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The materials and information included in this Latest News page are provided as a service to you and do not reflect endorsement by the American Honey Producers Association (AHPA). The content and opinions expressed within the page are those of the authors and are not necessarily shared by AHPA. AHPA is not responsible for the accuracy of information provided from outside sources.



Policy fight looms as agencies treat honeybee -- a 17th-century import -- as exotic invader

Tiffany Stecker, E&E reporter

Published: Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A bitter feud between beekeepers and federal land managers is coming to a head as the Obama administration prepares plans for stemming a steep decline in pollinators.

Under President Obama's June executive order, federal agencies must submit reports to the White House by Dec. 20 defining how they will address insects and animals that spread pollen from plant to plant. The President's Pollinator Task Force, headed by the Agriculture Department and U.S. EPA, will incorporate those reports into a federal strategy on pollinator protection (Greenwire, June 20).

But commercial beekeepers say some land managers are intent on keeping out one of the most important pollinators -- and the only one that makes money while doing so: the European honeybee.

Apis mellifera, which arrived in what's now the United States in the early 17th century, can compete with native bumblebees and transmit pathogens like the deformed wing virus, though the research is still developing on the issue. It also likes to forage on sweet clover, an invasive plant species that allows the bee to produce the popular clover honey.

This rankles the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service and other agencies whose missions are to protect native species. Their aversion to honeybees, and their foods of choice, has made it difficult for beekeepers to get access to public lands, said Randy Verhoek, president of the American Honey Producers Association.

Access varies from region to region and land manager to land manager, Verhoek said. He hopes the president's memorandum will be favorable to beekeepers when the task force releases its report early next year.

"It seems to be getting worse; it seems to be more regional," he said. "We need a national, federal policy and guidelines; those guidelines need to be passed down to the local agencies, [so] we don't have a whole bunch of individuals making individual decisions."

The issue of access is just as important to beekeepers as the more visible debate over neonicotinoids, insecticides that are linked to declining bee health, Verhoek said.

Honeybees are big business in the United States. Last year's honey production was valued at $317 million by the National Agricultural Statistics Service. In addition, beekeepers carry their hives around the country in the early months of the year to help growers spread pollen in fields and maximize production. Gross revenues from pollination in 2012 were about $655.6 million, according to NASS.

The United States has lost more than 50 percent of its managed honeybee colonies over the past 10 years to a little-understood phenomenon called colony collapse disorder, according to the Pollinator Partnership. Another pollinator, the monarch butterfly, has seen its population decline by 90 percent in recent years.

Loss of forage, parasites like the Varroa mite and pesticides have been linked to colony collapse disorder.

Bees, and their hive owners, are nomadic by nature. Right now, most bees are buzzing around the Gulf Coast states, the Carolinas and Georgia. Another large group spends its winter in California. There are also more bees finding refuge from the cold in indoor facilities in Idaho and Utah.

Come the end of January or February, most of the commercially managed bee hives are trucked over to California's almond groves. After the almond trees bloom, a portion of the hives will stay in California to pollinate other crops. Some move north to Oregon and Washington, while a separate group will travel up the East Coast, pollinating apple trees in New York, blueberries in Maine or pumpkins in Pennsylvania.

After the pollination season, beekeepers bring the hives back to their home base, raise new queens to lead separate colonies and nurse the colonies to health.

Many bees are taken to North Dakota -- the top honey-producing state -- or elsewhere in the Midwest, where they start making the sweet stuff through the summer. This is where sweet clover, the honeybee's preferred food, is found in pastures over thousands of acres.

Inconsistent goals

A summit last month on forage and bee nutrition sought to promote discussion on the availability of blooms for bees to feed on, and bridge the gap between honeybee keepers and public lands.

One panel, titled "Providing Access to Honey Bees on Federally Managed Lands -- Opportunities and Challenges," allowed representatives from the Bureau of Land Management, the Department of Defense, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Forest Service, and the Park Service to present their preliminary plans for pollinators.

The presentations were "disheartening," Christi Heintz and Meg Ribotto of Project Apis m., a California-based project created to fund and direct research on honeybee health, wrote in a post on the American Beekeeping Federation's website.

"The Department of Defense, manager of huge acreage in the US, was a no-show. The National Park Service, understandably, wants to keep its lands pristine and would only consider 'manipulated' or urban areas as suitable for bees. Urban areas, of course, are not suitable for commercially managed bees. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Forest Service will consider apiary locations on a case-by-case basis, but 85 percent of BLM offices surveyed didn't know whether or not they even provided apiary permits," they wrote. An apiary is a place where beehives are kept.

Given the Park Service's mandate to protect native wildlife, there's not much wiggle room for expanding habitat for a species that is exotic, albeit a long-standing resident alien. The most likely areas are places like national historical parks -- battlefields, historical homes and other landmarks -- where wildlife is rare.

"I'm looking at a few battlefields, and those battlefields are only a few hundred acres in size," said Elaine Leslie, chief of the Biological Resource Management Division at the Park Service. "I can't imagine more than several hundred acres."

Inconsistency in management goals is an issue, Leslie said, in an echo of the concerns expressed by the Honey Producers Association's Verhoek. Although a national strategy will help, agency policies and enforcement and education will need to come first.

"That is largely what centralized offices such as mine attempt to implement -- not always an easy task," Leslie said in an email.

Fish and Wildlife Service representatives said that some wildlife refuges do allow apiaries, but a refuge's discretion on whether to issue a special-use permit -- for anything from bicycling to backpacking -- rests with refuge management.

A number of policies authorized by the Refuge Administration Act help guide the issuance of special-use permits and allow for consistency in the review process across the refuge system, said Cindy Hall, FWS's national coordinator for integrated pest management.

There are still unknowns on how honeybees and native bees compete, she said, and more research is needed to guide refuge managers.

As for BLM, there are 60 apiary permits throughout the system, said Carol Spurrier, a BLM rangeland ecologist. Most are in California and Arizona.

"It's not a hugely popular or requested activity," Spurrier said.

Typically, BLM lands are at low elevations. The flowering of nectar plants happens around the same time that most commercial honeybees are in California. Many plants on BLM lands have gone to seed by the time bees finish their tour of the almond orchards and other crop fields.

Most of BLM's efforts in the pollinator strategy are likely to come from the planting of native seeds as part of post-fire rehabilitation, a source of pollen for both native pollinators and honeybees.

"If we have more enhancements on the native side, it will be better for managed bees also," Spurrier said.

Is conflict overblown?

Federal lands commitments for beekeeping will likely come out of acres managed by BLM and the Forest Service, areas that have traditionally served both conservation and commercial uses, notably drilling and logging, said Mace Vaughan, co-director of the pollinator program at the Xerces Society, a Portland, Ore.-based nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting wild pollinators.

Overall, Vaughan said, there needs to be an evaluation to avoid competition between natives and European bees.

The Xerces Society's focus on native invertebrates, and their perceived influence in the administration, irritates Verhoek and other honeybee supporters. The group has a "cozy relationship" with USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), said Verhoek, consulting the agency's policies on pollinators.

NRCS is not a public lands agency. It encourages private landowners, farmers and ranchers, to implement conservation practices. Yet with the guidance of the Xerces Society, it has recommended that landowners plant expensive native seeds over sweet clover, Verhoek said.

NRCS has awarded $865,326 in grants to the Xerces Society since 2006, according to

The conflict between beekeepers and native pollinator protection is misleading, said Vaughan, who has a background in beekeeping.

Ninety-five percent of the concerns over native bee health overlap with those of honeybees, he said. While Xerces may not advocate for more public lands access to beekeepers, he said, they share concerns over declining forage, pesticide exposure and working with private landowners.

NRCS at the state level works with state agencies to finalize recommended plant lists to landowners, Vaughan said.

"If the state agencies don't want sweet clover, NRCS is going to respect that," he said.

Xerces promotes diversity in seeds to feed bees, not a rejection of sweet clover, Vaughan added. That means planting native flowers that encourage pollen diversity, which could help buffer the negative effects of pesticide exposure, according to recent research. It also means planting inexpensive covers like buckwheat, canola and alfalfa, species that provide a role similar to that of sweet clover, but without issues of invasiveness.

"We [don't have] an anti-honeybee agenda," Vaughan said. "I think there's significant confusion over that.



A Gorgeous App for Getting to Know the World’s Bees

05 December 14 by Liz Stinson

Five years ago, Lasioglossum gotham was discovered buzzing around Brooklyn's botanical gardens. This little insect, about the size of a rice grain, is colloquially referred to as the Gotham Bee, though it's far from the only bee in the big city. According to Chris O'Toole, an entomologist at London's Natural History Museum, some 90 species have been discovered around the gardens, which isn't even half the number of bees discovered in New York -- that's closer to 250. And NYC is amateur hour compared to California, where more than 1,800 bee species have been found. And to put that in perspective, more than 4,500 species of bees have been discovered in the United States alone.

The point is, there are many, many different kinds of bees in the world -- at least 20,000 recognised species thus far -- and you probably know only a fraction of them. That's a shame, say Callum Cooper and Ana Tiquia.

Callum, a filmmaker, and Tiquia, a creative producer, are raising money for 1,000 Bees, an interactive app (free on iOS) that provides a in-depth look at, yep, you guessed it, 1,000 bee species. The goal is raise awareness of the biodiversity among bees and shed light on the fact that they're quickly dwindling in numbers.

An app about bees might sound a little dry or a little unsettling, depending on your outlook, but 1,000 Bees is surprisingly engaging. It's a rich visual experience, with images of each bee gathered from research collections around the world. You can swipe through the bees or let them flicker across your screen in an animated film. You can sort by colour, geographic habitat or behaviour and even create animated films based upon parameters you choose. Want to see only red bees indigenous to the American Midwest? No problem. Clicking on a bee takes you to its backstory, where you can learn even more about your new favourite insect. "What we're doing is a make a lot stuff that's available to academics and research scientists available to the greater public and in an accessible form," says O'Toole, a collaborator on the project.

In the past, people haven't been terribly interested in bees. Birds and butterflies? Sure. But bees, unless they're making honey or about to sting, tend to fly under the radar. "Butterflies and dragonflies are very popular because they're big showy insects and people see them all the time," says O'Tool. "But there's lots of interesting behavior going on in people's backyards." Of the 20,000 known species of bees, those showcased in the app are among the most amazing of the bunch. There's Wallace's Giant Mason Bee, an insect with a 2.5-inch wingspan and formidable jaws. Or the optical illusion bee, with its shiny, technicolor abdomen. And yes, the honey bee is in there, too.

You could take a standalone app about bees as proof that public sentiment towards the insect is changing. Bees are no longer considered a pain-inducing nuisance to be swatted at and killed. With a responsibility of pollinating a third of human food production, bees are far too crucial to human survival to go ignored. So take 1,000 Bees as a reminder that we should care what happens to these little insects -- not just the honey bee or the fuzzy bumblebee in your garden, but all 20,000 of the buzzing, pollinating (and yes, stinging) varieties out there.

Top 10 Pollinator Plants

Nebraska Pheasants Forever
Published on Nov 24, 2014

When we think about ‘Pollinator Habitat’ plantings, the collection of plants highlighted in this video should be on the top of your list when designing seeding mixtures.  They will provide floral benefits throughout the entire growing season, provide a wide range of flower types, are all readily available and will produce benefits for a wide range of wildlife.  The secondary message with this Habitat Tip is that this is the perfect time of the year to be developing seeding mixtures and habitat plans to be implemented next spring.  Putting together a management plan now that will be implemented next spring and summer is a great strategy.

The entire series of our Habitat Tips can easily be viewed now and in the future by subscribing to the Nebraska Pheasants Forever YouTube Channel or by liking and following us on Nebraska Pheasants Forever on Facebook



True Source Honey Issues Alert on Honey Shipped from Turkey

Washington, D.C. – November 25, 2014 – The True Source Honey CertificationTM Program (, whose mission it is to protect consumers, retailers and manufacturers from illegally sourced honey, has issued an alert concerning honey labeled as coming from Turkey.

“We advise honey importers, retailers and manufacturers to proceed carefully and consider additional safeguards if they are buying low-priced honey labeled as produced in Turkey,” said True Source Honey Executive Director Gordon Marks.

The United States has had repeated problems with honey that is illegally shipped from China to avoid anti-dumping duties. The quality and purity of this honey is also suspect since it is not sold according to regular protocols. Such honey has often been shipped through – and labeled as produced within – a country other than China. This illegal practice threatens the U.S. honey industry by undercutting fair market prices and damaging honey's reputation for quality and safety.

True Source is flagging Turkey due to increasing amounts of honey being shipped from that country at well below market prices. This trend is similar to that observed in past circumvention schemes.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. imported more than four million pounds of honey from Turkey in 2013, or about 1% of the volume Americans consume each year. This volume from Turkey has increased almost 10-fold in three years. More importantly, Turkish honey that is exported to the United States is valued at $1.27 per pound when traded into the U.S. (U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Bureau of Census) and at $2.13 per pound when traded into the European Union (2014 YTD, Eurostat). Such a significant discrepancy in price based upon destination rather than origin is uncommon in the international honey market. U.S.-produced white honey is trading at $2.08 per pound, according to the most recently available data from USDA (September 2014).

“The leading indicator for circumvented Chinese honey is honey traded on the international market at rates substantially below the prevalent market value,” said Marks.

Marks also noted that U.S. companies should be aware of the risk of prosecution for customs fraud if circumstances indicate that they purchased honey knowing it had been illegally imported. Recent federal court cases (USAA Northern District of Illinois Press Release, February 20, 2013) suggest the federal government now expects that all U.S. users and distributors of honey imports have already implemented and are maintaining rigorous supply chain audit and inspection procedures as a matter of course.

A number of nations have been implicated in past circumvention schemes. In a 2013 press release associated with charges against two large U.S. packers, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Illinois, noted, “The honey was variously described falsely as sugars and syrups instead of Chinese-origin honey, and or as pure honey having originated in Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Thailand and Vietnam, instead of China.”

The True Source Honey Certification Program is an industry-supported, voluntary program established to combat the problem of illegally shipped honey. To date, there are no Turkish exporters that are True Source Certified. The program, which uses an independent third-party audit system, has been applauded by U.S. beekeepers and honey industry leadership because it provides traceability from hive to table, helping ensure the food safety and security of the honey used in North America. Companies that are True Source Certified now represent about one-third of honey sold in North America.

“Honey packers and importers that become True Source Certified are held to the highest sourcing standards – verified by outside auditors to ensure that all honey purchases are openly declared and that no illegally circumvented Chinese honey enters their supply chain,” said Marks.

The True Source Certified™ logo on honey packages ensures that honey has been independently certified. Further information, including a search function to check honey products, can be found at


 Ontario Plans To Cut Out Pesticide Linked With Bee Deaths

CP  | By The Canadian Press

Posted: 11/25/2014 12:47 pm EST Updated: 11/25/2014TORONTO - Ontario's plan to significantly curb the use of a controversial agricultural pesticide linked to honeybee deaths was lauded Tuesday by environmentalists and beekeepers' groups as a move in the right direction.

The governing Liberals said the plan includes an 80-per-cent reduction in the number of acres planted with neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seed by 2017, as well as cutting the over-winter honeybee mortality rate to 15 per cent by 2020. The rate in 2012-2013 was 37.9 per cent and rose last winter to 58 per cent.

"Improving pollinator health is not a luxury but a necessity," Environment Minister Glen Murray said in a news release.

"Taking strong action now to reduce the use of neurotoxic pesticides and protecting pollinator health is a positive step for our environment and our economy."

But the proposed plan, which also includes the establishment of a comprehensive Pollinator Health Action Plan, angered the province's grain farmers, who said if implemented, the rules would put their livelihoods in jeopardy.

"A reduction at this level puts our farmers at a competitive disadvantage with the rest of the country and the rest of North America," said Barry Senft, the CEO of Grain Farmers of Ontario, which represents corn, soybean and wheat farmers.

The organization said it has invested in ongoing multi-year research projects to mitigate the risk of pesticides to bee health.

