EDT

Bayer and Syngenta criticised for secrecy after unpublished research obtained under freedom of information law linked high doses of their products to damage to the health of bee colonies

Unpublished field trials by pesticide manufacturers show their products cause serious harm to honeybees at high levels, leading to calls from senior scientists for the companies to end the secrecy which cloaks much of their research.

The research, conducted by Syngenta and Bayer on their neonicotinoid insecticides, were submitted to the US Environmental Protection Agency and obtained by Greenpeace after a freedom of information request.

Neonicotinoids are the world’s most widely used insecticides and there is clear scientific evidence that they harm bees at the levels found in fields, though only a little to date showing the pesticides harm the overall performance of colonies. Neonicotinoids were banned from use on flowering crops in the EU in 2013, despite UK opposition.

Bees and other insects are vital for pollinating three-quarters of the world’s food crops but have been in significant decline, due to the loss of flower-rich habitats, disease and the use of pesticides.

The newly revealed studies show Syngenta’s thiamethoxam and Bayer’s clothianidin seriously harmed colonies at high doses, but did not find significant effects below concentrations of 50 parts per billion (ppb) and 40ppb respectively. Such levels can sometimes be found in fields but concentrations are usually below 10ppb.

However, scientists said all such research should be made public. “Given all the debate about this subject, it is hard to see why the companies don’t make these kinds of studies available,” said Prof Dave Goulson, at the University of Sussex. “It does seem a little shady to do this kind of field study - the very studies the companies say are the most important ones - and then not tell people what they find.”

Prof Christian Krupke, at Purdue University in Indiana, said: “Bayer and Syngenta’s commitment to pollinator health should include publishing these data. This work presents a rich dataset that could greatly benefit the many publicly funded scientists examining the issue worldwide, including avoiding costly and unnecessary duplication of research.”

Ben Stewart, at Greenpeace, said: “If Bayer and Syngenta cared about the future of our pollinators, they would have made the findings public. Instead, they kept quiet about them for months and carried on downplaying nearly every study that questioned the safety of their products. It’s time for these companies to come clean about what they really know.”

Syngenta had told Greenpeace in August that “none of the studies Syngenta has undertaken or commissioned for use by regulatory agencies have shown damages to the health of bee colonies”. Goulson said: “That clearly contradicts their own study.”

Scientists also noted that the companies have been previously been critical of the research methods they themselves used in the new studies, in which bees live in fields but are fed sucrose dosed with neonicotinoids.

In April 2016, in response to an independent study, Syngenta said: “It is important to note that the colony studies were conducted by directly feeding colonies with spiked sucrose, which is not representative of normal field conditions.”

In 2014, commenting on another independent study, Bayer told the Guardian the bees “are essentially force-fed relatively high levels of the pesticide in sugar solutions, rather than allowing them to forage on plants treated with” pesticide.

“If someone had done this type of study and found harm at more realistic levels, the industry would have immediately dismissed it as a rubbish study because it was not what happens naturally to bees,” said Goulson. “So it is interesting that they are doing those kinds of studies themselves and then keeping them quiet.”

Utz Klages, a spokesman for Bayer, said: “The study [Bayer] conducted is an artificial feeding study that intentionally exaggerates the exposure potential because it is designed to calculate a ‘no-effect’ concentration for clothianidin. Although the colony was artificially provided with a spiked sugar solution, the bees were allowed to forage freely in the environment, so there is less stress - which can be a contributing variable - than if they were completely confined to cages. Based on these results, we believe the data support the establishment of a no-effect concentration of 20ppb for clothianidin.”

He said a public presentation would be made at the International Congress of Entomology next week in which the new results would be discussed.

A spokesman for Syngenta said: “A sucrose-based mechanism was used on the basis that it was required to expose bees artificially to thiamethoxam to determine what actual level of residue would exert a toxic effect.”

Given the lower concentration usually found in fields, he said: “The reported ‘no adverse effect level’ of 50ppb indicates that honey bee colonies are at low risk from exposure to thiamethoxam in pollen and nectar of seed treated crops. This research is already in the process of being published in a forthcoming journal and is clearly already publicly available through the FOI process in the US.”

Matt Shardlow, chief executive of conservation charity Buglife, said: “These studies may not show an impact on honeybee health [at low levels], but then the studies are not realistic. The bees were not exposed to the neonics that we know are in planting dust, water drunk by bees and wildflowers, wherever neonics are used as seed treatments. This secret evidence highlights the profound weakness of regulatory tests.”

Researchers also note that pollinators in real environments are continually exposed to cocktails of many pesticides, rather than single chemicals for relatively short periods as in regulatory tests.


Technical Transfer Team Job Posting – We are growing!

September 9, 2016 • Blog

The Bee Informed Partnership ( is seeking additional Technical Transfer Team  members to work with commercial beekeepers in the following states: Minnesota (serving beekeepers in MN and ND), Florida (serving beekeepers in FL and GA), Texas (serving beekeepers in TX and ND), and possibly two new teams in the northern Midwest and Northeast. Teams will serve beekeepers in the home states as well as when they move their colonies into almonds in California.  The salary range is $40,000-42,000 (based on experience) per year and will include full medical and retirement benefits.

For Minnesota, the team will be based out of the University of Minnesota. For Florida, the team will be based out of the University of Florida (Gainesville) and for Texas, the team will be situated at Texas A&M.  The home institutions for the two northern teams has not been determined yet.

The positions require at least 2 years beekeeping experience, preferably in a commercial beekeeping setting.  It entails intense fieldwork at times, extensive travel, close interaction with beekeepers and many other members of the Bee Informed Partnership (BIP) team.  These interactions require the applicant to be a good beekeeper, work well in a team environment, listen well, be non-judgmental, communicate effectively with team members, be self-starting, hardworking, and sensitive about privacy and security of all data collected.  The job entails the following:

Field Work:

  • Be the primary contact between BIP and the beekeepers for any virus/pest/hygienic sampling and testing and presenting results
  • Accurately, efficiently, and confidently, identify, diagnose, record, and report biotic and abiotic components of a honey bee hive through inspections and assessments
  • Lift heavy honey supers to sample the broodnest during honey production
  • Collect a wide range of samples from colonies to be tested for but not limited to the following:  parasitic mites, Nosema, viruses, pesticides, reproductive potential and hygienic testing
  • Work with and ship hazardous materials such as dry ice, liquid nitrogen, alcohol and live bees
  • Have a clean driving record and be capable of safely operating a vehicle off road in a variety of ground conditions
  • Travel is required, often to somewhat remote areas, occasionally with limited notice.  On average, 5-8 trips are made each year with time spent away from home at or exceeding 60 days/year.

Lab and Administrative Work:

  • Work with BIP scientists to develop and conduct applied experiments
  • Manage BIP lab space at the home institution, including purchasing supplies
  • Write a weekly BIP blog
  • Examine manuals to determine the use of new equipment, tools and computer programs
  • Meet at least once a quarter for a formal meeting to present BIP plan/results with BIP team and/or beekeepers
  • Process samples for Nosema and Varroa mite loads
  • Keep data and data summaries organized on a regular basis to keep up to date records of each individual beekeeper
  • Record, copy and place in binders: economic baselines, management surveys, records of receipts of purchases such as travel, gas, equipment, etc.
  • Develop and give presentations, posters and other media to communicate project related goals
  • Keep abreast of and be able to communicate new developments in relevant topics (bee science, management, legislation, etc.)
  • Willingness to adapt at a moment’s notice, enjoy a thrilling fast paced atmosphere, and have a passion for bees

Those interested should email a current resume and at least two references to Karen Rennich at  Application deadline is September 30, 2016.

 Written By: Karen Rennich


PAm update- for Honey Producers newsletter Sept 2016

Danielle Downey, Executive Director, Project Apis m.

PAm’s Forage Initiatives: Can You Spare Some Range?

Project Apis m. is 10 years old! We have infused over $6 million into research seeking practical solutions for bees and beekeepers that pollinate our crops. Our donors include beekeepers, growers, brokers, corporations, the general public concerned about bees, and we also compete for grants. In addition to research projects, PAm has some high impact forage initiatives that are growing quickly. They are Seeds for Bees, and the Honey Bee and Monarch Butterfly Partnership.

Seeds for Bees is a program to plant forage in California, in and around almond orchards. Cover crops have many benefits for soil health and water retention, adding value to the orchard. Of course at PAm, our aim is to increase the diversity and duration of bloom to supplement nutrition for 1.6 million honey bee colonies pollinating almonds for about two months. Here’s how it works: almond growers contact Billy Synk, who manages this program. Billy talks to them about the three seed mixes that are available to choose from, and sends the grower the free seed and instructions to establish that cover crop. Its that free, and that easy! The choices include a mustard mix, a clover mix, and vetch. You can read about them here on our website: There is still time to enroll in Seeds for Bees, so if you have pollination contracts with growers, encourage them to consider planting cover crops, it’s a win win win- for bees, beekeepers and growers! Contact

PAm’s Honey Bee & Monarch Butterfly Partnership


Another PAm forage program is supporting bees in their summer season- where they spend many months getting fat and happy, produce a honey crop, and replenishing for the next round of pollination. This project is a unique conservation initiative, called the Honey Bee and Monarch Butterfly Partnership. Founded by Pheasants Forever, Browning’s Honey and Project Apis m., the mission is simple: to increase and improve pollinator forage and habitat by developing affordable, pollinator-focused seed mixes that include native plants. We believe there is room for conservation acres on every farm, and that good nutrition is a way to mitigate all the other stresses our bees face. The seed mixes are designed for high bloom diversity and duration. Each project has two practices- a honey bee mix and a native mix. About $90/acre will establish perennial habitat, and landowner incentives include free seed and up to $65/acre. The pilot year in ND and SD was a huge success, and this year we will expand to include MN, IA, NE and MO. Help grow this program! Contact us to donate, or to help landowners near your summer apiaries to enroll in this program.


To Bee or Not To Bee: CBP and Partners Seized 132 Drums of Honey

Release Date: September 14, 2016

MIAMI – On Aug. 12, Import Specialists from the Miami based Agriculture & Prepared Products Center of Excellence & Expertise (APP Center) in collaboration with U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) Officers and Special Agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Chicago, seized around 42 tons of illegally imported Chinese honey.  This represents the third such significant seizure of honey in four months.

The honey was contained in 132 fifty-five gallon drums that were falsely declared as originating from Taiwan to evade anti-dumping duties applicable to Chinese-origin honey.  The evaded anti-dumping duties on this shipment of Chinese honey would be nearly $180,299 based on the rates imposed by the U.S. Department of Commerce, had CBP not intervened.

Prior to seizing the smuggled honey, samples were sent to the CBP Laboratory for analysis, where it was determined that the honey had a greater than 99 percent probability match with honey originating from China.

Import Specialists have been working with HSI agents on honey transshipment for years following concerns from industry experts about how anti-dumping circumvention schemes like the one announced today foster a divergent market which severely disadvantages legitimate importers, processors and end-users of honey versus those who place cost above truth-in-labeling.  Today’s seizure follows a string of successful criminal prosecutions by HSI Chicago agents of multiple U.S. importers convicted of illegally transacting in smuggled Chinese honey disguised as Taiwanese – among many other false origins – who were ultimately sentenced and subsequently deported.

“Customs and Border Protection considers Trade Enforcement a priority since it levels the playing field for legitimate companies. The agency certainly does not want questionable companies having a competitive edge because they choose not to correctly describe their products to evade duties,” stated Center Director for Agriculture & Prepared Products Center of Excellence & Expertise Dina M. Amato.

Upon successful forfeiture of the honey to the United States following the government’s ongoing investigation into the full supply chain, the seized honey will be destroyed.

With the recent enactment of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 (TFTEA), Congress recognized that industries and companies that circumvent U.S. law and regulation remain a risk to this nation’s economic security.  Among its provisions, TFTEA requires CBP and HSI to collaborate to enhance trade enforcement.  One of the ways of meeting this requirement comes in the form of an increased and more focused perspective by CBP in the trade arena.

Over the past few years, CBP has stood up ten industry based Centers of Excellence & Expertise as part of CBP’s plan to become more industry and account focused in order to protect the interests of legitimate businesses.  These Centers are placed around the country and the Agriculture & Prepared Products Center of Excellence & Expertise is one of these centers and it is headquartered out of CBP’s Miami Field Office in Florida.  The APP Center currently employs CBP Import Specialists around the U.S. in dozens of ports of entry whose main focus is ensuring the legitimacy of importations in the agricultural/food industry.

This recent seizure and others occurring around the country in a number of other industries are a great indication that CBP’s efforts are paying off and that the recently enacted TFTEA is already making an impact in the trade enforcement arena.

The public may submit allegations and tips concerning food fraud to the APP Center at:


Study: Scientists That Won’t Link Pesticides To Bee Deaths Are Often Funded By Agrochemical Industry

‘Syngenta and Bayer have a substantial amount of influence in the debate,’ said one neurobiology researcher in response to a Greenpeace analysis of corporate corruption in pesticide research.

By MintPress News Desk | September 14, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS — Pesticide manufacturers have spent millions influencing researchers who are investigating the role of neonicotinoids, a nicotine-like chemical found in many major pesticides, in bee die-offs, according to a recent analysis by Greenpeace.

The analysis arrives just weeks after scientists released the results of a long-term study that shows neonicotinoids are extremely dangerous to wild bees in the United Kingdom.

Bayer and Syngenta, two of the world’s top manufacturers of neonicotinoid-based pesticides, gave over £2 million (over $2.6 million) to British universities engaged in research on pesticides and plant sciences between 2011 and the start of 2016, reported Joe Sandler Clarke, a journalist for Greenpeace’s Energydesk, on Aug. 29.

“Syngenta and Bayer have a substantial amount of influence in the debate,” Dr. Christopher Connolly, a reader in neurobiology at Scotland’s Dundee University, told Clarke.

Energydesk sent Freedom of Information requests to 135 universities, requesting details on studies funded by Bayer or Syngenta, and heard back from 70 institutions. Among the top recipients of corporate funding were Nottingham University, which received £557,500 from Syngenta for research into plant sciences between 2011 and 2015, and Reading University, which received £587,952 for similar research during the same period.

Dave Goulson, a professor of biology at Sussex University, acknowledged that it’s difficult to measure the exact extent of corporate influence in his field. However, he told Clarke:

“It does seem to be the case that research funded by agrochemical companies rarely seems to find evidence that their products harm the environment, while independently-funded research often finds major adverse effects caused by the same products.”

He further acknowledged: “Scientists are under huge pressure to obtain research funding and so are naturally likely to be keen to keep their funders happy.”

Scientists increasingly confident that ‘neonicotinoids are harmful’

While it appears some researchers were taking corporate money to follow an agribusiness agenda, others continue to document the harm caused by neonicotinoids.