A Health Canada report has suggested that seeds treated with the insecticide contributed to the majority of the bee deaths in Ontario and Quebec in 2012, likely due to exposure of the pesticide-laced dust during planting.

Many fear that the decline in bee colonies will have a severe impact on the pollination of many plants and the global food supply.

Earlier this year, a provincial government working group looking into bee deaths put forward a number of options, including a temporary ban on the use of neonicotinoids on field crops of corn and soybeans until the federal government completed its re-evalution of the pesticide.

Ontario's Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller raised the alarm about the widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides by farmers in his annual report released last month, calling it the biggest threat to ecological integrity since DDT — dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane, which was banned in Canada in 1972.

"All the science is not done, but everything that I have before me ... suggests to me that this is the biggest threat to the structure and ecological integrity of the ecosystem that I have ever encountered in my life, bigger than DDT," he said at he time.

The Ontario Beekeepers' Association, which has about 3,100 members, said that in the spring of 2014, the province reported 58 per cent over-winter losses, over three times the average of all other Canadian provinces.

"The province's goal to reduce the over-winter honeybee mortality rate to 15 per cent by 2020 will bring the industry back to the pre-neonicotinoid average winter loss and will support a thriving, sustainable beekeeping industry going forward," Tibor Szabo, the group's president said in a statement.

Premier Kathleen Wynne, who also served as agriculture minister until the June 12 election, has come under fierce criticism over what critics call a reluctance to deal with the issue.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath welcomed the move but said the Liberals should have acted sooner.

"It's a good thing that they're finally getting around to dealing with it but it's certainly taken a long time," she said. "This is a very, very serious issue, it needs very quick action."

The government said it will seek input about the new rules from the industry, researchers, organizations and individuals in consultations that will be held over the next two months.

If the plan is approved, the new rules will be in place by July 1, 2015.


AHPA Scores for Beekeepers on ELAP

Over the past several years AHPA has spearheaded efforts to secure funding for the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program (ELAP). This funding that the AHPA Executive Board was able to help achieve comes at a critical time for many beekeeping operations. We had 869 filings in 44 states for the years 2012-2013. The AHPA is diligently working to serve the interests of large and small beekeeping operations throughout the United States. We would like to thank the officers and executive board members of AHPA for all of their time spent traveling and working on this process. A special thank you to Richard Adee and Eric Silva for their many hours of service and dedication to our industry.


Darren Cox
Vice President
America Honey Producers Association

**ELAP Assistance Update**

November 24, 2014

FY 2012 -$21.5 million total claims with $16.2 million in honey bee claims across 700 applications.
            90% factor (10% reduction) for final of $14.7 million for honey bees
FY 2013 - $28.4 million with $20.2 million for honey bees across 169 applications.
            68% factor (32% reduction) for final of $13 million for honey bees
FY 2014 – closing out now, factor expected somewhere between 2012 – 2013 minus 7% sequester rate

Payments are starting to be distributed to county offices now and applicants can expect to have payments by mid-December.



USDA Disaster Assistance to Help Thousands of Honeybee, Livestock and Farm-Raised Fish Producers 

2014 Farm Bill Program Offers Producers in Over 40 States Relief for 2012 and 2013 Losses 

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 2014 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA today announced that nearly 2,500 applicants will receive disaster assistance through the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) for losses suffered from Oct. 1, 2011, through Sept. 30, 2013.  

The program, re-authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, provides disaster relief to livestock, honeybee, and farm-raised fish producers not covered by other agricultural disaster assistance programs. Eligible losses may include excessive heat or winds, flooding, blizzards, hail, wildfires, lightning strikes, volcanic eruptions, and diseases, or in the case of honeybees, losses due to colony collapse disorder. Beekeepers, most of whom suffered honeybee colony losses, represent more than half of ELAP recipients. 

“As promised, we’re making sure that thousands of producers who suffered through two and a half difficult years without Farm Bill assistance, are getting some relief,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack “Once the Farm Bill was restored, not only did we implement the disaster assistance programs in record time, we’re issuing payments less than three months after the enrollment deadline. The funds will hopefully help producers with some of the financial losses they sustained during that time.” 

The Farm Bill caps ELAP disaster funding at $20 million per federal fiscal year. To accommodate the number of requests, which exceeded funds available for each of the affected years, payments will be reduced to ensure that all eligible applicants receive a prorated share of assistance. 

ELAP was made possible through the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit



Honey Packers and Importers Research, Promotion, Consumer Education and Information Order; Assessment Rate Increase

A Proposed Rule by the Agricultural Marketing Service on 11/18/2014

This document has a comment period that ends in 24 days (12/18/2014)

Action:      Proposed Rule.

Summary: This proposed rule invites comments on amending the Honey Packers and Importers Research, Promotion, Consumer Education and Information Order (Order) to increase the assessment rate from $0.01 per pound to $0.015 per pound on honey and honey products, over a two-year period. The Order limits an increase in the assessment rate to no more than one-quarter cent per year. Thus, the rate would increase to $0.0125 per pound for the period January 1 through December 31, 2015, and to $0.015 per pound on and after January 1, 2016. The Order is administered by the Honey Packers and Importers Board (Board) with oversight by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Under the program, assessments are collected from first handlers (packers) and importers and used for research and promotion projects designed to maintain and expand the market for honey and honey products in the United States and abroad. Additional funds would allow the Board to expand its production research activities and promotional efforts. The Boards production research focuses on maintaining the health of honey bee colonies. Increasing demand for honey and honey products would benefit the honey industry as a whole. This action also makes three additional changes to: Clarify that the assessment rate applies not only to the Harmonized Tariff Schedule numbers but to any other numbers used to identify honey; change the length of time that books and records are to be held; and change the exemption requirements

DATES:    Comments must be received by December 18, 2014.


ADDRESSES: Interested persons are invited to submit written comments concerning this proposal. Comments may be submitted on the Internet at: or to the Promotion and Economics Division, Fruit and Vegetable Program, AMS, USDA, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Room 1406-S, Stop 0244, Washington, DC 20250-0244. All comments should reference the docket number and the date and page number of this issue of the Federal Register and will be made available for public inspection, including name and address, if provided, in the above office during regular business hours or it can be viewed at



Bee brains offer insights into how human memories form

21 November 2014

University of Queensland scientists have discovered that genes switch off as memories are being formed, allowing for new connections between nerve cells.

The discovery could eventually lead to a key for treating conditions such as autism and dementia.

Researchers studying honeybees during learning activities have shown that memory management in the bee brain is controlled by small genetic elements called microRNAs that help regulate gene expression.

Queensland Brain Institute researchers Professor Charles Claudianos and Dr Judith Reinhard have led an international team which has discovered that these microRNAs could directly target the key developmental gene ‘actin’, which controls the ability of nerve cells to connect with other nerve cells.

“We believe the brain selectively controls the wiring of memory through microRNAs that switch off key genes that shape, connect and signal between neurons,” Professor Claudianos said.

“The brain is constantly managing all of the sensory experiences we receive at any one time, and retains some of these as memories based on the relative importance or significance of the experience, such as food, danger and sex, to name some examples.

“We are now gaining an insight into how this occurs.

“By understanding how we can control nerve cell development with the technology used in our study, we may eventually help redress disorders such as dementia and autism.

“The current hypothesis in autism is that those brains are over-connected, so getting a grasp of understanding how to regulate neural circuitry could provide future methods of tackling these problems.

“The nervous system behind memory formation is fundamentally no different between a honeybee and a human, so by studying bees we identify the basic biological processes that help us understand humans.”

Dr Reinhard said the research provided a fundamental understanding of how neural circuits were built and consolidated to retain memories.

“Memory is a fundamental component of many mental health disorders, so understanding the basic science behind memories will give us greater insight into many disorders,” she said.

“Human illnesses and diseases such as muscular myopathies, neurodevelopmental disorders and susceptibility to infection are caused by DNA mutations that affect actin and actin-related biological processes.

“Molecules such as microRNAs are thought to have evolved to shape biological processes through controlling the expression genes that function in that process. A single microRNA can control many genes that function in the nervous system.”

QBI researchers collaborated with teams from Universidade de Sao Paulo and Universidade Federal de Alfenas in Brazil and the University of Konstanz in Germany.

Findings of the research are published in Nature Communications.


Scientists develop supplement to aid struggling bees

Posted: Wednesday, November 19, 2014 7:58 am
By Alexa Armstrong

Malnutrition may play a role in a decline in bee colonies that has fueled headlines and public concern, according to experts at the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson.

Gloria DeGrandi-Hoffman, the center’s research leader, said wild colonies and those maintained by beekeepers can starve as pollen-producing plants fall victim to drought.

“Often it’s difficult for beekeepers to find areas that have sufficient amounts of flowering plants to provide enough pollen and nectar through certain times of the year to give bees the nutrition they need to stay healthy,” she said.

With that in mind, DeGrandi-Hoffman and others at the center are developing a protein supplement that can be sprayed as slurry but for now is being tested on small groups of bees. The next step is testing the supplement on hives.

DeGrandi-Hoffman said it’s important that bees don’t suffer from malnutrition because when they aren’t getting enough to eat their immune systems are weakened, which results in vulnerability to diseases, parasites and a compromised ability to fight off environmental toxins.

“That is my goal, to reduce these losses,” she said.

According to an article by the Yale School of Forestry and Environment Studies, it is normal for beekeepers to lose 30 percent of their bees in the winter, but last year losses reached 50 percent.

Beekeeper Denis Arp moves his bees to different parts of the state several times a year to ensure that they have access to pollinating plants, but despite those efforts he said the winters are hard.

“The general number of beehives that stay alive and healthy through the winter, it becomes an issue where our winter mortalities is higher,” Arp said.

And that is bad business for Arp; he makes a majority of his money by renting his hives to California for almond pollination in January. If he loses the hives he’s promised, that becomes a problem.

Arp also collects and sells honey to suppliers. But the drought has cut into that, he said.

“We produced over 200 pounds of honey last year; this year we only produced 50-60 pounds,” he said. “That maybe seems like a fair amount of honey, but really that’s not that much honey.”

DeGrandi-Hoffman said it all comes back to nutrition and the center’s efforts to provide a solution.

“Many problems we have with honey bees could be reduced if not alleviated by improving their nutrition,” she said.

News From Our Executive Secretary

This year AHPA held our annual convention in San Antonio at the Omni Colonnade Hotel. I received this email from one of the event coordinators last Friday and I'm really excited to share it with everybody!

As soon as I receive more  pictures I will post them on our website and send them out on our "Latest News" emails.
Omni Hotels is also collaborating with the National Honey Board for their restaurants and bars.
~Cassie Cox~


I wanted to share with you and AHPA some exciting news.  All of the following started at your convention here earlier this year.  We are very excited!  Please share our news!  I will send you more information and photos as I receive them.  We are truly ready for you to come back!




The Omni Colonnade Expects Tens of Thousands of Guests of the Bee Variety to Arrive Today

Twenty flourishing honey bee hives abuzz with more than a quarter of a million honey bees are being re-located to the first of its kind rooftop apiary and organic garden atop the Omni San Antonio Hotel at the Colonnade. A special ribbon cutting ceremony and photo opportunity of the new space will take place TODAY, Friday, November 14 at 3 p.m. at the Omni Colonnade, 9821 Colonnade, San Antonio, Texas.  

The honey bee hives were rescued from homes and businesses in and around San Antonio whose owners were looking to remove the bees from their properties. For the past several months, beekeepers with AHBPA have been working to nurture them back to full hive activity and ensure the bees are disease free with good temperaments.

The new rooftop apiary will provide a new home for the honeybees where beekeepers will ensure they are properly fed, watered and have plenty of flowers to keep them busy. 

The unique arrangement between the American Honey Bee Protection Agency and the Omni Colonnade is an exciting first for South Texas.

“Our mission is to protect the feral honey bee from extinction, through education, relocation, and legislation,” says Walter Schumacher with AHPBA.

Schumacher estimates the honey bees will produce between 1,500 and 2,500 pounds of honey over the course of a year. The Omni Colonnade will benefit from and have exclusive use of that honey, which they will use in dishes prepared by chefs at their Bolo's restaurant, and offer as a condiment to restaurant guests and as a wonderful San Antonio memento from the gift shop.

The AHBPA also sells their Texas Co-Op and 100% Wild Caught Honey at H-E-B Central Market, with proceeds supporting their bee rescue programs.

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to offer the honey bees a new home at the Colonnade.  We are doing our part to save this very important threatened species, and will literally enjoy the fruits of their labor- both in the honey they produce and the organic fruits and vegetables that grow on the rooftop garden,” said Delfin Ortiz, General Manager of the Omni Colonnade."


Mark L. Winston’s ‘Bee Time’: A hive has a lot to tell us

In his new book “Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive,” Mark Winston draws on his long career studying bees to argue that human beings could learn a thing or two from bees’ ability to cooperate. Winston discusses his book Saturday at Seattle’s Elliott Bay Book Co.


By Irene Wanner

Bee time, Mark L. Winston writes, is when you step into an apiary and become completely drawn into the moment. It can be a “full-body experience.” In his new book, “Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive” (Harvard University Press, 283 pp., $24.95), he explains: First there’s the low hum, then sweet odors of beeswax and honey. Bees walk on your hands and arms, “the subtlest of touches as their claws lightly cling and release, the gentlest of breezes as their wings buzz before taking flight.”

A researcher and beekeeper for many years, Winston, who is academic director of the Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, B.C., reflects that he didn’t think of “bee time” until he quit keeping bees. But during an interview, he realized initiating conversation required the same attentiveness as entering an apiary. “Both stimulate a state of deep listening, engage all the senses: hearing without judging.”

He realized he’d learned many lessons from bees. Since he spent almost 30 years producing honey, he appraises honeybees’ social interactions (wild bees don’t work together in a hive), as sophisticated, in their own ways, as human behavior and uncommon among animals. He later describes a hive’s decision making and finds parallels with town meetings. In both cases, input from many benefits the whole.

As a grad student, he chose the University of Kansas because it had a history of sending students to the tropics. His chapter on killer bees outlines a 1976 study with a team in French Guiana. In another case of humans’ best intentions going haywire, African bees were imported to Brazil to breed with Old World honeybees that fared poorly in that climate. Some queens escaped, of course, and the rest is horror-story history. We learned neither to quit meddling with nature nor how to control the killers’ spread. The lesson? Adapt.

Any book on bees would be incomplete without mention of colony-collapse disorder (CCD), in which workers simply disappear. Apparently, there’s no one cause. Instead, chemicals, pesticides and fungicides, artificial feed, antibiotics, diseases and even vast monocultures of modern “industrial farming” combine to amplify small effects that, taken singly, might not cause such dire results. CCD is “particularly relevant to human health,” Winston writes, because bees can be viewed as a canary in a coal mine: We must begin to heed their warning and clean up our “toxic house.”

Studies show that organic crops host the highest numbers of wild bees, which are often better pollinators than honeybees and increase crop yields. Boosting wild bees’ numbers can help remedy the critical shortage of honeybees. Too, fewer chemicals, more crop diversity, unmanaged habitats (weeds), native plants, and leaving about 30 percent of land uncultivated are beneficial. But, Winston writes, getting agribusiness to embrace more bee-friendly practices and wean itself from “engineered megafarms” will be difficult.

The popularity of urban gardening and bee keeping might prove inspirational and educational. With roof gardens, organic crops and a wealth of diverse plants unlike the “floral desert” of monocultures that nourish bees only a couple of weeks annually, city dwellers have demonstrated that recommendations outlined above are effective.

Lessons from bee time are fascinating. Winston discusses how bees work serially. The lesson? Stop multitasking. Slow down. Appreciate small things. Be flexible and cooperative, responsible and caring. Live in the moment, “enriched by relationships with others and a profound connection with the environment around us.”



The National Honey Board announces the re-launch of The Sweet Truth Behind Honey

The real food movement isn’t going anywhere as 57 percent of people have reported searching for foods made with simple, real ingredients. Honey—a natural sweetener often used for tea, baking and on toast—is pure and simply harvested from honeycombs with no added ingredients or preservatives. With more than 300 varietals of honey in the United States and a multitude of culinary uses, honey is becoming an even more popular ingredient for those seeking a more natural approach to their foods. However, the story from honey bee to table is sometimes misunderstood so misperceptions on authenticity, sourcing and bottling exist. The National Honey Board (NHB), a federal research and promotion board with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversight, has compiled The Sweet Truth Behind Honey educational platform to provide reliable resources and sustain consumer confidence in this versatile everyday pantry staple.

The NHB conducted an Attitude and Usage (A&U) study and learned first-hand that a majority of current users, past purchasers and non-purchasers report it is important for honey to be pure. Honey is just that, made by honey bees from the nectar of flowers and plants, not from pollen. This is just one of several myths that need clarification, according to the NHB.

“Honey is produced by honey bees from the nectar in flowers. Some plants have flowers with nectar, some that just have pollen, and some have both,” says 40-year veteran beekeeper Gene Brandi. “Nectar is a sugar-water solution that is found at the base of nectar-producing flowers. The bees collect the nectar and bring it back to the colony, store it and dehydrate it, and eventually turn it into honey.”

Consumer confusion doesn’t stop once honey reaches the honeycomb. The bright color of typical honey in the supermarket is a result of filtering, which improves clarity. Research supports that filtering honey doesn’t impact the nutrient content or antioxidant activity. Honey is made by honey bees from nectar of flowers and plants, not pollen. Pollen grains are seen as an accidental guest in honey, brought back as a food source for the baby bees. While filtering honey, the air bubbles, fine particles, other material in suspension and pollen grains are removed. Honey without pollen is still honey, nutritionally and in flavor.

“U.S. honey packers are filtering out the impurities and the particles because that is what causes honey to crystallize. One of the things that we’re doing through the filtering step is extending the shelf life of honey, which is also a quality of honey that is important to consumers,” cites beekeeper and honey packer Brent Barkman, Chairman of the NHB. “From research we know that consumers like a clear, golden product that’s also free of particles and won’t crystallize in the pantry. We're always looking for the highest quality product that we can provide to the consumer.”

While more than 83 percent of consumers are aware of the wide range of more than 300 honey varietals in the United States, most respondents actually buy honey for use in baking, tea or on toast. “In terms of functionality and how to use honey in recipes the list is very long,” notes Marie Simmons, award-winning cookbook author and spokesperson for the NHB. “Honey is a natural flavor booster that works well in both sweet and savory dishes. It adds distinctive flavor notes, rich golden colors, balances the taste and holds and attracts moisture, especially important in baked goods. Additionally, honey is naturally antimicrobial, and therefore helps to prevent foods from spoiling.”

Honey is a natural product that contains just one ingredient: honey. The versatility of honey makes it easily accessible for consumers to use in their daily routines. Honey is a whole food, and as a carbohydrate, is considered a natural energy booster. Honey also has other uses outside of the culinary realm. With humectant properties, honey draws and retains moisture to help hydrate the skin. It is also recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization as a natural cough suppressant in children after their first birthday.

The National Honey Board is an industry-funded agriculture promotion group that works to educate consumers about the benefits and uses for honey and honey products through research, marketing and promotional programs. For more information and recipes, please visit


EPA and USDA to Hold Public Listening Sessions on Pollinator Strategy/Sessions to be held November 12 and 17 in the D.C. metro area

Release Date: 11/05/2014
Contact Information: Cathy Milbourn 202-564-7849 202-564- 4355

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will host two public listening sessions to solicit stakeholder input to assist the Pollinator Health Task Force in development of a federal strategy to protect honey bees and other pollinators. The Task Force is asking for input on the types of activities that could be part of the strategy, including public private partnerships, research, educational opportunities, pollinator habitat improvements and pesticide risk mitigation.

On June 20, 2014, President Obama issued a directive to federal agencies to create a federal strategy to promote honey bee and other pollinator health. The President’s directive created a Pollinator Health Task Force, co-chaired by EPA and USDA, and charged federal agencies with expanding efforts to take new steps to reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels.

Feedback from the listening sessions will play an important role in the Task Force’s efforts to develop a federal strategy.

Listening Session Information:

Wednesday, November 12, 2014:
Time: 1:00 pm to 3:00pm (EST)
Location: 1st Floor Conference Center, 2777 South Crystal Drive, Arlington, Va.

Monday, November 17, 2014:
Time: 1:00pm to 3:00pm (EST)
Location: 4700 River Road, Riverdale, Md.

For those not able to attend the sessions, there is a webinar available. Additional information is available online:

The listening sessions are being held in federal facilities, therefore, attendees must have valid identification to attend.

For those who cannot attend in person or by webinar, written comments must be submitted by November 24, 2014 online at: . Search by using the EPA docket number: EPA-HQ-OPP-2014-0806.


Bees, bans and bungling: How an anti-pesticide campaign may spell serious trouble

Claire Brownell | November 7, 2014 | Last Updated: Nov 7 7:27 PM ET

At the end of a long day in the field, Ontario beekeeper Hugh Simpson is on his way to a meeting, where he’s looking forward to a packed agenda talking shop. Bee talk. Honey discourse.

And absolutely not about banning pesticides.

In March, Mr. Simpson was involved in forming the Independent Commercial Beekeepers. So far, the group has attracted about 20 members, based out of Ontario’s Grey-Bruce region, who meet every so often to talk about the business of beekeeping — how much honey their hives are producing, the prices they’re getting on the market and equipment they’re eyeing.

And definitely not about banning pesticides.

Mr. Simpson has had enough of that. The debate over bees and crop pesticides, specifically neonicotinoids, has been everywhere. Beekeepers — certain beekeepers — have been all over the media beefing about massive bee die-offs, blaming neonic pesticides, and demanding bans.

Mr. Simpson was on the board of the Ontario Beekeepers Association for a couple of years. He resigned because he disagreed with the group’s fixation with getting Ottawa to ban or severely restrict the use of neonicotinoids.

“The agenda has really become overwhelmed by banning neonicotinoids, neonicotinoid advocacy, lawsuits. That stuff is a distraction,” Mr. Simpson said. He and likeminded beekeepers “just have no tolerance for highly politicized, mostly focused on anti-agriculture, anti-crop protection, anti-science conversation.”

He and many other beekeepers are more worried that the anti-neonic beekeepers and the environmentalist groups eagerly lining up behind yet another campaign targeting pesticide makers, could be pushing the government down a dangerous path. Especially since just a few changes to the way neonics have been applied in recent years are already showing a rapid rebound in bee populations. Banning the chemicals now could do far more harm to agriculture in Canada than any trouble neonics may be causing.

Last year, the European Union banned neonics and Health Canada is considering doing the same, with the Ontario government pledging to severely restrict their use by next summer. The Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists consider the “long term acceptable level” of winter bee deaths to be 15% of the population; it has been over 25% in six of the last eight winters, and as low as 15% just once.

The CBC, Global News, the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail have all predictably gravitated to the panicky eco-message (“Honeybees in crisis: dying by the tens of millions. But it may be the human factor – our trust in science – that’s killing the species,” reads the description for an online video of the Global investigation). Bees, after all, are critical to Canadian agriculture, since they pollinate so many crops. Farmers often invite beekeepers to locate hives on their land. Honeybee pollination (as opposed to wind) have been said to increase crop yields by double or triple.

But while mistrust of new technologies and agri-business is a typical reflex in westernized cultures (see: genetically modified foods), logically, pesticide manufacturers and farmers have nothing to gain and much to lose from killing bees. Pollinating insects contribute an estimated $2.3-billion to the agricultural economy every year, according to the Canadian Honey Council.

No one is arguing neonics are exactly a health food for bees. They’re pesticides. Bees are insects. The science is clear: neonics kill bees when administered in sufficient doses.

The science is less clear, however, on whether bees are exposed to anything like those doses in the field when farmers use neonics according to guidelines and recommendations.

And if neonics are banned, farmers will return to using spray and granular pesticides, which they say are less effective at protecting crops in the growth stage and even more harmful to human, bee and environmental health.

This is why the issue has become so divisive among Canadian beekeepers. The Ontario association has taken a confrontational approach, advocating for a near-total ban on neonics and slapping pesticide manufacturers Bayer AG and Syngenta AG with a lawsuit, currently awaiting certification as a class action.

Meanwhile, the national and Alberta beekeeping associations seem to want nothing to do with the Ontario Beekeepers’ position and tactics. Alberta’s bees, after all, are doing just fine, despite foraging for pollen among 20-million acres of canola crops treated with the same neonic pesticides as the ones used in Ontario for the last 10 years.

Additionally, while Ontario is home to almost half of Canada’s beekeepers, they are smaller producers: only responsible for about 15% of the country’s bees. Rod Scarlett, executive director of the national beekeeping organization the Canadian Honey Council, said most of Ontario’s beekeeping operations are run by keepers with a lot less to lose in antagonizing relationships with farmers and pesticide makers.

Mr. Scarlett said he does believe the levels of bee mortalities seen in Canada and around the world are cause for concern, especially the recent spikes in Ontario bee deaths. However, bee health is extremely complex. Occasional unexplained spikes in mortality are actually quite normal. And there simply is no neat and tidy correlation between neonic use and bee deaths — as the relatively healthy Alberta numbers show.

“Yes, Ontario beekeepers are being affected and yes we need to address that,” Mr. Scarlett said. But that doesn’t mean rushing to ban an otherwise extremely useful pesticide. “It’s still the belief of the Honey Council that we work with everybody involved.”


In the spring of 2012, Tibor Szabo, a Guelph-area beekeeper and incoming president of the Ontario Beekeepers Association, was looking in on his bees. He discovered a gruesome scene.

Dead bees were everywhere, spilling out of a hive he thought was a strong colony. He had seen similar carnage when a hive ran out of food and starved, but this time the feeder was full.

“If you could imagine a bee hive was like a living thing, it was like it threw up a whole bunch of dead bees out front. It was weird,” he said. “The remaining bees that were alive were trying to throw dead bees out.”

Mr. Szabo was one of 42 Ontario and Quebec beekeepers who reported similar incidents at 242 bee yards that spring, prompting an investigation by Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) and the Ontario government. The following spring, about twice as many beekeepers in three provinces reported mortalities involving 322 bee yards.

The investigation found residues from neonic pesticides in 80% of the bee yards tested. Most of the affected bee yards were near cornfields, leading the PMRA to conclude that exposure to contaminated dust during planting “contributed to the majority of the bee mortalities.”

In response, Health Canada is currently reassessing its approval of neonic pesticides, which came on the market in Canada in 2004. Ontario Minister of Agriculture Jeff Leal has also pledged to restrict the use of neonic-treated seeds by next summer, only allowing farmers to use them if they can show the pesticides are necessary to address localized pest problems.

Planting corn seeds pre-treated with neonics generates a particularly large amount of pesticide-laced dust — far more than with other crops — which is one theory why bees foraging in Ontario’s cornfields were dying in large numbers, while bees in Alberta’s canola fields were not. The PMRA implemented guidelines for farmers for the 2014 planting season meant to reduce dust exposure. They appear to have been successful.

PMRA representative Scott Kirby told a senate committee in early October there was good news for Ontario bees last spring and summer, with the number of reported incidents dropping 70%. “We are not comfortable saying that our measures are causing that 70 per cent decline, but we’re hopeful that they at least contributed to it,” he said.

That isn’t good enough for the Ontario beekeepers and environmental groups. Neonics aren’t like other pesticides: since they’re applied to the seed, they’re absorbed throughout the plant, distributed into every cell as it grows, and poison the neurological systems of insects that attempt to feed on them.

The concept of infusing pesticides into the crops we eat at the point of germination is easily perceived as creepy (the poison is coming from inside the plant and it’s messing with bees’ brains!). It’s the antithesis of the current consumer obsession with whole, organic, natural foods. As a rallying issue for environmentalists, it plays directly into our fears about messing with nature’s chemistry, and works wonders: During a public consultation on its reassessment of neonic pesticides, Health Canada found 89% of respondents supported “taking further action” to protect bees, including a ban.

In June, a task force of 50 scientists associated with the International Union for Conservation of Nature published an overview of the conclusions of 800 peer-reviewed articles on the effects of neonic pesticides. The scientists recommended governments introduce regulations to substantially reduce their use, finding the pesticides leach into water, disrupt the food chain and harm bees in concentrations comparable with those found in the field.

The report also noted a long list of things we still don’t know about neonics. Those include what happens to them as they accumulate in the environment over time and how much of the pesticides are being applied in locations around the world.

Mr. Szabo said he thinks it’s only a matter of time before repeated exposure from planting neonic-treated seeds year after year starts to kill Alberta’s bees too. Making rules about dust exposure when planting crops is just fiddling at the edges of the problem, he said.

“To monkey around with the instance of application and think it’s going to do something, it’s a joke. It’s so stupid I don’t even know how anyone could take that seriously.”


Farmers who use neonic pesticides, however, don’t see a cautionary tale about meddling with nature; they see a marvel of technology.

Crop yields in Canada have increased significantly since neonics came on the market 10 years ago; the Conference Board of Canada estimates banning them would cost Ontario corn and soybean farmers $630-million per year. There’s debate over how much of the yield increase is directly attributable to the pesticides, but the industry says they are particularly effective at fending off pests that attack the plant in the critical early growth stage.

Dave Baute, a Tilbury, Ont.-area farmer and president of the Canadian Seed Trade Association, said the idea that he’s some sort of greedy corporate bee-hater intent on destroying the environment really gets under his skin. His livelihood depends on pollinators like bees, and the health of his local environment.

Mr. Baute said banning neonics would be “an attack on modern technology.” It would mean reverting to older spray and granular pesticides, which he said are more harmful to the environment and the farmers who work with them.

Part of the problem, Mr. Baute said, is that farmers and pesticide companies have a more nuanced message to deliver. Farming, by definition, means disturbing the life cycle of other things — and while the environmentalists may be right that bees and the environment would be better off if we just eliminated all pesticides entirely and went entirely organic, humans may not like the consequences: drastically reduced food production, economic losses and steeper food prices.

“It’s stepping way back in the wrong direction. It’s going backwards,” he said. “But how do you convey that without looking like we’re turning our backs on Mother Nature and the humble bee?”


Pollen diet helps honey bees fend off pesticides

Penn State, University of Florida rightOriginal Study

Posted by Sara LaJeunesse-Penn State on November 6, 2014

Scientists say bees fed a natural pollen-based diet are more resistant to pesticides compared to bees on artificial diets.

“Honey bees are exposed to hundreds of pesticides, while they are foraging on flowers and also when beekeepers apply chemicals to control bee pests,” says Christina Grozinger, professor of entomology and director of the Center for Pollinator Research at Penn State.

Grozinger and colleagues fed one of two miticides—coumaphos or fluvalinate, the two most abundant and frequently detected pesticides in the hive—to bees for a period of seven days. On the seventh day, the researchers extracted RNA from the bees, attached a fluorescent marker to the RNA, and examined differences in gene expression patterns—indicated by changes in patterns of fluorescence—between the pesticide-treated bees and the control bees.

“We found significant changes in 1,118 transcripts—or pieces of RNA—among the bees that were fed either of the two miticides compared to the control group,” says Daniel Schmehl, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Florida. “These transcripts included genes involved in detoxification, immunity, and nutrition.”

Artificial vs. natural food

Based upon the results, the team performed several subsequent analyses aimed at understanding the impact of pesticides on honey bee physiology. One of these subsequent analyses examined the susceptibility of bees to pesticide stress after consuming a pollen diet or an artificial diet—either a soy protein or no protein diet.

The team fed the bees these diets while simultaneously feeding them a lethal dose of the pesticide chlorpyrifos, an insecticide that is frequently used to control pests in agricultural crops and commonly detected in honey bee hives. They then recorded bee mortality daily for each of the treatment groups for a period of 16 days.

The bees that were fed a pollen-based diet exhibited reduced sensitivity to chlorpyrifos compared to the bees that were fed an artificial diet.

“This is the first time such a strong link between pesticide exposure and diet has been demonstrated at the molecular level, and the first time the effects of artificial versus natural diets have been explored in terms of resistance to pesticides,” says Grozinger.