Neonicotinoid pesticides were banned from use on all flowering plants in the European Union in 2013. A team of seven scientists recently compared wild bee populations to levels of neonicotinoid use on oilseed rape crops in the U.K. between 1994 and 2011. The study, published Aug. 16 in the science journal Nature Communications and led by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, showed that the populations of dozens of wild bee species declined significantly as the use of neonicotinoid pesticides increased, with the populations of one species down as much as 30 percent.

“[T]he average decline in population across all 62 species was 7.0 percent, but the average decline among 34 species that forage on oilseed rape was higher, at 10 percent,” reported Kate Kelland, a Reuters journalist who attended a press conference led by Ben Woodcock, who co-led the study.

Woodcock told reporters:

“Prior to this, people had an idea that something might be happening, but no one had an idea of the scale. [Our results show that] it’s long-term, it’s large scale, and it’s many more species than we knew about before.”

Connolly, the neurobiologist interviewed by Greenpeace, has also authored important research into the effects of neonicotinoid pesticides. In April, he and seven other researchers released a study in the journal Scientific Reports which showed two major neonicotinoids, Bayer’s imidacloprid and Syngenta’s thiamethoxam, have harmful effects on bee populations and the brain cells of individual bees. Surprisingly, a third chemical, Bayer’s clothianidin, appeared to actually increase the number of queens produced by a colony.

Connolly, who supports an ongoing ban on all neonicotinoid pesticides, including those containing clothianidin, praised the recent study by Woodcock and company. “The evidence against neonicotinoids now exists in key bee brain cells involved in learning and memory, in whole bees, entire colonies and now at the level of whole populations of wild bees,” he told Kelland.

Overall, there seems to be growing consensus among scientists that neonicotinoids pose a threat to bees. Dr. Nick Isaac, lead researcher of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology’s study, told Greenpeace’s Clarke:

“Neonicotinoids are harmful. We can be very confident about that.”

*Workman Publishing is giving AHPA members a special discount of 40% off on 10-24 copies, 50% off on 25 copies or more. If you have any questions or would like to place an order, please contact Emily Krasner at 212-614-7592 or *


From Seafood to Steaks, Cheese to Olive Oil, Spices to Honey, and much more, hardly a month goes by without another food scandal. But the world is still full of healthy and delicious Real Foods you can enjoy without worries.

REAL FOOD FAKE FOOD is a new hardcover release from Algonquin. It asks the big question: What Are You Really Eating?

“The world is full of delicious, lovingly crafted foods that embody the terrain, weather, and culture of their origins. Unfortunately, it’s also full of brazen impostors that are hard to identify. In this entertaining and important book, Larry Olmsted helps us fall in love with the real stuff and steer clear of the fraudsters. I’ll never look at a menu the same way again.”

You’ve seen the headlines: Parmesan cheese made from sawdust. Lobster rolls containing no lobster at all. Extra-virgin olive oil that isn’t. Fake foods are in our supermarkets, our restaurants, and our kitchen cabinets. Award-winning food journalist and travel writer Larry Olmsted exposes the pervasive and dangerous fraud perpetrated on unsuspecting Americans.

Real Food, Fake Food brings readers into the unregulated food industry, revealing the shocking deception that extends from high-end foods like olive oil, wine, and Kobe beef to everyday staples such as coffee, honey, juice, and cheese. It’s a massive bait and switch where counterfeiting is rampant and where the consumer ultimately pays the price. Restaurants and retailers are equally suspect.

But Olmsted does more than show us what foods to avoid. A bona fide gourmand, he travels to the sources of the real stuff, to help us recognize what to look for, eat, and savor: genuine Parmigiano-Reggiano from Italy, fresh-caught grouper from Florida, authentic port from Portugal. Real foods that are grown, raised, produced, and prepared with care by masters of their craft. Part cautionary tale, part culinary crusade, Real Food, Fake Food is addictively readable, mouthwateringly enjoyable, and utterly relevant. Larry Olmsted convinces us why real food matters.

Real Food, Fake Food has been profiled by,, Men’s Journal, Outside, Men’s Health, New York Magazine, Prevention, The Globe & Mail, and many other news outlets.


A new way of protecting bees against varroa mites

The bee gate
Mariano Higes

Western honey bees are in danger: American and European beekeepers have been reporting massive bee losses for several years. One of the main causes of these losses is the varroa mite. In the past, efforts to control this parasite have concentrated exclusively on treatment in the hive, but foraging bees then bring back new mites when they return home. Bayer’s scientists have been working with bee researchers from Frankfurt University to develop the varroa gate, which is designed to prevent reinfection. This innovative front door should effectively protect the hive against the deadly parasite.

Life in the hive is highly organized, with busy insects working all around the queen. Worker bees distribute pollen, clean and look after larvae, or defend the entrance against enemy invaders like wasps and other honey thieves. But the varroa mite, Varroa destructor, slips in unnoticed on the bodies of some worker bees, evading the strict door policy. It brings a deadly danger with it; this tiny, brown arachnid can wipe out entire bee colonies. Like a tick, it fastens itself onto a bee with its jaws and so sneaks its way into the realm of the hard-working nectar collectors. Once inside, mites reproduce by laying their eggs in the honeycombs where new bees are raised. After ten to fourteen days their offspring spread throughout the bee population along with the newly emerged bees.

Varroa mites transmit dangerous viruses and bacteria

Varroa mites transmit pathogens like viruses and bacteria which are damaging to bee health. This parasite has wiped out entire populations of Western honey bees over recent years. Without human intervention, infestation with varroa means certain death sooner or later for honey bees in Europe and America. Things are different in Asia, where the deadly mite originated. There, a balanced relationship between the parasite and its original host, the Eastern honey bee or Apis cerana, has evolved over many generations.

The varroa mite was not seen in Europe until the 1970s and in America until the 1980s, but since its introduction it has caused massive bee deaths, as the Western honey bee has no defense against the parasite.

This was a disaster not just for beekeepers: in most countries honey bees are the main pollinator of crops such as apples, oilseed rape and almonds. In Europe, they are therefore regarded as the third most important domesticated animal after cattle and pigs.

”But this service provided by nature is under threat – and so is our food supply – if varroa is not adequately controlled,” comments Dr. Klemens Krieger, a parasitologist working in Bayer’s Animal Health Division.

However, for years the mite was not recognized as the main cause of large-scale bee death. Says Krieger, “Many scientists concentrated on viral infections or other factors such as pesticides or pollen from genetically modified crops, ignoring the harmful effects of the varroa mite.”

He followed a different path, reasoning that “Why focus on viruses, for instance, if they cannot do any damage without the mite that carries them?” A four-year field study by the Bee Research Institute in Oberursel, Germany has found that the parasite is at the heart of the problem: “If we keep up our efforts at controlling the varroa mite, many more bee populations will survive,” explains Professor Nikolaus Koeniger, who was the institute’s director for many years; he and his wife have been devoted to studying the varroa mite for decades.

As this famous bee expert couple knows, it is horizontal infection that is most dangerous. “Particularly at the end of the flowering period, foraging bees from healthy colonies invade colonies weakened by varroa to steal honey.

They then become infected and take back large numbers of mites to their own population.” The researchers want to prevent this transfer of mites, since “it is vital for effective mite control to stop new pests constantly entering the hive.”

They have therefore concentrated on the strategically most important point, and the joint efforts of the Bee Institute and Bayer have led to the creation of the varroa gate, a structure at the entrance to the hive. Every bee must climb through this gate when leaving or returning to its own hive. At first sight it doesn’t look anything special: just a plastic strip with holes through which the bees fly in and out.