“Diet and nutrition can greatly impact the ability of bees to resist pesticides, and likely other stressors. However, agriculture and urbanization have reduced the amounts and diversity of flowering plants available to bees, which likely nutritionally stresses them and makes them more sensitive to these other stressors.

“If we can figure out which diets and which flowering plants are nutritionally optimal for honey bees, we can help bees help themselves.”

Other authors of the paper published in the Journal of Insect Physiology include Peter Teal of the US Department of Agriculture and James Frazier of Penn State.

The USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative funded this research.

Source: Penn State



Why bees make berries taste better

Without pollinators, many of our favourite crops wouldn’t exist. Now research shows our debt to these miracle workers doesn’t end there

By Ken Thompson

10:41AM GMT 07 Nov 2014

More than three quarters of the world’s crop species are dependent to some extent on pollination by animals, overwhelmingly bees. The Government recognised their importance this week by announcing a 10-year National Pollinator strategy.

If there were no bees, you wouldn’t starve, because the crops that provide most of our calories don’t depend on bees. But life without bees would be awfully dull; you would basically be left with bread, potatoes, rice and pasta. It would also be very unhealthy; almost all our vitamins and other essential nutrients come from bee-pollinated plants.

So without bees about a third of global crop production – and by far the tastiest third – just wouldn’t be there. But new research shows that many crops don’t just depend on bees for sheer tonnage but are also better with bees around.

Take the example of strawberries, a perennially popular crop. In a report in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, German researchers grew nine strawberry cultivars, including favourites such as 'Elsanta’ and 'Honeoye’. Nearby beehives and artificial nests made sure there were plenty of bees about. Some of the strawberries were covered with a fine mesh, fine enough to exclude even pollen, so these could only be self-pollinated. Others were covered with a mesh that excluded insects, allowing the possibility of wind pollination, while others were uncovered.

Fruits were harvested and sorted into commercial grades following the official trade guidelines; strawberry value depends a lot on appearance, and fruits that are small, or have aberrations in shape or colour, are worth less. They also measured fruit firmness; firmer strawberries keep better so are worth more. Finally, they also measured sugar and acid content.

You will not be surprised to hear that on the basis of anything and everything that can be measured, bee-pollinated strawberries were better. They were bigger, brighter coloured, had fewer misshapen fruits, were firmer, kept better and had the best sugar-acid ratio. Self-pollinated strawberries were worst; in other words, wind pollination helped only a bit. The researchers estimate that bees contribute half of the value of the European strawberry crop on quality grounds alone, quite apart from any effect on yield.

The reasons for the differences in quality became obvious when the researchers counted the number of fertilised seeds per berry. Fertilised seeds produce hormones that help the fruit to grow and improve its quality, and bee-pollinated plants had far more fertilised seeds. Seeds that don’t get fertilised fail to make these hormones, resulting in poor-quality, malformed fruit.

Given that commercial beehives were kept near the field where the strawberries were grown, the researchers were surprised to discover that two thirds of visits to strawberry flowers were made by wild bees, especially solitary Osmia bicornis, the red mason bee. As many researchers have discovered, there is a limit to what can be achieved with honey bees alone – if you want pollination done properly, there is no substitute for a healthy population of wild bees.

Home gardeners often pay little attention to the keeping qualities of the fruit and veg they grow; fruit, in particular, sometimes doesn’t even make it back to the kitchen, so how long it keeps isn’t really important. But this research adds to a growing body of work showing that effective pollination improves the quality of everything from blueberries to cucumbers and tomatoes.

Given that in the so-called “developed” world, up to a half of fruit and vegetables are lost soon after harvest because of damage and deterioration during handling, transport and storage, or wasted later on by retailers and consumers, anything that improves keeping quality has to be a good thing. One more reason – as if one were needed – to look after our wild bees.

Ken Thompson is a plant biologist with a keen interest in the science of gardening. He writes and lectures extensively, and has written five gardening books, including Compost and No Nettles Required. His most recent book is Where do Camels Belong? The Story and Science of Invasive Species


Message From Our President 

We have posted the Bee Informed Partnership 2012-2013 bee loss survey report. My hat is off to the B.I.P. team as they have listened to the beekeeping industry to include summer losses as well as winter losses. This report is valuable industry documentation that the AHPA can use as we communicate our message to the many stakeholders we meet with over the course of a year. You can appreciate its value as we are not just pulling numbers out of the air.

I am getting many reports of horrendous summer and fall losses already. The causes are anything from varroa, nosema, starvation, pesticides and unsuccessful queen supersedure.

I urge you as the survey from B.I.P is sent out please take the time to respond as accurately as possible in order for them to provide us with a good report.




Release No. 0241.14

Contact: Justin Fritscher 202-720-5776

USDA to Provide $4 million For Honey Bee Habitat 

Announcement Builds on Previous Investment in Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin

WASHINGTON, Oct.29, 2014 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that more than $4 million in technical and financial assistance will be provided to help farmers and ranchers in the Midwest improve the health of honey bees, which play an important role in crop production.

"The future of America's food supply depends on honey bees, and this effort is one way USDA is helping improve the health of honey bee populations," Vilsack said. "Significant progress has been made in understanding the factors that are associated with Colony Collapse Disorder and the overall health of honey bees, and this funding will allow us to work with farmers and ranchers to apply that knowledge over a broader area."

An estimated $15 billion worth of crops is pollinated by honey bees, including more than 130 fruits and vegetables. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is focusing the effort on five Midwestern states: Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. This announcement renews and expands a successful $3 million pilot investment that was announced earlier this year and continues to have high levels of interest. This effort also contributes to the June 2014 Presidential Memorandum – Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, which directs USDA to expand the acreage and forage value in its conservation programs.

Funding will be provided to producers through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Applications are due Friday, November 21.

From June to September, the Midwest is home to more than 65 percent of the commercially managed honey bees in the country. It is a critical time when bees require abundant and diverse forage across broad landscapes to build up hive strength for the winter.

The assistance announced today will provide guidance and support to farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices that will provide safe and diverse food sources for honey bees. For example, appropriate cover crops or rangeland and pasture management may provide a benefit to producers by reducing erosion, increasing the health of their soil, inhibiting invasive species, and providing quality forage and habitat for honey bees and other pollinators.

This year, several NRCS state offices are setting aside additional funds for similar efforts, including California – where more than half of all managed honey bees in the U.S. help pollinate almond groves and other agricultural lands – as well as Ohio and Florida.

The 2014 Farm Bill kept pollinators as a high priority, and these conservation efforts are one way USDA is working to help improve pollinator habitat.

USDA is actively pursuing solutions to the multiple problems affecting honey bee health. The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) maintains four laboratories across the country conducting research into all aspects of bee genetics, breeding, biology and physiology, with special focus on bee nutrition, control of pathogens and parasites, the effects of pesticide exposure and the interactions between each of these factors. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) supports bee research efforts in Land Grant Universities. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) conducts national honey bee pest and disease surveys and provides border inspections to prevent new invasive bee pests from entering the U.S. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) and NRCS work on improved forage and habitat for bees through programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and EQIP. The Forest Service is restoring, improving, and/or rehabilitating pollinator habitat on the national forests and grasslands and conducting research on pollinators. Additionally, the Economic Research Service (ERS) is currently examining the direct economic costs of the pollinator problem and the associated indirect economic impacts, and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) conducts limited surveys of honey production, number of colonies, price, and value of production which provide some data essential for research by the other agencies.

For more on technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit or a local USDA service center.


Abuzz about honeybee shortage, Madison establishes bee task force

The city of Madison is abuzz over a rapid population decline of honeybees — and has created a bee task force to stop it. 

The task force will consist of members from various city departments, including the Food Policy Council, the Parks Department, Engineering Department, Landscape and others, said Mark Woulf, the city food and alcohol coordinator and member of the bee task force.

The task force will work to understand the nature of the bee decline and will review the Madison’s practices related to pesticides, pollination and landscaping, Woulf said.

Wisconsin has seen a bee population decline of 33 percent each winter since 2005, Woulf said.

The development of the local task force follows a recent memorandum from the federal government about the bee population, according to their website. The federal government created the Pollinator Health Task Force in order to promote the health of honeybees and other pollinators.

Madison structured their task force similarly to that of the federal government, so the Madison task force could review local and regional practices first, using the government’s research in helping frame the issue, Woulf said.

“It is great the federal government is working on this, [as the problem] requires that level of intervention,” he said. ”But we thought it was important enough to look at our own practices, and not wait for the federal government, on certain things we can do better in our city.”

The recommendations for Madison’s bee task force are due by August 2015.

A major cause of the decline in the bee population is colony collapse disorder, a disease that causes various honey beehives to disappear during the winter at unusual levels, Woulf said.

“The colony collapses, and it is unknown to what the cause is,” Woulf said. “Given that the rates are at such a high level, we are looking at how to research it.”

Pesticides and insecticides are harmful to bees, especially when used in higher concentrations, he said.

Johanne Brunet, a University of Wisconsin entomology professor, said there have been studies of potential viruses that could cause CCD, but the exact cause is unknown.

Pollinators are responsible for a huge portion of consumption, Woulf said. Nuts, berries, fruits and vegetables all depend on the pollination by honeybees and other pollinators to produce those products, he said.

“If you like to eat fruits and vegetables, you want to have bees around,” Brunet said. ”We need the bees and the work they do.”


Using microscopic bugs to save the bees

Date: October 27, 2014

Source: Brigham Young University

Summary: For decades, honeybees have been battling a deadly disease that kills off their babies -- larvae -- and leads to hive collapse. It's called American Foulbrood and its effects are so devastating and infectious, it often requires infected hives to be burned to the ground. Now researchers have produced a natural way to eliminate the scourge, and it's working: Using tiny killer bugs known as phages to protect baby bees from infection.

For decades, honeybees have been battling a deadly disease that kills off their babies (larvae) and leads to hive collapse. It's called American Foulbrood and its effects are so devastating and infectious, it often requires infected hives to be burned to the ground.

Treating Foulbrood is complicated because the disease can evolve to resist antibiotics and other chemical treatments. Losing entire hives not only disrupts the honey industry, but reduces the number of bees for pollinating plants.

Now an undergraduate student at BYU, funded by ORCA grants, has produced a natural way to eliminate the scourge, and it's working: Using tiny killer bugs known as phages to protect baby bees from infection.

"Phages are the most abundant life form on the planet and each phage has a unique bacteria that it will attack," said Sandra Burnett, BYU professor of microbiology and molecular biology. "This makes phage an ideal treatment for bacterial disease because it can target specific bacteria while leaving all other cells alone."

Although phages are plentiful in nature, finding the perfect phage for the job takes a lot of hunting. That's where student Bryan Merrill comes in.

Merrill has been researching ways to treat American Foulbrood since joining a "Phage Hunters" class his freshman year at BYU. Merrill loved the class, which introduced him to the process of phage identification, and so he approached Burnett with hopes of researching treatment for the disease under her tutelage.

"This bacteria has been a problem in honeybees for a long time," Merrill said. "It infects the larva when they're teeny tiny. Even a few spores will infect and they'll start eating the larva from the inside out. It doesn't hurt the adult bees, but all of the sudden the bees can't replenish the population and the hive just collapses."

When hives are infected, beekeepers generally treat their hives with antibiotics. However, this is usually only a temporary solution. If the bacteria returns, it will most likely develop to be resistant to the antibiotics. From there, bee owners have the option to burn the hive or try phage treatment.

"Phage is a great alternative to antibiotics, and it's a natural alternative because phages exist in nature on their own," Burnett said. "And just the nature of a phage itself is that it's self-replicating at the expense of the bacteria. It multiplies itself so there are more of them to hunt down the bacteria. Then as soon as the host is gone, the phage just disappears."

Once they identify the perfect phage, Burnett, Merrill and other students replicate it in the lab so it can be applied to the hive with a sugar-water solution. Like a virus, the phage get to work infecting the harmful bacteria until it is gone.

After a lot of gene sequencing and analyzing, Merrill has identified five phage candidates for honeybee treatment, cleverly named after former BYU basketball stars (Abouo, Davies, Emery, Jimmer1 & Jimmer2). His findings appear in a recent issue of high ranking biotechnology journal BMC Genomics.

Merrill has received two ORCA grants to fund his research over the years and has raised several successful beehives for himself.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Brigham Young University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Message From Our President

Recently Dr. David Epstein, USDA-ARS from the Office of Pest Management, hosted the USDA Honey Bee Forage and Nutrition Summit. He really did a good job of getting top level people to participate from all of the stakeholder groups, especially Federal Agencies including USDA, FSA, and NRCS.

This was a golden opportunity for the beekeeping industry to diplomatically, “Throw Down”! I see nothing, but positive results coming from this summit. If beekeepers were never heard before, I can assure you we did not leave a relevant stone unturned. In fact, at times it reminded me of two D-8 Caterpillars linked together ripping deep shanks through hard pan as when preparing a new field for planting almonds—such was our focus on presenting issues for our industry.

Christie Heintz did an excellent job of capturing the essence of the meeting, so enjoy her thoughts in the “Latest News”.



Beekeepers Speak Up at the Forage and Nutrition Summit

by Christi Heintz and Meg Ribotto, Project Apis m.

The Honey Bee Forage and Nutrition Summit, sponsored by USDA, was held October 20-21, in Alexandria, VA.  The Summit was postured to seek input from stakeholder groups on issues concerning the interaction of nutrition and available forage on honey bee health.  The Summit was organized and hosted by a true friend of the honey bee, Dr. David Epstein of USDA’s Office of Pest Management Policy.

Day 1 consisted of a series of presentations aimed at honey bee forage and nutrition, and to provide background for Day 2, when participants provided input by participating in one of four assigned work groups.

Zac Browning, American Beekeeping Federation and Project Apis m board member, provided a dire view of honey bee habitat in the US.  The impact of habitat loss is seen in decreased honey production, with US honey crops the lowest in history.  Browning emphasized bees require 200 lb of honey and 40 lb of pollen per colony per year just to survive and factors such as increased soy and corn acreage, the decreased quantity and quality of Conservation Reserve Programs (CRP) lands, increased herbicide use, more efficient farming practices, and limitations imposed by pesticide use, all serve to decrease available flowers and forage for honey bees.  Honey bees, the very backbone of agriculture, are in trouble.  The unique delivery system for bees to agricultural crops - the beekeeper - is also in trouble.

An impressive slate of researchers followed Browning’s presentation, emphasizing the important role of nutrition in honey bee health and in mitigating the impacts of pests, diseases and even pesticide exposure.  

Presentations by government representatives were somewhat disheartening.  The Department of Defense, manager of huge acreage in the US, was a no-show.  The National Park Service, understandably, wants to keep its lands pristine and would only consider “manipulated” or urban areas as suitable for bees.  Urban areas, of course, are not suitable for commercially managed bees.  The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Forest Service will consider apiary locations on a case-by-case basis, but 85% of BLM offices surveyed didn’t know whether or not they even provided apiary permits.  Let’s hope the President’s White House Initiatives hold some hope for bees on our public lands!

In discussions about honey bee forage, beekeepers made it clear they wanted to be at the table when it came to making decisions about plant species and land use.  Government decisions made at the regional level that have excluded yellow sweet clover were called to question.  “Sweet clover is cost effective, bees love it, and it’s good for them”, said Randy Verhoek, American Honey Producers.  “Why is it classified as invasive?” he continued, when questioning how these bottom-up, sometimes subjective, regional decisions are made.  Bret Adee, South Dakota beekeeper, stated that herbicide use on sweet clover growing in roadways and ditches eliminated a critical food source for bees since bees are so dependent now on marginal lands for the ir food. Dr. Marla Spivak summed it up on Day 2, “Bees are in crisis.  Beekeepers need sweet clover now”.   No doubt one of the next research avenues as a result of the Summit will be identifying high quality honey bee nectar and pollen sources that fit well within goals for a an overall healthier environment.   Unlike the report on the Varroa Summit that seems to have been lost somewhere in the halls of USDA, Dr. Epstein has personally promised timely reporting on the Forage and Nutrition Summit.