Inspired by tick collars worn by dogs and cats

Only a closer look shows the immense benefits of this innovation. The plastic strip is coated in chemicals. Whenever a bee passes through the gate, it touches the edge. This transfers a mite poison (acaricide) to the bee and kills any mites it may be carrying. The substance needs to be permanently available on the surface of the strip so that protection can last for several weeks. This proved to be a particular technical challenge. It was solved when Bayer’s scientists thought back to an earlier project: the flea and tick collar Seresto™ for dogs and cats.

This innovative collar was the result of a joint venture by scientists from Bayer HealthCare’s Animal Health Division, Bayer MaterialScience and Bayer CropScience.

They used a little physical trick: “The active substance molecules move between the polymer chains of the plastic matrix. They are always trying to balance out the gap in concentrations between the collar and the animal’s coat, and so rise to the surface. When some of the active substance is removed, it is automatically replenished,” says Krieger, explaining the principle.

Scientists are now using the same system to protect bees: “The acaricide is embedded in the plastic. When some is transferred to the legs or hairs of a bee, fresh supplies are automatically released from the strip to balance out the gap in concentrations between the plastic matrix and the surface,” he explains. This means that the device remains fully effective for the several weeks needed for treatment. At the same time, the amount of chemical available is never more than necessary. Scientists are still fine-tuning the formulation and application rate, and are testing two Bayer substances on bee populations in the field at various concentrations.

The findings to date show that “the bees have been fully protected against reinfection, and no side effects have been seen,” says Gudrun Koeniger.

The bee experts have also been testing for residues in honey and wax.

According to Krieger, “the analysts have been working at the limits of their equipment and methods.” But the formulation is not the only important factor in really barring the way to mites.

Integrated control approach vital for real protection

Careful consideration must also be given to the shape of the  gate: “What we are doing is building a barrier on the beehive, but it must not interfere with hive ventilation or traffic,” comments Nikolaus Koeniger. And yet it must release enough chemicals to control the mites. Scientists are conducting a battery of tests to find just the right delicate balance between shape, formulation and function, testing various hole sizes and distances, for example.

To ensure that Western honey bees can continue to do their vital pollination work in future, beekeepers will be able to install this innovative bee protection gate to protect their colonies against parasites in late summer, before the bees become dormant for the winter and stop flying. It is then that long-lived winter bees emerge, to ensure that the colony survives the winter. “We have learned over the past few decades that no single weapon is effective in controlling mites. We need an integrated approach to mite control,” comments Gudrun Koeniger. The bee gate should close an important gap in the integrated control concept.



Central Valley Farmers Aim To Sting Beehive Thieves

September 8, 2016 7:30 PM

STANISLAUS COUNTY (CBS SF) — A growing number of thieves are targeting farmers in California’s Central Valley by stealing beehives, but those farmers are planning to fight back with a sting operation of their own.

Almond farmer and beekeeper Orin Johnson likes to call himself the poster child for bee theft.

“I’ve had four bee thefts,” said Johnson. “Three of the four were in the last three years.”

From January to March, California’s booming almond crop creates enough demand for bees that they’re shipped in from across country.

“Probably 90 percent of all the bees in the U.S.,” explained Johnson.

The increasing scarcity of a troubled bee population only drives up that demand.

“As you get closer to that income of renting them to almond growers, the value almost doubles,” said Johnson.

Add it all up and you get an annual bee crime spree. “I had a local friend of mine and they came in with a truck in the night and they took off I believe 120 hives,” lamented Johnson.

So after several years of bee heists, the problem is only getting worse. So this week, the California Beekeepers Association launched a series of meetings to prepare for next season. But keeping track of all of these hives is not going to be easy.

“I only run about 500 hives,” said Johnson. “A lot of people think that’s a lot.”

Farmers have come up with some ideas of how to keep an eye on all of those hives.

“Game cameras. Hunters and sportsmen use them to see game,” said Johnson.

Another option farmers are looking at is GPS tracking chips, but that presents a different problem.

“If you buy 10 of them and you have 5000 hives, you have what –1/100th of a percent of that? Those are the hives they’re going to steal,” Johnson explained. “That’s the problem.”

Farmers here have until January to draw up security plans, but odds are the help and honey delivered by these hives will be stung by another year of poaching from California’s bee bandits.

According to the Bee Keepers Association, this year alone an estimated 1,600 beehives have been stolen.

Video & Story:


That stings: Study finds insecticide hurts queen bees' egg-laying abilities

by Scott Schrage | University Communications

The world’s best-selling insecticide may impair the ability of a queen honey bee and her subjects to maintain a healthy colony, says new research led by a University of Nebraska-Lincoln entomologist.

The research examined the effects of imidacloprid, which belongs to a popular class of nicotine-based insecticides known as neonicotinoids. Honey bees often become exposed to neonicotinoids in the process of pollinating crops and ornamental plants while foraging for the nectar and pollen that feed their colonies.

Queen bees in colonies that were fed imidacloprid-laced syrup laid substantially fewer eggs – between one-third and two-thirds as many, depending on the dose of imidacloprid – than queens in unexposed colonies, the study reported.

“The queens are of particular importance because they’re the only reproductive individual laying eggs in the colony,” said lead author Judy Wu-Smart, assistant professor of entomology. “One queen can lay up to 1,000 eggs a day. If her ability to lay eggs is reduced, that is a subtle effect that isn’t (immediately) noticeable but translates to really dramatic consequences for the colony.”

Wu-Smart and her colleague, the University of Minnesota’s Marla Spivak, assessed colonies populated by 1,500, 3,000 and 7,000 honey bees. Some colonies received normal syrup, with others given syrup that contained imidacloprid in doses of 10, 20, 50 and 100 parts per billion, or PPB.

Colonies that consumed the imidacloprid also featured larger proportions of empty cells, the signature hexagonal hollows that serve as cribs for honey bee broods. About 10 percent of cells in the unexposed colonies were vacant, compared with 24, 31, and 48 percent of the 20, 50 and 100 PPB colonies, respectively. The finding suggests poor brood health in the exposed colonies, Wu-Smart said.

The researchers further found that exposed colonies collected and stored far less pollen, which they convert into a “bee bread” that provides crucial protein for recently hatched larvae. While more than four percent of the cells in unexposed hives contained pollen, less than one percent of cells in even the 10 PPB colonies did.

And the honey bee equivalent of biohazard containment – the removal of mite-infested or diseased pupae before they can infect the hive – also suffered. An unexposed colony of 7,000 bees removed more than 95 percent of the ailing brood, but a 100 PPB colony eliminated only 74 percent and a 50 PPB colony just 63 percent. Wu-Smart said this reduction in hygienic behavior indicates that the exposed colonies could be more susceptible to pests and pathogens.

Yet Wu-Smart and Spivak also discovered that some of the insecticide’s apparent effects, such as decreasing the amount of time a queen spent moving through the hive or the number of worker bees foraging for food, dissipated as the size of a colony increased.

“What we can say is that smaller colonies tend to be more vulnerable, because the queens are more likely to become exposed,” Wu-Smart said. “When we look at our general beekeeping practices, the early spring is when colonies are at their smallest size. They’re coming out of winter, and a lot of them are naturally smaller.”

Unfortunately, Wu-Smart said, growers typically apply insecticides or sow insecticide-treated seeds at that same time. Even imidacloprid-treated crops that bees typically do not pollinate, such as corn, can contribute to exposure when winds sweep up the dust stirred by planting machines and carry it across miles of landscape. That dust can settle in willow trees, dandelions, clovers and other flowering plants that represent food sources for honey bees.