If bees and beekeepers are to survive, affordable seed mixtures and incentives for landowners, even those not needing pollination services directly, must be developed to increase honey bee forage opportunities.   Bees, beekeepers, their honey crop, and the over 90 crops dependent on honey bee pollination, cannot survive on a ditch diet alone.

Jeff Anderson

Beekeeper Jeff Anderson of California Minnesota Honey Farms has seen a decline in his bee population that threatens his continued operation.



Jeff is also American Honey Producer Association's 2014 Beekeeper of the Year

Check out his new video on YouTube:


Kallas Honey sweetens local business

By Molly Snyder
Senior Writer

In 1941, John P. Kallas started Kallas Honey Farm, a local business that will soon turn 75.

The company launched in the Kallas' Glendale home and later moved to a larger facility, also in Glendale. In 1999, Kallas Honey moved to its current facility at 5500 W. Douglas Ave.

Today, the company is run by John Kallas' grandsons, Perry and Peter Kallas.

"My grandfather was more of a beekeeper than a businessman," says Perry Kallas. "However, when my dad got out of the service, he needed a career and so they really developed the company at that time."

Kallas Honey is a small operation, with only five employees, including Perry and Peter. "We all wear a lot of hats," he says.

Originally, Kallas Honey made the honey with company-raised bees. At one time, Kallas had 1,200 bee colonies – a small number compared to the 50,000-70,000 colonies that most commercial beekeepers have today.

In 1972, John Kallas retired and the company discontinued beekeeping.

"Beekeeping is a lifestyle, you have to be committed to it," says Kallas.

These days, the life of a commercial beekeeper is similar to a migrant worker. Most move with the warm weather so the queens continue to lay eggs.

After Kallas quit the bees, it began to purchase honey from other beekeepers and bottle / package / supply it instead.

The majority of Kallas honey is sold to other businesses as an ingredient for sauces, mustards, pretzels, salad dressings, pizza crusts, hams, nuts, ice cream, beer and dairy, primarily yogurt.

"Pretty much every aisle in the grocery store has a product made with honey," says Kallas.

Kallas honey is available in many local grocery stores including some Pick 'N Saves, Sendik's, Grasch Foods, Outpost Natural Foods, Glorioso's Italian Food Market, Groppi's Food Market and others.

Kallas supplies honey to Colectivo Coffee Roasters, Miller Brewing Company, Minhas Distillery, Lakefront Brewery, Tyranena Brewing Company, Usinger's and many local restaurants.

"Peg (Magister) at Crazy Water insists on Kallas honey," says Kallas.

Kallas collaborates with other companies and makes a barbecue sauce, maple syrup, granola and mustard.

For Kallas, buying quality honey is the most important aspect of the business because in the end, the customer's opinion is all that's relevant.

"The quality of honey you get in January is going to be the same in June," he says. "When you squeeze that honey bear onto your biscuits or pancakes we want you to have a great experience every time."

All of Kallas' honey suppliers are in the United States and many are located in Wisconsin.

"We're spoiled here in Wisconsin," says Kallas. "Our soil conditions, plants and Great Lakes make us able to make some really nice, flavorful honey."

Because of the company's commitment to buying local honey, Kallas' prices tend to be higher than those of larger commercial brands.

"If folks are concerned about the quality and integrity of the honey and are looking for a good, reliable source and are able to spend a little more that's where we fit in really nicely," says Kallas. "We specialize in small orders. We've carved out our niche."

Kallas does not use any filtering agents or additives in its honey.

"It's what we don't do that makes us different from other companies," says Kallas. "Larger companies might pack the honey in October and it might not be in the grocery store until February, so it has to be processed a lot more heavily to ensure it's still in liquid state when it hits the shelves. Our honey is always fresh, so we don't have to worry about that."

Kallas' most popular honey is the white / clover honey – 99 percent of which is from Wisconsin. The company offers seven other honeys, including orange blossom, cranberry blossom, blueberry, sunflower, alfalfa, wildflower and buckwheat. Kallas also offers natural, raw honey.

A lot has been written about the homeopathic properties of honey, which has contributed to a boost in sales. Because honey has antimicrobial properties, many people – as well as physicians – have used it for relief from allergies, hay fever, athlete's foot, facial scrubs, salves and even on deep puncture wounds.

"I'm not going to suggest if you step on a rusty nail you should take your honey bear and squirt some in there, but there are folks doing that," says Kallas.

Kallas strives to educate people about honey to clear up misconceptions.

"Despite what some people say, honey is not bee poop," says Kallas. "Honey comes back up the same way it goes in. It's not digested by bees, rather it's stored in a separate stomach. But it's not bee poop. Bee poop is really quite gross."

For 75 years, the Kallas family has been in the honey business and, consequently, spent time around a lot of bee colonies. Surprisingly, not one member has a tragic sting story.

However, there is one bee-related family story that Kallas refers to as "peculiar."

After his grandfather retired in 1972, he spent many warm afternoons sitting on the porch of his Glendale home, drinking lemonade and watching the honeybees that chose to live in a corner of his home under the siding.

"Of all the places in the world for a swarm of honeybees to live, they picked the home of a retired beekeeper," says Kallas. "And there was no way anyone was going to mess with that swarm. It was grandpa's swarm. Next question."

Because the house had a southeast exposure and was dark in color, it offered the warmth under the siding needed for successful, year-round hive making. And so, bees lived there for many years, even after Kallas' grandfather passed away.

One day, while helping his grandmother with household chores, Kallas noticed a spot on the rug. He didn't think much of it. But then next time, he noticed the spot on the rug had grown larger. Finally, he realized honey was dripping from the ceiling.

His grandmother told him not to worry about it, and so he let it go until he received a call from his grandmother saying a portion of her ceiling had collapsed.

"A pizza-sized chunk of ceiling had crashed to the ground from the weight of the honey behind the walls," he says.

Kallas went on to clean massive honeycombs filled with honey that were behind the walls and ceiling. He repainted and sealed every inch and yet, to this day, bees still smell honey and buzz around the corner of the house.

"Grandpa's bees live on," he says.

The future of Kallas honey is uncertain. Both of the Kallas brothers have children, but they are still young and whether or not they will take over the family business is undetermined.

"To get a business from third to fourth generation is complicated," says Kallas. "But this is definitely more than a business for my family. It's our life. If you cut me, I bleed honey."


"Earth Focus" is an environmental news magazine that features investigative reports and in-depth stories about our changing environment and how it affects people around the world. It's funded by Wallace Genetic Foundation, Marisla Foundation, Park Foundation, Farvue Foundation, Shared Earth Foundation, Cornell Douglas Foundation, Rachel's Network, National Science Foundation, and individual donors.



Neonicotinoids: The New Ddt?

Wednesday October 22 at 8:30PM on KCET-HD

Friday October 24 at 8:30PM on KCET-HD

webstream on Earth Focus

You Tube


Honey Bee Health Coalition Letter to USDA & EPA

October 16, 2014

The Honorable Thomas Vilsack Secretary
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20250

The Honorable Regina McCarthy Administrator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of the Administrator – 1101A
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460

Dear Mr. Secretary and Madam Administrator,
As leaders charged by the President to coordinate federal efforts to research, prevent, and recover from pollinator losses, you know that a lot rides on the health of the honey bee. You are in a unique position to help safeguard global food production, North American agriculture, and healthy ecosystems across the world, which is why we want to work with you to improve honey bee health.

The Honey Bee Health Coalition is one of the largest and most diverse groups of stakeholders representing more than 30 organizations working across food, agriculture, government, and conservation to reverse recent declines in honey bee health and promote their long-term health and the health of other pollinators. By coordinating together on key priorities we can include a broader set of stakeholders and achieve our mutual goals faster, with greater impact, and do so more cost effectively.

To that end, the Coalition issued the attached Bee Healthy Roadmap outlining steps for working together to improve honey bee health that will accomplish more than any one group can achieve on its own. The Coalition is committed to developing explicit goals, milestones and metrics to measure improvements in honey bee health. We’re working to achieve Healthy Honey Bees, Healthy People, and a Healthy Planet and we set ourselves four priority areas that need collective, science-based action:

• Put the best available tools, techniques, and technologies in the hands of beekeepers so they can better manage their hives. As noted in the Presidential Memorandum creating a federal strategy to promote the health of honey bees and other pollinators, we need ‘…expanded collection and sharing of data related to pollinator losses [and] technologies for continuous monitoring of honey bee hive health… and new cost-effective ways to control bee pests and diseases.’ Therefore, the Coalition aims to support on-the ground efforts underway to provide beekeepers with monitoring and expert advice and analyses to best manage hive health, as well as to promote development of new products and use of best practices for varroa mite control.

• Ensure honey bees – especially those in and around production agriculture – have access to a varied and nutritious diet. Our work aligns with the Pollinator Health Task Force focus on pollinator-friendly seed mixes and habitats. The Coalition is working on how to prioritize where forage is needed, what plants are needed, and at what times – and on public-private strategies to meet nutritional needs.

• Control crop pests while safeguarding pollinator health. The Coalition is promoting best practices to safeguard honey bee health and exploring opportunities to promote and improve reporting of honey bee health incidents related to crop pest control. These activities align with the Task Force’s work toward ‘identification of existing and new methods and best practices to reduce pollinator exposure to pesticides.’

• Work together to improve honey bee health. In alignment with the Task Force’s emphasis on public-private partnerships, the Coalition is promoting public-private collaboration across diverse stakeholders, including State and and local governments, farmers, corporations, and nongovernmental organizations.

Together we can collaboratively implement solutions among food, agriculture, government, and conservation partners. Together we can achieve a healthy population of honey bees as well as healthy populations of native and managed pollinators. Together we can ensure
healthy, sustainable agriculture and healthy ecosystems, and healthy ecosystem services for years to come.

Knowing that the Coalition can’t improve honey bee health on its own, we want to provide you with this Roadmap to share the priorities we’ve identified and ask for your input and feedback so that we can effectively work with you, as appropriate, to achieve our mutual goals. We would like to schedule some time for members of the Coalition to meet with you to review this Roadmap in the coming weeks. Would the first or second week of November be a convenient time? If not, please suggest a time that would. I can be reached at (970) 513-5830 or to coordinate on scheduling or to provide further information.

Download pdf:

The Honey Bee Health Coalition Steering Committee
Julie Shapiro
Facilitator, Honey Bee Health Coalition




EPA: Pesticides Linked to Bee Deaths Don’t Protect Soybean Crops

Researchers find seeds treated with neonicotinoids are useless at fighting pests.

October 17, 2014 By Todd Woody

American farmers plant soybean seeds coated in pesticides linked to the mass die-off of honeybees on about a third of the 77 million acres that grow the crop in the United States. Now a new study from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined just how effective seeds treated with the pesticides, called neonicotinoids, are at controlling pests like the soybean aphid.

Not at all.

“U.S. soybean growers derive limited to no benefit from neonicotinoid seed treatments in most instances,” the authors of the study concluded after analyzing crop and pesticide data. “With regard to specific pest efficacy, there was almost universal agreement that neonicotinoid seed treatments are not typically effective against soybean aphids.”

Studies have implicated neonicotinoids, also called neonics, in the mass die-off of bees that pollinate a third of the global food supply. Those crops are worth $30 billion in the U.S. alone. Many scientists believe the pesticide is one of several interrelated factors—including disease, parasites, and poor nutrition—responsible for the apian catastrophe that has unfolded over the past decade.

“I think it’s the first step in reducing unnecessary use of these products,” Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an expert in honeybee health at the University of Maryland, said of the EPA study, released Thursday.

“It’s really good that we only use products when we need them,” added vanEngelsdorp, the author of studies that have found that pesticides, fungicides, and other agricultural chemicals lower bees’ resistance to disease.

Neonics are now the most used pesticides in the world, but before 2004 they were rarely sprayed on soybeans. That was the year the EPA approved neonics for soybean seeds. Annual insecticide use on soybeans subsequently soared from an average of 430,000 pounds a year to nearly 4 million pounds by 2008, according to the EPA study.

Farmers appear to be using the neonic-treated seeds indiscriminately. The researchers noted that 65 percent of growers do not target any particular soybean pest. And the scientists found that neonic-treated seeds are useless at controlling the most problematic bug, the aphid, because the insect does not appear in soybean fields during the three to four weeks when the pesticide is most effective.

EPA spokesperson Christie St. Clair said the research will help the agency determine whether to impose new restrictions on the use of neonics as part of an reassessment of the pesticides.

The study would appear to be good news for the bees. But vanEngelsdorp said it’s unclear what the consequences of banning neonic-treated seeds would be for honeybees. “We don’t have evidence that the seed treatment is having large impacts on honeybee health,” he said. “It could be affecting other pollinators, such as bumblebees.”

VanEngelsdrop said the bigger threat to bees is when neonics are sprayed on crops in a field and the wind blows the pesticide onto bee colonies.

“One of the problems is when you spray for aphids, those sprays can be toxic to bees,” he said. “You’ll see acute mortality and you’ll see dead bees in front of the colonies. Farmers have to be careful.”

If farmers now know that neonic-treated seeds are useless at controlling pests, will they spray more pesticides in the field? Not necessarily. The researchers found that most farmers already use neonic sprays.

Some environmental groups said the EPA study should prompt the agency to ban neonics.

“By confirming that they offer no benefit to U.S. soybean production, the Environmental Protection Agency has no course of action except to suspend all agricultural uses—including seed treatments—to protect pollinators and the planet,” Tiffany Finck-Haynes, a campaigner with Friends of the Earth, said in a statement.

St. Clair said the soybean seed study is the first of several the EPA will conduct on neonics and other crops as part of its review.

“We will be considering both risks and benefits for each of the neonicotinoids,” she said in an email. “Benefits assessments for corn and cotton will be part of the final analysis for registration review.”

Letter From Our President

I just came from the North Dakota Beekeepers Association annual fall meeting. The meeting was fairly attended and I was able to visit with many fine beekeepers. What became obvious to me is that as a small industry with a big footprint, we beekeepers are still very fragmented in our ideas of which fundamental values best serve our industry as a whole. It is like trying to listen to a weak radio station that has static and two other stations bleeding through. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of state beekeeper associations. They have significant influence on the decisions made on the local and state level. Two of the most important areas are pollinator protection programs as well as nutrition and forage rulings concerning the plantings of species that are beneficial to managed honeybees. It is also at these local levels where decisions are made on noxious weed spraying and/or what has become a summer job program in many counties: blanket spraying all of the roadsides with herbicides which, unfortunately for beekeepers, eliminates many beneficial legumes such as sweet clover.

It is my humble opinion that there is much to be gained as state and county beekeeping associations work in harmony with the two national organizations and with their two collaborative working groups: the National Honeybee Advisory Board and the Pollinator Stewardship Council.

Let’s work together to maintain a strong industry.




Here's hope for the bees: A manifesto

By Richard Crespin

Created 2014-09-23 14:16

We need bees. As a beekeeper, an entomologist, a conservationist, an agribusiness scientist and a consultant, we humbly acknowledge that our jobs depend on them. As do much of your diet and our economy.

Bees are big business. The real economic value of bees comes from more than honey: it comes from pollination.

By some estimates, one-third of global food production relies on pollinators. Honey bees and other insects pollinate 80 percent of flowering plants — including almonds, apples, broccoli, strawberries and alfalfa for beef and dairy cattle.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, honey bees support $18 billion of America’s annual agriculture production. In economic terms, bees provide more value than chicken and come in below only cattle and pigs. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack got it right: “The future of America’s food supply depends on healthy honey bees.”

The news is filled with stories about declining bee health — even the potential collapse of bee populations altogether. The impact goes way beyond the beehive. Whole supply chains are at risk: big sections of the grocery store, entire menu categories at restaurants and significant numbers of consumer goods either go away or become a lot harder to produce.

For that reason, many of my peers and I have come together to form a new Honey Bee Health Coalition. Comprehensive solutions are out there, and we are dedicated to accelerating them. But we need your help.

The Beekeeper: Randy Verhoek of the American Honey Producers Association

"I can tell you that running honey bees has gotten a lot harder. I’ve worked with bees most of my life, and I’ve seen their decline firsthand. The tough part, though, is it’s not just one thing, it’s a bunch of things making bees sick. And it will take a bunch of us — beekeepers, growers, crop producers, ag companies, food companies, government agencies, conservationists, scientists, academics, and more — to make things better. To make sure that happens, as president of the American Honey Producers Association, I helped launch the HBHC in June during National Pollinator Week."

The Entomologist: Dennis van Engelsdorp of the University of Maryland

"When we first investigated reports of extreme colony losses in the winter of 2006-2007, I and other entomologists thought determining the cause would be simple: a new virus, a pesticide or some other single issue. That was naïve. Honey bees and other pollinators face complex problems. Evidence suggests that disease and parasite management, farm practices, government policies, pesticide registration and use, landscape and climate all contribute to colony losses. A multi-causal problem requires a multi-pronged solution. And that’s why I, and many others, have high hopes for the HBHC. Bringing a wide and diverse group of players to the table, the coalition has increased the odds of finding common ground to implement and achieve the multilevel changes we need to positively affect beekeepers, pollinators and society in general."

The Agribusiness Scientist: Keri Carstens of DuPont Pioneer

"At DuPont Pioneer, we recognize the importance of both pest-control options and pollinators to the agricultural industry. These are not mutually exclusive. Pollinator health is a complex and interconnected issue; we value the collaborative and holistic approach the HBHC is taking. We chose to join because we feel this group is best positioned to make an impact through its focus on all aspects of this issue. The coalition will play a vital role in helping identify the best practices that will benefit everyone."

The Conservationist: Christi Heintz of Project Apis m.

"As the go-to organization at the intersection of honey bees and pollinated crops, PAm works to enhance the health and vitality of honey bees while improving crop production. The HBHC will allow PAm to accomplish even more than we can accomplish alone. The HBHC can and will go above and beyond what individual members can do on their own. The HBHC gives us access to partners it would take years to cultivate without it. In just six months, our working groups have already developed initiatives, collaborations and actions that will create measurable improvements in honey-bee health."

The Collaboration Consultant: Richard J. Crespin of CollaborateUp

"The coalition’s launch culminates months of work. We all came together last year with more than 100 other people who have the most at stake in honey-bee health. We came from across the food chain, representing every step from seed to mouth. We agreed on a single, if complicated, goal: restore bee health and protect the future of honey bees and the food supply, while benefiting other native and managed pollinators. Today, the HBHC is a very big tent working across the food chain to provide a North American clearinghouse for finding and scaling existing solutions and investing in new innovations. While we were launching during Pollinator Week, the White House issued a Presidential Memorandum and formed a federal task force to improve pollinator health, and we are actively engaging with these and other initiatives."

All of us

Leadership on this issue will take science-based research and innovation in four major areas: nutrition and forage, hive management, crop-pest management and cross-industry collaboration. Bees, like humans, need a robust and varied diet, so we are working to improve access to forage areas and to create new innovations in bee nutrition. The Varroa destructor mite has become one of the biggest challenges to healthy hive management to emerge in our lifetimes, and we will invest in transferring technology, educating beekeepers and new research to address this and other hive management challenges.

Feeding an ever-hungrier planet requires a variety of pest-control products and practices. While much already has been done to reduce and improve pesticide use and application, more can still be done to improve best management practices, to help ensure healthy bee and other pollinator populations. Last, we need better collaboration among all of us who have a major stake in the role of bees in production agriculture, and the HBHC will provide that structure.

The coalition is already a big tent, but we want it to grow even bigger. We will work with governments at all levels, conservation and environmental groups, and other industry players. And we want to work with you. Wherever you are in the food chain, we need your help. Please join the HBHC. Together we can make sure we promote more than hope, actually restoring the thriving population of honey bees that is so vital to a thriving food supply and a thriving agricultural economy.


Video game puts buzz in learning about bees

Patrick Anderson, 9:26 p.m. CDT October 11, 2014

Coy Yonce wants children to play with bees.

Digital bees, of course — there’s no risk of getting stung. A new educational video game under development by a Brookings-based company allows kids to manage a bee hive with a computer instead of a beekeeper suit.

“I find education fun,” Yonce, 37, said. “I love playing video games. Why not mix the two?”

When it’s finished, Buzz Whizz: Bees will be a multiplatform game for children ages 4 to 12, with lessons about how bees gather resources, defend the colony and survive in the wild despite threats from predators.

Yonce’s company, Mantis Digital Arts, released a playable demo last month, available online to anyone who wants to get up close and personal with an American bumblebee and not suffer any pain for their curiosity.

Yonce always has been fascinated by insects, he said, and he thought bees — furry and colorful — would be endearing for young learners.

Cute, maybe, but bees also are a key player in South Dakota’s honey industry, one of the biggest in the United States. And they’re disappearing.

South Dakota bees cranked out 14.8 million pounds of honey last year, a 9 percent decrease from 2012. Even with the dip, the state was third in the nation in annual production behind Montana and North Dakota.

The state experienced a 2 percent increase in the number of honey-making colonies last year, but previous years have been marked by decreases. Bee colonies in the United States are disappearing at a rate of about 33 percent each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with about one-third of the losses blamed on a condition called Colony Collapse Disorder.

A diseased colony has a live queen but very few or no adult honey bees and no bodies. Virus-transmitting parasites called Varroa mites often are found, according to the USDA.

Bee expert Jonathan Lundgren blames pesticides and disappearing habitat. Lundgren is a South Dakota-based entomologist for the USDA’s Agriculture Research Service. He’s also an adviser for Buzz Whizz: Bees.

The game is a simplification of hive life, but for good reason, Lundgren said.

“It educates people that insects are not just something to be stomped on or sprayed,” Lundgren said. “That insects have a very valuable role to play.”

Colony collapse lends the game greater importance, Yonce said, but he admits he wasn’t out to fix the phenomenon when he first sketched out an idea for a new video game.

A product manager with 15 years of experience in software, Yonce came up with the idea for Buzz Whizz: Bees after watching a documentary about independent game developers.

His daughter inspired him to make the game educational, Yonce said.

“It was just really fun to watch her learn new things,” Yonce said.

Yonce co-founded Mantis in September 2013 with his partner, Tyler McEntee, a computer programmer.

The company needs more money to finish the game. The South Dakota tech start-up launched a fundraising campaign on with the goal of raising $10,000 before the end of this month for licensing and paying programmers and game designers.

The completed version of Buzz Whizz: Bees will allow players to take control of three species. Players guide a bee through the game, flying from flower to flower in search of pollen, nectar, resin and water.

Wasp attacks threaten the home colony, and any innocent-looking bloom could hide an attacking crab spider.

“The primary things that we’re looking to teach are just getting to the understanding of why bees build hives,” Yonce said. “How they do it (and) why a lot of bees live in colonies.”


Bees, birds may suffer long-term consequences from common pesticides

By Alanna Mitchell, CBC News Posted: Oct 04, 2014

A raft of new research published over the summer is posing ever more serious questions about whether neonicotinoids, the most common insecticides in the world, are affecting birds and bees more widely than previously thought.

The research is looking into more subtle, long-term effects from the insecticides – rather than instant direct kills – that may still harm bird and bee populations.

Through a four-week study on bumblebees, Nigel Raine, an expert in pollinator conservation at the University of Guelph, found that the neonicotinoids, which are neurotoxins, affect bumblebees’ ability to find and collect food.  

“When the neonicotinoid-treated bees go out of the colony for the first time to look for flowers, something about their exposure to that pesticide means that they’re less able to collect as much pollen as the bees that are untreated,” he told the CBC Radio program Quirks & Quarks.

“And that impact only gets worse over time, because the untreated bees improve their performance and their ability.”

The Ontario government is considering a plan to reduce or eliminate use of some neonics. (Reuters)

In turn, that leads to smaller colonies, which in turn means that fewer queens are produced, a phenomenon that decreases the number of new bumblebee colonies.

Pollinators, including honeybees and wild pollinators, are in decline around the world, Dr. Raine said, adding that a host of factors is thought to be responsible.

Pierre Petelle, vice-president of chemistry at CropLife Canada, told Quirks & Quarks that the industry’s studies suggest that neonicotinoids are not one of them.

The insecticides — known as “neonics” for short — are responsible for some bee deaths in Ontario and Quebec in 2012, after dust kicked up from their application reached some colonies.

Petelle said both manufacturers and farmers are working to make changes to the way the pesticide is applied and are resolving those problems.

The European Community has banned some neonics for two years and the Ontario government is considering a plan to reduce or eliminate some of them.

Beekeepers in Ontario have launched a $400-million lawsuit against neonic manufacturers.

Birds' food may be at risk from neonics

When it comes to birds, the question is whether neonics are such an effective insecticide that they are killing off the aquatic bugs that birds need to eat, leaving too little food for them.

Christy Morrissey, an ecotoxicologist at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, found last year that 90 per cent of prairie potholes were laced with small amounts of neonics in the spring before farmers planted their fields. That means the chemicals stay in the soil and then wash into the water through rain or snow.

"Insecticides or pesticides in general are not supposed to be on the market if they persist [in the environment]," Morrissey told Quirks & Quarks from her research site in Saskatchewan.

“We do not want chemicals that are designed to kill lasting in the environment for weeks, months or years. …You want pesticides to be applied, do their job, kill the pest and then be gone."

Now, Dr. Morrissey is in the midst of a study in the field studying exactly how different levels of neonics affect aquatic insects in prairie potholes, in tandem with a long-term study examining the health of tree swallows nearby.

It’s a bid to examine whether neonics are affecting the bugs and, consequently, the birds that rely on them. Her early results show that birds living near treated fields are slightly delayed in laying their eggs, and the chicks are not as healthy.

A Dutch study by Caspar Hallmann ​at the Institute for Water and Wetland Research at Radboud University in the Netherlands,​ and others published this summer found larger annual declines in insect-eating birds in areas with higher surface-water concentrations of the most popular type of neonic, imidacloprid.

It concluded that the impact of the chemical is “reminiscent of the effects of persistent insecticides in the past.”

CropLife Canada's Petelle said the concentrations of neonics Dr. Morrissey is finding in the field are too low to affect aquatic insects.

He said neonics are the safest chemical solution that has been introduced in a long time, one reason that agriculture has never been more sustainable than today.

“And so the studies that have been conducted on these products in field conditions show that at those concentrations, there is no risk for aquatic insects or other wildlife,” he said.

Dr. Morrissey told Quirks & Quarks, however, that the industry is relying on studies conducted on the water flea, Daphnia magna, an aquatic crustacean.

While it is the industry standard for testing, it happens to be almost uniquely insensitive to neonics. Compared to other insects tested, it is an average of 1,000 times less sensitive, and compared to the aquatic insects birds like to eat, it is between 10,000 and 100,000 times less sensitive, she said.

Neonics, which are derived from nicotine, are the newest class of insecticides and they are used in a new way: as a coating for crop seeds rather than mainly as a spray on growing crops.

In Canada, all canola and corn seeds planted are coated, as well as half of soybeans and some seeds of other crops. They are systemic pesticides, which means they infuse every cell of the plant as it grows, right from the roots to the leaves, seeds, nectar and pollen.

And they are used as a prophylactic, whether there is a pest infestation or not.

An analysis of 800 studies released this summer, called the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, concluded that the chemicals, including neonics, are having widespread effects on ecosystems around the world beyond their intended function of killing crop pests.

The scientists who conducted the review study said governments should plan for a global phase-out or at least a plan for farmers to use them only when their crops are actually threatened by insects.


President Obama honors nation's top scientists and innovators
October 3, 2014

President Obama today announced a new group of recipients of the National Medal of Science and National Medal of Technology and Innovation--the nation's highest honors for achievement and leadership in advancing the fields of science and technology. The honorees will receive their medals at a White House ceremony later this year.

"These scholars and innovators have expanded our understanding of the world, made invaluable contributions to their fields, and helped improve countless lives," President Obama said. "Our nation has been enriched by their achievements, and by all the scientists and technologists across America dedicated to discovery, inquiry, and invention."

Awarded annually, the Medal recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to science and engineering. The President receives nominations from a committee of presidential appointees based on their extraordinary knowledge of and contributions to chemistry, engineering, computing, mathematics, and the biological, behavioral/social, and physical sciences.

Awarded National Medal of Science

Dr. May Berenbaum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Dr. May Berenbaum's pioneering studies of insect-plant co-evolution and her extensive public engagement have made her a world-renowned expert on all insect-related matters. Dr. Berenbaum is Professor and Head of the Department of Entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


Restoring Ohio honey bees the target of foundation project

By Steve Bennish

Staff Writer

The Levin Family Foundation, until now largely focused on helping low-income people with health care, is launching a new collaboration to assist in restoring healthier honey bee populations to Ohio.

A number of organizations have interest in the start-up including the National Park Service, Wright State University, Central State University, Antioch College, Miami University, and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The effort is being called the “Propolis Project” and the foundation is starting a limited liability corporation and governing board to administer it.

The Heartland Honey Bee Breeders Cooperative, a new organization dedicated to breeding a pest-resistant honey bee that has unique genetic traits adapted to northern climates, is seeking funding.

Dwight Wells, the Miami County beekeeper who helped form the cooperative that works with Purdue University entomologists, said 125 hives have been established in Belle Center, in Logan County, to produce breeder queen bees. They’re in a largely Amish area that isn’t a user of harmful farm pesticides, said Wells, who is also President of the West Central Ohio Beekeepers Association and a board member of the Ohio State Beekeepers Association.

The objective is to breed a bee that attacks a primary, virus-spreading pest, the varroa mite, and is tailored to ride out Ohio’s extreme temperature and weather swings. Most bees are now brought to Ohio from Georgia, Wells said, and that’s created problems with queen quality and the introduction of pests that travel with the bees like hive beetles.

It’s important to have a bee breed produced in the state that is locally-adapted to a particular area, Wells said. The project, underway since 2013, will take years to produce results, he added, but it’s worth it.

“I’m so excited about this,” Wells said.

At this stage, the foundation has invited organizations to be partners and seek grants to advance Ohio honey bee health. Plans could include installing a bee yard at Huffman Prairie at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, said Darryn Warner, base Natural Resources Program Manager.

“We can provide a small parcel of land for them to do their field work,” he said.

Antioch College has an organic farm with bee hives that it uses to produce food for students, said Megan Rehberg, Foundation Relations Officer with the college. She’d welcome more hives at the farm. “It fits with our sustainability focus very well,” she said.

The exact amount to be spent by the foundation annually has not been determined, said Karen Levin, the foundation’s executive director. The foundation annually distributes about $1 million and has more than $20 million in assets.

It’s hoped that foundation and other grants from outside the community could also be tapped as the partner organizations finalize plans, Levin said.

Honey bee populations have been under siege in recent decades by a host of harmful factors, including new, powerful pesticides, bee pests and lack of balanced nutrition because of single-crop farming. Wells said.



EPA knew pesticides were killing honeybees in the 1970s but punished those who spoke out

Friday, September 26, 2014 by: J. D. Heyes

For decades, top officials at the Environmental Protection Agency (PEA) were aware that a compound approved for agricultural use in the United States was wiping out the honeybee population, but they chose to ignore the compound's effects in deference to pressure from agri-giant corporations.

Worse, the agency reacted harshly to anyone within the EPA who attempted to bring the issue to light, including through firings, forced reassignments and other actions.

According to a scholarly 2014 study [PDF] compiled by researcher Rosemary Mason, "on behalf of a global network of independent scientists, beekeepers and environmentalists," and published on the website of MIT, "We have found historical and chronological evidence to show that the herbicide glyphosate (or other herbicides that are used as alternatives) is responsible for the transformation of garden escapes into super-weeds (in the UK these are termed 'invasive species')."

Further, Mason and her team noted that glyphosate -- the primary substance found in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide -- was introduced in Europe in 1974 "and became a global best-selling herbicide because the public was told by industry and the regulators that it was 'safe.'"