Though Wu-Smart said she doesn’t consider banning neonicotinoids a practical step in protecting honey bee colonies, she did advocate for regulating insecticide-treated seeds the same way the industry does with sprays and other application techniques.

“When you spray a pesticide, you have to consider things like wind and temperature to reduce drift,” she said. “You can’t aerial-spray on a windy day. With seed-treated products, there is no label telling (growers) that it’s been treated with an insecticide. There is no restriction as to when you can plant.

“When we do a lot of the extension outreach and talking to growers, many of them are unaware that this is even a problem. So just having that label on the bag saying that planting these seed treatments on a windy day could potentially cause some effects on bees could be useful.”

The new study represents another step toward understanding the complex, often intertwined ways that neonicotinoids and other insecticides affect honey bee colonies, Wu-Smart said.

“What we’re seeing now is that beekeepers will … check their hives, say that the hives look good, come back a few weeks later, and (see) the colony start to look really weak,” she said. “They’ll come back (again), and the colony is dead or dying. So it’s a slow decline of their colony health.

“In many of these cases, we want to figure out why these colonies are dwindling when they should be at their peak production. This is providing some of that insight. It’s not answering all the questions, but it’s definitely something to consider.”

Wu-Smart and Spivak published their findings in the journal Scientific Reports. The research was supported in part by a fellowship Wu-Smart received from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


 2017 North American Beekeeping Conference & Tradeshow

We hope you are making plans to join us in Galveston for the 2017 North American Beekeeping Conference & Tradeshow, a joint conference of the American Beekeeping Federation, the American Honey Producers and the Canadian Honey Council. We look forward to seeing you all in January!

It has been brought to our attention that a Housing Company (which is not affiliated with the conference) is contacting potential conference attendees and advising that the conference hotel is almost sold out and that you need to make reservations with them immediately. This is not accurate and appears to be a SCAM! No one should or will be calling you to make your hotel reservation. All reservations must be made directly with the hotel via telephone or online link (please visit the conference website at for reservation links). We are not sure how this organization obtained conference attendee contact information. It appears they may be phishing websites that attendees have visited (i.e. San Luis Resort, conference website, etc.). We are working with the San Luis Resort to see what can be done to protect conference attendees from this SCAM.

Should you be contacted by this organization, please try to get as much information as possible (name of caller, organization name, rate offered, etc.) and pass this information along to Please do not give them any of your personal or credit card information.

Thank you!



Seeking to reverse bee decline, Dayton orders limits on pesticide use

Dan Gunderson , Elizabeth Dunbar · Aug 26, 2016

Seeking to reverse a decline in bees and other pollinators, Gov. Mark Dayton issued an executive order Friday that limits the use of nicotine-based pesticides.

The governor's move won praise from environmentalists, but farm groups said it could hurt farmers financially.

Nicotine-based insecticides known as neonicotinoids are effective against a variety of pests, so they're widely used, but a growing body of research shows the insecticides harm bees.

After a two-year review of 300 scientific studies, the state Agriculture Department decided restrictions were necessary, said Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson.

"Some of these are bold recommendations that have not been considered by any other state across the nation," Frederickson said at a Minnesota State Fair news conference.

Among other things, Dayton's order calls for:

• Demonstrated need for pest control before neonicotinoid insecticides can be applied. That means a there must be a level of pest infestation high enough to cause economic damage to the crops.

• Increased inspection and enforcement to make sure users follow label restrictions designed to protect bees.

These changes only affect commercial pesticide applications, not home use. The state will launch an education campaign on the proper use of pesticides for residential users.

Dayton also ordered state agencies to create and protect pollinator habitat on land they manage, and stop using neonicotinoids on state-managed lands.

Frederickson says the his department will ask the Legislature for authority to regulate seeds treated with pesticides before they're planted. Right now the federal Environmental Protection Agency doesn't regulate pesticides applied to seeds.

"Really nobody is regulating seed treatment and of course about 80 percent of the seeds that are planted today are treated with neonics," Frederickson said.

Studies show dust from planting treated seeds drifts off of fields and contaminates other flowering plants where bees feed. The insecticide stays in soil for months and can also be carried off of farm fields by water.

A Minnesota beekeeper is part of a federal lawsuit trying to force the EPA to regulate seeds treated with pesticide.

State Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-St. Paul, pushed for the state review of neonicotinoids. He thinks the public will support expanded state regulation.

"I hear this when I'm door knocking. I hear this when I'm in the country, i travel around the state. People love pollinators, they understand, they get the connection with our food, our environment and our economy," he said.

The Legislature will also be asked to set up a dedicated pollinator protection account to support research and education on pollinators and pesticides.

Honeybees pollinate an estimated $17 billion worth of crops every year in the United States.

Environmental groups also cheered today's announcement.

"We know that pesticides are a huge factor in pollinator decline and Minnesota is the first agricultural state to take bold action on neonicotinoids including calling on the state to regulate the major issue of pesticide seed coatings," said Lex Horan of Pesticide Action Network, a group that's pushed neonicotinoid regulation in Minnesota and nationally.

However, some agriculture groups were disappointed with the move to restrict pesticide use.

An official with the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association called it "a knee jerk reaction". Research Director David Kee says limiting pesticide options might lead to pests that are resistant to treatment.

"Consequently we need flexibility in our chemicals. We've got to have choices," Kee said, "If we don't, we'll have a resistance issue develop."

Kee says farmers might be overusing neonicotinoid insecticides and he supports using them only when needed, but he worries state regulations will limit farmers' options.

The Minnesota Corn Growers Association said in a statement "pollinators play a crucial role in the health of our agricultural economy" but "restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids that adversely affect farmers ability to make a living should be evaluated and implemented carefully."

Bayer Crop Science, which makes two of the most common neonicotinoids said in a statement it supports efforts to protect pollinators and "while there are some science-based actions in the Governor's Executive Order that will benefit pollinator health, taking tools from farmers without an open and transparent public discussion rooted in sound science does a disservice to everyone."

The state recommendations come the same day another study from University of Minnesota researchers was published showing the effects neonicotinoid insecticides have on bees.

Marla Spivak, who co-authored the study, calls the state proposal to use insecticides only when needed a common sense approach.

"That in itself is a huge statement that nobody else in the nation is making", said Spivak. "So it's a big correction, it's drawing a line in the sand and saying no, we're going to use our pesticides in Minnesota responsibly."

The state will set up a 15-member committee to oversee pollinator protection policy and advise the governor.

Read the full executive order:


Sub-lethal effects of dietary neonicotinoid insecticide exposure on honey bee queen fecundity and colony development

Judy Wu-Smart & Marla Spivak

Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 32108 (2016

Many factors can negatively affect honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) health including the pervasive use of systemic neonicotinoid insecticides. Through direct consumption of contaminated nectar and pollen from treated plants, neonicotinoids can affect foraging, learning, and memory in worker bees. Less well studied are the potential effects of neonicotinoids on queen bees, which may be exposed indirectly through trophallaxis, or food-sharing. To assess effects on queen productivity, small colonies of different sizes (1500, 3000, and 7000 bees) were fed imidacloprid (0, 10, 20, 50, and 100 ppb) in syrup for three weeks. We found adverse effects of imidacloprid on queens (egg-laying and locomotor activity), worker bees (foraging and hygienic activities), and colony development (brood production and pollen stores) in all treated colonies. Some effects were less evident as colony size increased, suggesting that larger colony populations may act as a buffer to pesticide exposure. This study is the first to show adverse effects of imidacloprid on queen bee fecundity and behavior and improves our understanding of how neonicotinoids may impair short-term colony functioning. These data indicate that risk-mitigation efforts should focus on reducing neonicotinoid exposure in the early spring when colonies are smallest and queens are most vulnerable to exposure.