The results have been disastrous. For one, the heavy use of glyphosate has led to the rise of so-called "superweeds" that are resistant to the herbicide. But there is another compound that was approved by the EPA -- over the objections of scientists -- that has had a devastating effect on the nation's honeybee population: clothianidin, which is used for seed treatment on corn and canola, by Bayer.

'Honeybees are going extinct'

According to this EPA document describing clothianidin [PDF], it "is highly toxic to honey bees on an acute contact basis," and "has the potential for toxic chronic exposure to honey bees, as well as other nontarget pollinators, through the translocation of clothianidin residues in nectar and pollen."

"In honey bees, the effects of this toxic chronic exposure may include lethal and/or sub-lethal effects in the larvae and reproductive effects in the queen," the document further states.

Mason and her research team found additional evidence of corporate/EPA cover-up regarding the effects of clothianidin. This 99-page EPA memorandum dated November 2, 2010, [PDF] noted, in part:

The major risk concerns are with aquatic free-swimming and benthic invertebrates, terrestrial invertebrates, birds and mammals. ...

Clothianidin's major risk concern is to non-target insects (that is, honey bees). Clothianidin is a neonicotinoid insecticide that is both persistent and systemic. Acute toxicity studies to honey bees show that clothianidin is highly toxic on both a contact and an oral basis. ... [I]nformation from standard tests and field studies, as well as incident reports involving other neonicotinoids insecticides (e.g., imidacloprid) suggest the potential for long term toxic risk to honey bees and other beneficial insects.

A number of EPA scientists -- those with integrity, anyway -- have tried along the way to sound the alarm -- over both glyphosate and clothianidin. In a piece for "" evaggelos-vallianatos="" honeybees-on-the-verge-of_b_4326226.html"="" target="_blank">The Huffington Post, former EPA scientist Evaggelos Vallianatos wrote that honeybees were on the verge of extinction.

'Stupefying killing'

He further noted:

In my 25-year experience at the US EPA, nothing illustrated the deleterious nature of "pesticides" and "regulation" better than the plight of honeybees.

Here is a beneficial insect pollinating a third of America's crops, especially fruits and vegetables, and we thank it with stupefying killing.

Poisoning of honeybees became routine in the mid-1970s with the EPA's approval of neurotoxins encapsulated in dust-size particles that took days to release their deadly gas.

He further noted that some of his colleagues have tried to denounce the EPA actions, but the agency reacted "with fury" after one EPA ecologists discovered neurotoxic plastic spheres in the gut of a queen honeybee, which "meant poison in the honey."

"It forced the scientist out of his laboratory and into paper pushing in Washington. Approval of the industry's neurotoxins expanded to cover most major crops. This meant honeybees had less and less space to search for food without dying," Villianatos wrote.

Read the entire Mason report here [PDF].

Sources: [PDF] [PDF] [PDF]

Learn more:

Biological Pesticides for Integrated Pest Management

The Pollinator Stewardship Council works with farmers to increase their yield through pollination.  We work with farmers to ensure healthy honey bees go into a crop, and healthy honey bees leave that pollinated crop, so they can pollinate the next crop.  We encourage peer-reviewed research of new solutions, new products to combat crop pests and pollinator pests and pathogens.  Biological pesticides have their role in agriculture, often offering crop protection as well as pollinator protection.

Farmers continually ask beekeepers what products they can use to protect their crops from pests, and yet keep pollinators safe. Beekeepers stress a return to a complete Integrated Pest Management Program.  In a recent discussion about available options to growers for pest control we spoke with and researched “biological pesticides.” (AKA biocides, biopesticides, biologicals)  While, “biologicals” may be of/from nature, a formulation drawn from naturally occurring products still must be applied per the guidelines for use.

The European Union defines biopesticides as “a form of pesticide based on micro-organisms or natural products.”   The US EPA states biopesticides “include naturally occurring substances that control pests (biochemical pesticides), microorganisms that control pests (microbial pesticides), and pesticidal substances produced by plants containing a genetic material (plant-incorporated protectants) or PIPs.”  Injecting a plant with a gene that silences a gene in a pest is a “plant incorporated protectant.”  This RNAi technology is not extensively researched.  Concerns with RNAi technology were voiced succinctly by the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Panel (!documentDetail;D=EPA-HQ-OPP-2013-0485-0011)).  While RNAi technology is listed as a “plant-incorporated protectant” the Scientific Advisory Panel clearly stated, based on current research:

 “RNAi has necessary functions within cells that are important to growth, development and tissue homeostasis. Oversaturation of RNAi machinery as a result of introduction of environmental dsRNA could disrupt regulation of gene expression and normal cell function  (Dillin 2003, Katoch et al. 2013, Lundgren and Duan 2013). Saturation could also lead to reduced defenses against viral infection (Dillin 2003). Exposure to RNAi may also stimulate immune response. This has been observed in mammals (see Lundgren and Duan 2013), and could be a factor for observed gene silencing in some insect studies (Terenius et al. 2011); however, how immune stimulation by RNAi may affect nontarget organisms is not known.”

 “Without further information, it is not unreasonable to assume that some kind of related effect could occur in nontarget organisms; however, at this point the actual biological impacts are not known.”

It is not just the dose of a control agent, it is also the application process as well, and then what happens to the “dose” as it translocates throughout the plant, is broken down, and the coating on the seed dissipates into the soil, or is caught up on the wind, and the plant product is eaten by other non-target species. “Bacillus thuringiensis, a bacterial disease of Lepidoptera, Coleoptera and Diptera is a well known insecticide.” “The use of Bt Toxin is particularly controversial.”  One study found changes to liver and kidney function in mammals.  Another study found harm to Monarchs from drifting Bt laced pollen onto milkweed leaves.   We need to understand the differences, the technology, and peer-reviewed scientific analysis before any action is taken upon our food, the fields that grow our food, and the pollinators that pollinate our food.  

Biopesticides are naturally occurring substances, such as microbes, bacteria, plant extracts, fatty acids or pheromones.  When used in Integrated Pest Management systems, biopesticides’ efficacy can be equal to or better than conventional products, especially for crops like fruits, vegetables, nuts and flowers.  “Every plant species has developed a built-in unique chemical complex structure that protects it from pests. The plant kingdom offers a diverse array of complex chemical structures and almost every imaginable biological activity.  These biodegradable, economical and renewable alternatives are used especially under organic farming systems.”

In the United States, producers are becoming more familiar with the science behind biopesticides. Steady advances were made in the 1990s and 2000s in microbial and biochemical research and in formulation technology.  So today’s biopesticides are much improved over earlier biopesticides. The advantages offered by the use of biopesticides are spurring increased usage in the areas of landscaping, home gardening, and farming.

A bioinsecticide based on a bacterial strain, and a fungicide created from the extract of giant knotweed are examples of new crop protectants available to farmers.  As pests become more tolerant of synthetic chemicals, alternatives will come to the forefront to protect crops.  Small companies often take the lead with new ideas, and offer alternative solutions.  With any product: conventional, natural, organic, biological, synthetic, etc. understand the composition, mode of action, hazards, and the directions for use.  Most importantly, before using any product on a blooming crop, talk with beekeepers.

Biologicals are an alternative to some problematic conventional pesticides.  Growers who incorporate biopesticides into their programs do so because they see a tangible return on investment.  Biopesticides are:

·         efficacious

·         effective in managing pesticide resistance

·         leave minimal crop residues; good for export markets

·         permit harvest flexibility

·         maintain beneficial insect and predatory mite populations

·         ensure worker safety

·         mostly non-toxic to beneficial insects such as bees, and

·         promote environmental safety.

As beekeepers talk with farmers and orchard managers about protecting their bees while they are pollinating their crop, America’s fruit, nuts, and vegetables, due diligence is key to knowing the best solution for the crop and the bees.  The entire label of any pesticide, chemical or biological, must be read.  If a product is toxic to bees do not apply it when the bees are pollinating the blooming crop.  If a pest has occurred during the bloom, talk to the beekeeper you hired to pollinate your crop.  Together you can determine a short-residual pest control product, applying it when the bees will not be at risk.  We all have to learn about new products, all options, and different methods, in order to care for our bees, and care for our farms in order to continue to be able to grow diverse, nutritious food.  

Richard Adee
Inducted into South Dakota Hall of Fame Champions for Excellence

            Born  on  December  29, 1935, in Arnold , Nebraska, Richard Adee was introduced early to beekeeping by his father and four uncles. Teachers by trade, they stumbled onto beekeeping as a way to supplement teaching salaries during the depression years. In 1948 Adee's family moved to Kansas, where his father began beekeeping as a full-time occupation Adee became intrigued with the bees, soaking up his family 's knowledge of what worked and what did not work in the keeping of honeybees .

            In 1957 Adee and his brother, Stanley, purchased their first commercial operation in Bruce, South Dakota. They operated 1,600 bee colonies for honey production. In the summer the bees were kept in South Dakota and then were moved to Mississippi in the winter to rebuild and re-queen the hives for the next season. Tragically, Adee lost his brother in a truck accident in 1959. Determined to succeed for his brother, Adee continued on.

            He married his high school sweetheart, Alice Bergstrom, in 1959. Together they worked to grow the company, branching into Cedar Rapids, Nebraska, in 1963 and into Clay Center, Kansas, in 1966. Adee expanded his South Dakota operation northward by purchasing a beekeeping operation in Roscoe in 1984 and westward with the purchases of additional operations in Kimball, Clark and Miller.

            As the honey production side of the company grew, Adee saw opportunity for diversified growth as a paid pollinating company.  Almond   production, for instance, is directly linked to the quality of pollination the blossoms receive from honeybees . So today Adee sends nearly 160 semi truck loads of honeybees to the almond orchards of California each year.  Adee's beekeeping still follows a migratory pattern. Each summer the bees are in South Dakota and the Midwest for honey production . After the honey is harvested in the fall, the bees are moved to California for the almond pollination season. When that is completed, some of the honeybees are sent north to Washington State to pollinate apples, and the rest go to Texas and Mississippi to rebuild and re-queen over the spring months . Then they are returned home to the Midwest to begin the cycle again.

            Today Adee Honey Farms is the largest commercial beekeeping operation in the country, with more than 80,000 bee colonies and nearly one-hundred employees. It operates facilities in five states and places bees in an additional five states for honey production or  to provide pollination services. Adee's two sons, Bret and Kelvin, his daughter, Marla, and three of his grandsons work for the company full-time.

When the industry faced challenges that threatened its survival, including market issues and treatment-resistant bee diseases, Adee sought solutions. To combat market issues, Adee went straight to the lawmakers in Washington,  DC, sharing the problems and the need to make changes. After an uphill battle, he succeeded. Today the International Trade Commission works to uphold anti-dumping laws and to stop illegal imports, stabilizing the market.

            Adee fought for funding for bee research at multiple U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA ARS) labs and universities. Working closely with state and federal officials as well as chemical companies, he won emergency approval for new treatments to protect honeybee colonies, giving beekeepers across the country a fighting chance to keep the bees alive.

            Adee 's impact in the honey industry has been felt locally, nationally and globally. He has led the way on many issues from state bee laws to international trade laws. His vast knowledge and honest demeanor have opened doors that otherwise may have remained closed to such a small industry

            He  was  a  founding  member  of the  American  Honey Producers Association (AHPA) . He served many years in various roles as the organization 's president , vice president and executive board member. As the AH PA's Legislative Chairman, he worked tirelessly to promote industry issues to lawmakers in Washington. Adee also served on the Executive Board of the American Beekeeping Federation, the South Dakota Beekeepers Advisory Board, Senator Pressler's Agriculture Advisory Board and the USDA Crop Production Review Board, to name a few.

            Additionally, he traveled to Mexico on behalf of the U S. Government to assess and offer his advice on control of the Africanized Honeybee. Participating in a People to People trip to China, he learned about the beekeeping and harvesting practices there and shared American practices. Serving on the National Honey Board, he oversaw marketing campaigns designed to raise honey consumption and increase sales, traveling abroad to open new markets and raise international interest in American honey

            Among the many honors he has received are the South Dakota Beekeeper of the Year, Southern States Beekeepers Appreciation Award , National Honey Board Service Award , Sioux Valley Board of Education Appreciation Award , Community Award from the City of Bruce for making Bruce "A Honey of a Place to Bee," the Pheasants Forever Landowner Conservationist Award , and the USDA ARS Certificate of Appreciation Award for Outstanding Service for the Crop Production Retrospective Review.

            Adee has made a tremendous impact in his community since moving to Bruce in 1 957. He became involved in community events, played on sports teams, and sponsored school and community teams. He donated land for a park and gave significant funds to provide a First Responders vehicle.

            Adee served many years as a high school Sunday School teacher, youth group leader and board member for his local

church, and served as chairman of  the Building Finance Committee for the Brookings Wesleyan Church expansion He served on the local school board for fifteen years, holding a variety of positions including president.

            Adee also owns and manages several apartment complexes in Brookings, South Dakota , and he owns and farms cropland in the Bruce, South Dakota , area

            Richard and Alice Adee recently celebrated their fifty-fifth wedding anniversary. They deeply enjoy spending time with a family of three children and their spouses, ten grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Adee remains actively involved in the company, and he has no plans to retire!

Nominated by Rich Cutler


How Bee Deaths Will Actually Make Your Life Worse
Sep 29, 2014
Senator Heidi Heitkamp

September is National Honey Month, and we’re celebrating with a host of sweet stories — from whether honey really works as an antibiotic (it does!) to the merits of honey-based shampoo. But, we’re also highlighting a more serious issue: protecting our bees, without which we’d have no honey — or apples or almonds or any of the other crops that rely on bee pollination to survive. We asked U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from North Dakota, to tell us more about the issue. She’s a leading advocate of protecting our bees — and the Senate's most skilled honey-pun maker.
As fans nationwide, myself included, are salivating — excuse me — celebrating National Honey Month this September, we are reminded and encouraged to pay homage to our favorite pollinator, the honeybee. And, I’m particularly excited about honeybees, as my home state of North Dakota happens to be the country’s number-one honey producer.

Honeybees are much more than the adorable face of your favorite breakfast cereal or Jerry Seinfeld’s favorite Pixar hero. And, they’re creating a much bigger buzz in the U.S. economy than you might think.

According to the White House, “Honey bee pollination alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural products each year in the United States.” And, with North Dakota as the top producer of their nectar-of-the-month — producing what the National Honey Board says was more than 33 million pounds of honey just last year — our state bees have been, well, busy. And, they aren’t just working for North Dakotans.

North Dakota is also the nation’s top commercial pollinator state. According to the American Honey Producers Association, that means the same North Dakota honeybees that produce about a quarter of America’s honey supply also pollinate the nation’s largest commercial specialty crops — think of your favorite produce at Whole Foods — by sending an army of honeybees to the East and West Coasts annually to pollinate American staples like almonds, apples, and blueberries. In fact, 60% of the nation’s honeybee colonies are needed to pollinate California’s annual almond crop, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, and industry estimates are as high as 80%.

Without North Dakota honeybees, we wouldn’t get almonds — or any of the other 90 vegetables, fruits, and nuts that make up a third or more of the American diet, say AHPA and the American Beekeeping Federation. As the local food movement has expanded and continues to grow, it’s honeybees that are making it possible for farmers to grow the fruits and vegetables that so many of us eat.

But, our honeybees are in significant danger — and your go-to products at your local grocer or farmers markets could feel the sting. For decades, the honeybee population in the United States has been on the decline. According to the USDA’s ARS, the number of managed U.S. honeybee colonies dropped from five million in the 1940s to just 2.5 million today. And, since 2006, beekeepers even reported startlingly high hive losses, from 30% all the way up to 90%.

Scientists are still studying the problem, but the USDA’s ARS says they have so far attributed these losses to what is known as Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, which happens when a queen bee is in the hive, but there are low numbers of or no adult honeybees. A swarm of issues can contribute to CCD, including poor bee nutrition, parasites, pathogens, loss of forage lands, and a lack of genetic diversity and pesticide exposure. In the 1980s, declines in honeybee colony health got a lot worse with the arrival of new pathogens and pests, and the arrival of new mites with viruses in the 1990s didn’t help either.