Honey bees, Apis mellifera L., provide pollination services to over 150 different crops worldwide1,2. In recent years, beekeepers in the US, Canada, and parts of Europe have experienced unsustainably high colony losses3,4,5,6 highlighting a serious threat to global food security, agricultural productivity, and trade7. A number of factors contribute to managed bee losses, including: Varroa mites, bacterial and viral infections, poor nutrition, migratory stress, queen failure, and pesticides3,8,9. Neonicotinoid insecticides are a cause for concern due to their toxicity and pervasive use in agricultural and urban areas worldwide10,11,12,13. Currently, there is heavy scrutiny of and debate over the field relevance of laboratory-based results, accuracy of field studies, determination of environmentally-realistic exposure levels and relevant experimental dosages, and the interpretation of reported adverse effects of neonicotinoids on bees, other wildlife, and whole ecosystems11,13,14,15,16,17,18.

Neonicotinoids are systemic broad-spectrum insecticides that target sucking and chewing insect pests. These insecticides may translocate, at varying concentrations, to all parts of treated plants including the nectar and pollen. Bees may become unintentionally exposed through dust from seed coatings created during planting and through foraging on contaminated pollen, nectar, water, and sap exudates of treated plants19,20,21. Neonicotinoids are currently registered in over 120 countries and represent 24% (valued at US $2.6 billion) of the global insecticide market as of 2008. Imidacloprid, the first registered active ingredient within the neonicotinoid class is considered “highly toxic” (LD50oral: 13 ng bee−1)8 to bees. In addition, imidacloprid (valued at US $1.1 billion) represents 41.5% of the total neonicotinoid market and is the largest selling insecticide in the world22, rendering the potential for exposure to bees high.

In this experiment, concentrations of imidacloprid fed to honey bee colonies were based on plant residue studies and selected to simulate potential exposure on foraging bees collecting contaminated and uncontaminated nectar over a typical bloom period in nature. The lower doses, 10 and 20 ppb, approximate residues that are characteristically found in the nectar and pollen of agricultural crops, such as apples and cucurbit vegetables, that are treated by soil-drench and foliar spray applications following label rates23,24. However, 10 and 20 ppb may be underestimates, as some crops such as cucurbits can have higher residue levels (60–80 ppb in pollen) when neonicotinoids are applied via drip irrigation, foliar spray, or through transplant water24. The higher doses, 50 and 100 ppb, represent residues found in urban landscape plants such as shadbush and rhododendron shrubs (Amelanchier spp., Rhododendron spp.) and Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), which are treated by soil-drench or trunk injections and can express residues in the ppm range25,26,27. Therefore, the concentrations of imidacloprid treatments represent environmentally relevant exposure rates for bees foraging in both rural and urban settings.

The body of knowledge on the effects of neonicotinoids is vast and includes an increasing number of studies on sub-lethal effects, particularly on neurophysiological and behavioral impairments28 including metabolic changes to brain activity, impaired foraging and learning performance, and motor functions in worker honey bees28,29,30. Notably, little is known about the effects of neonicotinoids on queen bees. One study has reported negative effects of neonicotinoids on honey bee queen development and mating success31. Other laboratory and field studies on bumble bees have shown that sub-lethal exposure to neonicotinoids (imidacloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam) can reduce queen production and disrupt colony initiation16,32,33,34,35,36. Field studies examining colony-level effects on honey bees also have reported higher queen failure and supercedure rates when colonies were exposed to neonicotinoids35,37. In those studies the behaviors of the exposed queen bees were not recorded. The queen bee is the only individual in the colony that lays fertilized eggs that develop into worker bees necessary for colony growth and survival. Therefore, it is important to study the potential effects of neonicotinoids on this key reproductive individual and the subsequent indirect effects on colony development.

Read Results and Full Report Here:


Nearly two decades of data reinforce concerns that pesticides are really bad for bees

By Chelsea Harvey August 16

Nearly two decades of data reinforce concerns that pesticides are really bad for bees

New research has provided some of the strongest evidence yet that pesticides can do serious, long-term damage to bee populations. And the findings may help fuel the ongoing debate about whether certain insecticides should be permitted for agricultural use at all.

The new study, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, examines the question of whether the use of a common (and highly controversial) class of pesticides called neonicotinoids can be linked to wild bee declines in England. The results suggest that this could be the case.

Using 18 years of data collected on more than 60 bee species in England, the researchers found that species foraging on pesticide-treated crops have experienced much more severe losses than species foraging on other plants. The study provides some of the first evidence that the effects of neonicotinoid exposure can scale up to cause major damage to bees.

“It’s nice to see the use of long-term data to look at trends in pesticide impacts over longer time scales,” said Dara Stanley, a plant ecology lecturer at the National University of Ireland Galway, by email. (Stanley has previously conducted research on the effects of neonicotinoids in bees, but was not involved with the new study.) “That is something that has been missing in the debate on bees and pesticides so far, and there have been many calls to look at effects over time.”

The use of neonicotinoid pesticides has become hotly contested in recent years, due largely to concerns about their effects on bees and other pollinators. Numerous studies have indicated that exposure to these pesticides can have adverse effects in insects they were not intended for, hindering their ability to pollinate or reproduce or leading to increases in mortality.

In fact, in 2013, the European Union placed a ban on the use of multiple neonicotinoid pesticides, citing their potential danger to bees, although a few exemptions have since been allowed in the United Kingdom. Neonicotinoids are still widely used in many other places around the world, including in the United States. They’re produced by a number of different manufacturers and include household names such as Bayer’s Admire Pro insecticide, which includes a neonicotinoid called imidacloprid, or Syngenta’s Actara insecticide, which contains thiamethoxam.

Until now, most of the research on their effects has been limited to short-term, small-scale studies, many of them performed in laboratory settings, said Ben Woodcock, an ecological entomologist at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in the U.K. and the paper’s lead author. They’ve also tended to focus on just a few species. The new study, on the other hand, relies on field data collected on many species over nearly two decades.  

The researchers focused on the different responses between bee species that forage on pesticide-treated oilseed rape crops — the same plants commonly used to make canola oil — and bees that forage on other plants. Oilseed rape crops are widely treated with neonicotinoids around the world, and the practice began on a wide scale in the U.K. starting in 2002.  It’s the biggest mass flowering crop in the U.K. where neonicotinoids have been widely applied, according to Woodcock, making it an ideal subject for the study.

The researchers were interested in finding out whether bee species that forage on oilseed rape plants have experienced greater declines than bee species that don’t. So they gathered nearly 20 years’ worth of data, mostly collected in surveys by citizen scientists between 1994 and 2011, on where bee species have been spotted and what plants they foraged on. Different species often prefer to snack on different plants, and some of the included species visited oilseed rape plants while others didn’t do so at all. The researchers incorporated all the data, along with information on oilseed rape cover and pesticide use in the U.K., into a model that helped them analyze all the information.  

Using the model, the researchers zeroed in on individual plots of land. Using all the survey data they’d compiled, they were able to note which species had been observed in each plot and which ones disappeared from those plots over the course of the study period. To be clear, the researchers weren’t able to say whether the number of individual bees in any given plot decreased or increased in abundance. Rather, they simply took note of which species vanished, or went locally extinct, in any given area over time.  

“The way we look at it is whether or not a species was present in a location and not present in the next year,” Woodcock said.

Overall, the researchers found that these little extinctions were three times more severe in bees that foraged on oilseed rape plants than in bees that didn’t. It’s impossible to say for sure that the neonicotinoids were responsible for this difference, but the results suggest a link. The findings support the previous research which indicates that neonicotinoids can have damaging effects on bees — and they also suggest that these effects could result in serious population declines on a large scale in the long term.

Looking at these mini extinctions rather than overall population abundance has its advantages, said Christian Krupke, an entomologist at Purdue University, who was not involved with the new study.

“When you take an extinction-type event, you have more confidence that what you’re seeing is a true effect,” he said. “We know populations go through ebbs and flows, but when there are no insects there, it’s a lot more difficult to make the case that this is an ebb.”  

In the future, though, “it would also be interesting to see whether abundances (or populations) of particular species were affected,” said Stanley, the National University of Ireland scientist, in her email. And Woodcock agreed that long-term population monitoring programs, which sample the same species in the same locations with the same intensity year after year, would be ideal in the future — they just haven’t been implemented yet.

In the meantime, scientists from Bayer Crop Science, a major manufacturer of neonicotinoid pesticides, took issue with the study’s correlational findings, which they’ve pointed out cannot be used to argue with certainty that pesticides cause declines in bees. A statement from the company, sent to The Washington Post by Bayer spokeperson Jeffrey Donald, summarized their complaint.

“The authors chose to investigate only one potential factor, namely neonicotinoid insecticides,” the statement said. “This was chosen out of many different factors which may have an influence on the development of wild bees, for example landscape structures, climatic conditions, availability of specific foraging plants and nesting habitats. It is a well-known fact that the structure of agricultural landscapes in large parts of Europe has changed substantially in the last decades. The area of landscape structures available for nesting or foraging, especially for specialized species, has significantly declined, resulting in fewer habitats for pollinators.”

A statement from Ray McAllister, senior director of regulatory policy at CropLife America, a trade association representing the manufacturers of pesticides and other agricultural chemicals, expressed similar concerns.

The authors of the new study acknowledged that pesticides are by no means the only factor contributing to bee declines — and were likely not the only factor at play even in this individual study.

“Bees have been undergoing declines for a long time and it’s been linked to a number of things — habitat fragmentation, climate change,” Woodcock said. “This is a contributing factor to bee declines, it’s not the sole cause. If you stop using neonicotinoids tomorrow, you wouldn’t solve the problem.”

But many experts feel that limiting their use would certainly help.

“I think it’s still the case that when people talk about population declines, there’s broad agreement that there are many effects — it’s multifactorial — and it depends on the species you’re talking about,” said Krupke, the Purdue entomologist. “But I think in areas where pesticides are used extensively…that pesticides are high on the list of concern.”


Back the bees and friends: Big agriculture has the chance to help or hinder our most important pollinators, research argues

Date: August 9, 2016

Source: University of Royal Holloway London

Summary: New research has identified future threats to, and opportunities for insects, birds, mammals, and reptiles that pollinate wild flowers and crops. 35% of global crop production, and 85% of wild flowering plants rely on hard-working pollinators to thrive. Researchers are therefore calling for proactive prevention not reactive mitigation, and continuation of positive steps to reduce chemical use across landscapes.

New research published in PeerJ has identified the most serious future threats to, but also opportunities for pollinating species, which provide essential agricultural and ecological services across the globe.

From the expansion of corporate agriculture, new classes of insecticides and emerging viruses, pollinators are facing changing and increasingly challenging risks. In response, researchers are calling for global policies of proactive prevention, rather than reactive mitigation to ensure the future of these vital species.

The study was conducted by an international group of scientists, government researchers, and NGOs led by Professor Mark Brown from Royal Holloway University of London, supported by the EU-funded network SuperB.

Prevention, not panic

They used a method of horizon scanning to identify future threats that require preventative action, and opportunities to be taken advantage of, in order to protect the insects, birds, mammals, and reptiles that pollinate wild flowers and crops.

"35% of global crop production, and 85% of wild flowering plants rely on hard-working pollinators to thrive. We are increasingly adopting practices that damage these species. Then, we rather absurdly look to mitigate their loss, rather than prevent it in the first place," explained Professor Brown.

"This is an expensive and back-to-front solution for a problem that has very real consequences for our well-being," Brown continued, "Most research focuses on the battles already being fought, not on the war to come."

Priority pollinator challenges

Out of a long-list of sixty risks to, and opportunities for pollinators the team identified 6 high priority issues, including:

1) Corporate control of agriculture at the global scale

2) Sulfoximine, a novel systemic class of insecticides

3) New emerging viruses

4) Increased diversity of managed pollinator species

5) Effects of extreme weather under climate change

6) Reductions in chemical use in non-agricultural settings

The research highlights consolidation of the agri-food industries as a major potential threat to pollinators, with a small numbers of companies now having unprecedented control of land.

The rise in transnational land deals for crop production, for example the use of large areas of Brazil for soybean export to China, now occupies over 40 million hectares.

"The homogenization of agriculture effectively means that corporations are applying blanket production systems to landscapes that are vastly different, significantly reducing the diversity and number of native pollinators," explained Sarina Jepsen, Director of Endangered Species and Aquatic Programs, The Xerces Society and Deputy Chair, IUCN Bumblebee Specialist Group.

Positives on the horizon

Professor Brown continued, "However, it is not all doom and gloom. For example, such global domination provides an opportunity to influence land-management to make it favourable for pollinators at huge scales, but this would require the agri-food industry to work closely together with NGOs and researchers."

Speaking about the influence of new insecticides, co-author, Lynn Dicks from the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge said, "Identifying environmental issues in advance, before they become large scale, allows society to plan responses and reduce environmental risks before they are upon us. It is a routine part of strategic planning in financial management, and it should also be routine in environmental planning and policymaking. Many of the pollinator issues we identified on the horizon can be responded to right now, for example by working with corporations already controlling large areas of agricultural land to develop pollinator management strategies, or by planning research on the sub-lethal effects of sulfoxaflor before it is widely used."

However the study also found more explicitly positive opportunities for pollinators. For example, the current and future reduction of chemical use in non-agricultural land, gardens and parks, could be fruitful for pollinating populations.

"We must continue to encourage these practices across industry, government, and the public, so that we give our important pollinating species the support they need to do their vital work," concluded Professor Brown.

Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of Royal Holloway London. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

Mark J.F. Brown, Lynn V. Dicks, Robert J. Paxton, Katherine C.R. Baldock, Andrew B. Barron, Marie-Pierre Chauzat, Breno M. Freitas, Dave Goulson, Sarina Jepsen, Claire Kremen, Jilian Li, Peter Neumann, David E. Pattemore, Simon G. Potts, Oliver Schweiger, Colleen L. Seymour, Jane C. Stout. A horizon scan of future threats and opportunities for pollinators and pollination. PeerJ, 2016; 4: e2249 DOI: 10.7717/peerj.2249   



Insecticide can hamper yield increase from bees in soybeans

By Andy Michel and Reed Johnson, Ohio State University

Although soybean aphids remain at low levels, Reed Johnson and Andy Michel, two Ohio State University researchers are concerned that many growers are going to add insecticides to spray tanks when applying fungicides.

“Well, I’m going over the field anyway so I thought I’d add an insecticide for insurance purposes! The insecticide is relatively cheap and soybeans are worth so much!” is what researchers say they hear from farmers this time of year.

The researchers are clear that they do not recommend this practice, and feel an IPM approach is much better for everyone and everything, including the environment. They do not recommend an insecticide application unless there is a need.

However, the researchers realize that this is being done. Both agree that growers and custom applicators need to protect bees when spraying insecticides on soybeans (or any crop or insect pest for that matter).

The need to do this is present whether the insecticide is being sprayed for an actual pest, or when being sprayed for “insurance purposes!”

Remember that most insecticides have a caution statement on their label about spraying around bees and blooming crops. The typical statement is: “This product is highly toxic to bees exposed to direct treatment or residues on blooming crops or weeds. Do not apply this product or allow it to drift to blooming crops or weeds if bees are actively visiting the treatment area.”

How often do bees visit soybeans?  Soybeans bloom flowers produce a very sweet nectar that, depending on conditions, can be highly attractive to bees.

However, it can be difficult to appreciate how much foraging is really occurring because both the bees and flowers are hidden below the canopy.  In a survey of honey produced in the summer of 2014 soybean pollen was found in nearly half of honey samples—a strong indication that bees are indeed foraging in soybean fields.

Further, bee pollination has been shown to increase soybean yield by as much as 18 percent in some studies, so it really can be counterproductive to risk killing bees visiting soybeans with an “insurance” application of insecticide.

Many states address this concern.  In Ohio, the department of agriculture by making it clear that no one should apply or cause to be applied any pesticide that is required to carry a special warning on its label indicating that it is toxic to honey bees, over an area of one-half acre or more in which the crop-plant is in flower unless the owner or caretaker of any apiary located within one-half mile of the treatment site has been notified by the person no less than twenty-four hours in advance of the intended treatment; provided the apiary is registered and that the apiary has been posted with the name and telephone number of the owner or responsible caretaker.

The ODA also makes it clear that producers should not apply pesticides which are hazardous to honey bees at times when pollinating insects are actively working in the target area; however, application of calyx sprays on fruits and other similar applications may be made.

Growers and applicators are encouraged to maintain good communications with bee keepers near their fields to prevent and limit unintended problems.

Explore the BIP Database

Written By: Michael Wilson

There is a new link on our homepage titled “Explore!”. Click here to explore the ever growing Bee Informed Partnership Database. Here we have new, interactive pages that allow you to view detailed honey bee health data from survey and sample efforts. You can view yearly, state loss data for the annual loss survey in an interactive map. Then, you can look at differences in loss levels based on management practices, filtering to any year or state of interest. Interested in pest levels found in your state? On our ‘State Reports’ page you can explore USDA APHIS honey bee survey data to find out varroa and nosema levels, viruses found, and pesticide sample analysis nationally, yearly, or by sampled state. Finally, you can enter your own varroa levels in a new interactive program called MiteCheck. These new features are just the beginning of a new strategy to turn the Bee Informed Partnership data collection and reporting system into a self service, online, interactive experience to both collect data and provide insight into the forces effecting honey bee health on a national scale.


Colony Loss Map

Stay tuned for the 2015-2016 state loss data, but until then explore state loss levels at this link all the way back to 2007-08 when the honey bee winter loss survey began with the Apiary Inspectors of America.

The state loss map with Tennessee selected for total loss, in the winter of 2014-15.

The interactive map shows state losses as a heat map with higher losses being darker red. You can select the year of interest and if you want to look at winter loss, annual loss, or summer loss. You can also look at either Average Loss or Total Loss. Total loss looks at the number of colonies reported on and gives you a percent of all reported colonies lost while Average Loss is a calculation of the loss experienced by an ‘average beekeeper’ in that state.

There is a table below the map that filters out to the states surrounding any state you select. Here you can find details about how many beekeepers reported, the number of colonies represented, and the number of colonies exclusive to that state. For migratory operations, their loss gets reflected in each state they operate in, so use these numbers to weigh in on if the state’s Total Loss is heavily influenced by a few large beekeepers. In those cases, you may want to look at Average Loss where each beekeeper carries the same weight, irregardless of how many colonies they operate

Management Survey

For years now with the honey bee loss survey, we have been asking beekeepers what they do to bring insight into why losses are so high. We can’t really prove any causative effects through a survey, but we can look at patterns and correlations to give us good directions on where we should direct our efforts as beekeepers and researchers. In the past, those reports have been generated from the database in static .pdf files here. That worked out OK to look at individual issues in a single year, but is cumbersome to look at the same question over multiple years. We have now rectified that by providing a new, database explorer linked here to interactively filter based on year, state, operation size, and a number of questions.

The survey database explorer comparing the level of colony loss based on operation size for all years and all states. Changing the check boxes to fewer years or states will filter the graph based on your selections.

Now, you can select a number of products beekeepers use and compare beekeepers that use those selected products to those whom did not. You can then filter that to any year, or only the states you are interested in. In addition to getting the level of loss, you can also simply see how many people use a particular product or feeding practices. If you’re a backyard beekeeper and don’t see how commercial beekeepers are comparable to what you are doing, then just filter to backyard beekeepers only. However, as you can see in the screenshot I pasted in here, backyard beekeepers often have higher losses than commercial and sideline beekeepers. Therefore, you might also try filtering only on those groups to see what they are using as well.

You won’t see the checkbox filters as the page loads to save on space. You will need to click on the button to ‘Show Filters’ to see them, so be sure to do that if you want to explore more deeply. Also, be sure to note that these loss levels are reported as Average Loss, or the loss experienced by the average beekeeper of the selected filters. Therefore, the loss you see can be quite different and higher the the usual Total Loss numbers we usually use to report overall national losses. The ‘Survey Year’ is the year in which we conducted the survey. So, 2015 is the winter of 2014-15.

State Reports

The newest addition to the new database experience, is the USDA APHIS State Reports page here. This page provides a very in-depth look at APHIS National Honey Bee Survey data collected since 2009 in collaboration with state apiary inspectors. I hope to provide a more detailed article about this feature at a later date, but for now here are the basics.

Pesticide effects on honey bees is an area of great interest, but relatively little information perhaps due to the expense surrounding taking samples. In the APHIS survey, to date, 763 samples have been processed giving us the most comprehensive look at the level of pesticides found in colonies that we have. You now have access to what pesticides have been found, their prevalence, and where they were found through the individual state reports. Since these samples were not taken as a response to a loss event, we consider this data, and all the data in the APHIS survey, random samples, or the average levels found, providing baseline information about what US colonies experience.


I hope you learn a lot exploring our database, but why not go a little further? You too can provide data through our surveys, sample monitoring programs, and now in collaboration with the University of Minnesota and Michigan State, you can enter varroa level information and compare it to other respondents in a new interactive page called MiteCheck linked here.

MiteCheck refers to sample kits developed by the Bee Squad of University of Minnesota. These kits provide everything you need to take a varroa sample and conduct a powdered sugar shake to asses the level of varroa infestation. To complement that, we now have this page to collect that data you are generating with your MiteCheck kit. If you don’t have a MiteCheck kit, you can still enter powdered sugar varroa assessments anyway, but the kit provides instructions to do it right.

We are looking for funding to expand the MiteCheck program, so hopefully you will see an increase in the functionality of this page in the future. MiteCheck is the first example of the Bee Informed Partnership Database as a platform for additional interactive bee health initiatives funded through other sources. The original USDA-NIFA grant funding the Bee Informed Partnership expires in December of this year. One of its legacies is a platform for new and continued bee health data collection and dissemination. Your participation and support will continue that effort with rewards in more depth and data based understanding of bee health.

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Cassie Cox
Executive Secretary
PO Box 435
Mendon, UT 84325