That’s why I wrote an amendment in the Farm Bill, which Congress passed earlier this year, to direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture to work toward protecting and enhancing our honeybee and pollinator habitats as a part of the conservation programs that producers voluntarily enter into. Basically, the amendment language gives the USDA the kick it needs to make sure conservation programs are both achieving environmental goals as well as giving managed honeybees the high-quality habitat they need — one that includes common alfalfa and types of sweet clover.

And, I’m not the only one getting busy to help save our honeybees. The Obama Administration announced a federal strategy this June to establish a new pollinator health task force to increase the health and habitat of pollinators.

I’ll keep fighting to protect our bees, and with a colony of help, a little national buzz, and a big sweet tooth, the results can be as sweet as honey.

Without North Dakota honeybees, we wouldn’t get almonds — or any of the other 90 vegetables, fruits, and nuts that make up a third or more of the American diet, say AHPA and the American Beekeeping Federation. As the local food movement has expanded and continues to grow, it’s honeybees that are making it possible for farmers to grow the fruits and vegetables that so many of us eat.

But, our honeybees are in significant danger — and your go-to products at your local grocer or farmers markets could feel the sting. For decades, the honeybee population in the United States has been on the decline. According to the USDA’s ARS, the number of managed U.S. honeybee colonies dropped from five million in the 1940s to just 2.5 million today. And, since 2006, beekeepers even reported startlingly high hive losses, from 30% all the way up to 90%.
Scientists are still studying the problem, but the USDA’s ARS says they have so far attributed these losses to what is known as Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, which happens when a queen bee is in the hive, but there are low numbers of or no adult honeybees. A swarm of issues can contribute to CCD, including poor bee nutrition, parasites, pathogens, loss of forage lands, and a lack of genetic diversity and pesticide exposure. In the 1980s, declines in honeybee colony health got a lot worse with the arrival of new pathogens and pests, and the arrival of new mites with viruses in the 1990s didn’t help either.

That’s why I wrote an amendment in the Farm Bill, which Congress passed earlier this year, to direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture to work toward protecting and enhancing our honeybee and pollinator habitats as a part of the conservation programs that producers voluntarily enter into. Basically, the amendment language gives the USDA the kick it needs to make sure conservation programs are both achieving environmental goals as well as giving managed honeybees the high-quality habitat they need — one that includes common alfalfa and types of sweet clover.

And, I’m not the only one getting busy to help save our honeybees. The Obama Administration announced a federal strategy this June to establish a new pollinator health task force to increase the health and habitat of pollinators.

I’ll keep fighting to protect our bees, and with a colony of help, a little national buzz, and a big sweet tooth, the results can be as sweet as honey.


Watch California Dry Up Right Before Your Eyes In 6 Jaw-Dropping GIFs

By Lydia O'Connor and Chris McGonigal

Posted: 09/18/2014

California is drying up.

“This is a big deal,” California Governor Jerry Brown said at a ceremony Tuesday as he signed into law a trio of bills regulating, for the first time, the state’s groundwater use. As of Thursday, almost 60 percent of the state is facing "exceptional drought," the most severe level of dryness measured by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

But if you’re not living in a community dependent on bottled water rations, farming land that's projected to lose $800 million in crop revenue or watching raging wildfires ravage your drought-parched town, the historic California drought may still feel like little more than a headline.

To fully grasp how desperate California is for relief, we've created six before-and-after GIFs that will show you how badly the drought has dehydrated the state in just the last three years.


Governor signs bill aimed at protecting honey bees
Friday, September 26, 2014
By Jordan Bell

Governor Brown signed a bill today by local assemblymember Das Williams aimed at controlling a class of pesticides that many believe is responsible for honey bee colony collapse. 

The State of California has already evaluated the pesticide class known as neonicotonoids, or neonics, and a reevaluation is underway. Under this new law, the Department of Pesticide Regulations sets a timeline for studies to be completed and reviewed. 

While it's likely that a variety of factors have caused colony losses over the years, neonics are the most widely used class of insecticides and may play a huge part in the decline of honey bees.

Assemblymember Williams says the deadline is necessary to protect honey bee health throughout California and this evaluation will ensure swift and appropriate action.

California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary, Karen Ross, was on the Central Coast Friday. While her department does not have statutory authority for pesticides, it does play a consultative role on related economic issues.

"The use of this particular category, well of any pesticide, is balanced constantly looking at risk assessment, protecting the public health, protecting the farm workers, protecting the environment, and still allowing for the productivity that lets us to have this bountiful choice that we have," Ross said.

Honey bees are the most economically valuable pollinator in the world and California Agriculture depends greatly on the health of pollinators. 



United States Standard of Identity for Honey; Extension of Comment Period


The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) of the Department of Agriculture (USDA) is extending the comment period for the solicitation of comments on how a Federal standard of identity for honey would be in the interest of consumers, the honey industry, and U.S. agriculture.

AMS is extending the comment period on the notice published August 20, 2014 (79 FR 49279). Comments must be received by October 19, 2014.

Interested persons are invited to submit written comments via the Internet at or to Brian E. Griffin, Standardization Branch, Specialty Crops Inspection Division, Fruit and Vegetable Program, Agricultural Marketing Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Room 0709-South Building; STOP 0247, Washington, DC 20250; telephone (202) 720-5021; fax (202) 690-1527, email Comments should make reference to the date and page number of this issue of the Federal Register and will be made available for public inspection at the above office during regular business hours.

Please be advised that all comments submitted in response to this notice will be included in the record and will be made available to the public on the Internet via Also, the identity of the individuals or entities submitting the comments will be made public.


Brian E. Griffin, Standardization Branch, Specialty Crops Inspection Division, Agricultural Marketing Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, telephone (202) 720-5021or fax (202) 690-1527.


In the Federal Register of August 20, 2014 (79 FR 49279), AMS published a notice requesting comment on how a Federal standard of identity for honey would be in the interest of consumers, the honey industry, and U.S. agriculture with a 30-day comment period. Comments received from this notice will be utilized in the preparation of a report from the Secretary of Agriculture to the Commissioner of Food and Drugs describing how a Federal standard of identity for honey would be in the interest of consumers, the honey industry, and U.S. agriculture.

AMS has received correspondence from an interested person requesting a 30-day extension of the comment period for the notice. Concern was expressed that the initial 30-day comment period does not allow sufficient time for meaningful public participation. AMS believes that a 30-day extension will allow adequate time for interested persons to submit comments without causing a significant delay.


Congratulations Steve and Karen Ellis, Old Mill Honey Company~ Grant County, Minnesota Farm Family of the Year!

Old Mill Honey Co. was founded in 1955 by Steve’s father-in-law, James Dahl.  In 1977, Steve came from Washington to spend the summer living with the Dahls to learn about commercial beekeeping.  The next year, he married James’ daughter Karen, and began working for James in 1979.  In 1998, Steve bought out James’ share and combined it with the operation he had started himself.  Today Old Mill Honey operates 2,300 hives of bees.  The hives are managed in Minnesota during the summer and in California during the winter months.  In Minnesota, the hives are located in Grant, Stevens, Douglas, and Pope counties.  Steve’s brother-in-law Thomas Dahl is employed at Old Mill as well as 3-4 seasonal employees.  Steve and Karen have two children; Kate and Patrick.  Both children helped with the business while they were living at home. Now, Kate has a business of her own producing and selling hand-made candles using beeswax produced at Old Mill Honey.

Steve is secretary of the National Honey Bee Advisory Board and works to influence a national pesticide policy reform in an effort to turn the tide of the ongoing pollinator decline.  In addition, Steve is a speaker to a variety of audiences from 4-H groups to International Pesticide Symposiums, explaining the importance of honeybees to agriculture and wildlife systems through their contribution of pollination.

Fall is the time to plant bee forage

Red Bluff Daily News


Project Apis m is again looking for grower-cooperators this fall for its honey bee forage project, according to the Almond Board of California.

PAm provides almond growers with free seed mixes and technical support for enrolled growers in order to provide diverse and nutritional habitat for honey bees just prior to and after bloom in almond orchards.

Working with land manager—cooperators, PAm has identified low moisture-requiring seed mixes, seed suppliers and planting regimes.

The ideal time to plant seeds is immediately after harvest, when soil is still warm, and prior to fall rains. Growers can dedicate any amount of acreage for honey bee forage.

Areas to consider planting are fallow or unused land on the farm; along access rows and waterways; where trees are being taken out of production; in between young, non-bearing trees; orchard margins or borders; and as a cover crop between tree rows, if the grower can manage pesticide applications with a blooming cover crop.

In addition to helping create stronger bee colonies for enhanced almond pollination, a pollinator forage crop can benefit water quality by planting it where it reduces soil erosion and runoff, such as vegetative strips, unplanted ground or in new orchards.

Cover crops in orchards can improve water infiltration and enhance soil fertility, especially if the forage mixture includes nitrogen-fixing plants.


Syngenta Stands Firm On Neonicotinoids

Pesticides: Manufacturer seeks to expand uses of thiamethoxam as pressure against chemical mounts

By Britt E. Erickson

Amid growing concerns and lawsuits linking neonicotinoid pesticides with bee declines, Syngenta is asking the Environmental Protection Agency to increase the allowable levels of the company’s controversial neonicotinoid product thiamethoxam on certain crops.

Syngenta is seeking the change so thiamethoxam can be used as a spray on the foliage of alfalfa, corn, barley, and wheat. Currently, the pesticide is approved for use only as a seed treatment on those crops. In explaining its request, the company says, “Mid- to late-season insect pests are not controlled by seed treatment.”

The environmental group Beyond Pesticides says the move would be a “step backward for pollinator health.” Syngenta’s request “comes at a time when researchers are discovering that even ‘near-infinitesimal’ exposure to this class of pesticides can result in harm to honeybees and other wild pollinators,” the group says.

Syngenta’s action comes just days after Canadian beekeepers filed a class-action lawsuit against the company, claiming thiamethoxam and its breakdown product clothianidin led to more than $400 million in damages from 2006 to 2013. These alleged harms include bee deaths; reproductive, immunological, and behavioral effects in bees resulting in loss of hives; reduced honey yields; lower-quality honey; and contaminated hive equipment. “Chronic effects of the use of the neonicotinoids are felt by Canada’s beekeepers annually,” the suit states.

In the U.S., the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council petitioned EPA earlier this summer to conduct an emergency review of the impacts of neonicotinoid pesticides on bees. The organization is urging EPA to finish the review within one year. The agency’s current schedule is to complete the safety review of this class of chemicals by 2019.

EPA has rejected calls from advocacy groups to ban neonicotinoid pesticides, saying there is no evidence that bees are being exposed to levels that would cause population declines. Instead, the agency announced in late August that it would require manufacturers to change their product labels to prohibit the use of neonicotinoid pesticides when bees are foraging or when plants are flowering. The labels, which could begin appearing as early as next year, must also display an icon showing that the pesticide is harmful to bees.

The European Union last year declared a two-year ban on three neonicotinoid pesticides, including thiamethoxam and clothianidin, because of concerns for bee health. In an ongoing lawsuit there, Syngenta is challenging that ban, saying it was based on a flawed process and an inaccurate assessment by the European Food Safety Authority.

“Growers depend on neonicotinoids and other crop protection products to increase crop productivity,” says Syngenta spokeswoman Ann Bryan. “And the scientific evidence clearly shows that bees and other pollinators can coexist safely with modern agricultural technologies like neonicotinoids when product labels are followed,” she says.

The case against neonicotinoids is complicated because scientists and pollinator experts agree that multiple factors—and not just pesticides—are affecting bee health. Other influences include parasitic mites, diseases, loss of habitat, poor nutrition, weather conditions, and a lack of genetic diversity in bee populations.

EPA is accepting comments on Syngenta’s request to increase the allowable levels for residues of thiamethoxam and clothianidin on various food crops until Oct. 6.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2014 American Chemical Society

Congressional Briefing on Neonicotinoid Pesticides and Human HealthThis Week

American Congressional Briefing:

The Threat of Neonicotinoid Pesticides to Bees and Other Organisms, and the Risks to Human Health

Rayburn House Office Building B318, Washington DC

September 18, 2014

9:30AM to 11AM

 Neonicotinoids are systemic pesticides, meaning they are taken up by all tissues and fluids of treated plants, including nectar and pollen, and in food produced by these plants. A large body of scientific evidence has linked neonicotinoids to Bee Colony Collapse Disorder, a widespread and massive die-off of honeybees over the past decade in the U.S., Europe, and other parts of the world, evidence so compelling that the European Union has banned the three most commonly used neonicotinoids.

 It has now become clear that these water-soluble, long-lived neurotoxins, the world’s most widely used insecticides, are also toxic to bumblebees and other pollinators, and to birds, earthworms, and many other organisms. And given that neonicotinoids have been shown to be present in surface waters (by the USGS), ground water (reported by the EPA), and in our food (by the USDA), and that they have been shown to disrupt nerve cell activity in mammals, there are major concerns that they may have significant human health impacts as well, particularly for developing nervous systems in infants and children.

 This briefing, sponsored by the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard School of Public Health, and the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at George Washington University’s School of Public Health’s Milken Institute, will review the latest science on neonicotinoids.

 The following will speak:

 Eric Chivian M.D.—Director, The Program for Preserving the Natural World. Founder and Former Director, Center for Health and the Global Environment, Harvard School of Public Health.

 Chensheng (Alex) Lu Ph.D.—Associate Professor of Environmental Exposure Biology, Harvard School of Public Health.

 Melissa Perry Ph.D.—Professor and Chair, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Milken Institute, George Washington University School of Public Health. President-elect, American College of Epidemiology.

 Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR 3rd District)—Co-Author of the “Saving America’s Pollinators Act of 2013”

 The briefing is free and open to the public. No RSVP is required.

 For more information, please contact:

 Tracy Sachs

Kallista Bernal

New Pollinator Bill Helps Pesticide Industry, Not Bees or Beekeepers

September 12, 2013 (Washington, DC)—Center for Food Safety today expressed concerns with a bill that could derail positive efforts already underway in Congress and the White House to improve pollinator health.  The purposefully narrow and limiting bill, H.R. 5447, was introduced by Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.) and would amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) to push for faster approval of pesticides to control “parasitic pests,” such as the varroa mite.

“Fast-tracking pesticide approvals is what got us into this mess in the first place and focusing strictly on varroa mites will not get us out,” said Larissa Walker, pollinator campaign director for Center for Food Safety. “Congress cannot ignore every other key factor in pollinator declines, particularly the pesticides known to damage their health, and expect to solve this crisis.”

While varroa mites are one of several factors impacting honey bee health, beekeepers and scientists have consistently pointed a finger at pesticides such as neonicotinoids as a primary culprit in honey bee and other pollinator declines.

“There is already a robust bill in Congress, with support from beekeepers, aimed at addressing the full spectrum of stressors impacting pollinator health. It would be a shame if this new bill distracted attention away from it and let the pesticide industry off the hook,” said Colin O’Neil, director of government affairs.

In April, a House Agriculture Subcommittee held a hearing solely focused on varroa. The panel of witnesses included a representative of Bayer but no one from the beekeeping industry. Beekeepers have been adamant in their demands to curtail pesticide use in order to preserve their industry and protect the food supply.

“Beekeepers do not consider mites as the top problem, and many like myself find it a non-issue.  Pesticides are still the number one issue for all beekeepers,” said New York beekeeper Jim Doan.

Speaking at the hearing, USDA official Jeff Pettis testified, “But even if the varroa mite problem were solved today, this would not by itself solve all of the problems facing honey bees and beekeepers.”

In July 2013, Representatives John Conyers and Earl Blumenauer introduced the “Saving America’s Pollinators Act,” (HR 2692), which would suspend the use of four of the most toxic neonicotinoid chemicals until the Environmental Protection Agency conducts a full review of their safety and can make an informed and scientifically-sound decision about their use.

In June, the White House released instructions to all federal agencies spelling out a comprehensive plan to deal with the urgent crisis facing honey bees and other pollinators. The memorandum specifically called on EPA to assess the risks of pesticides, particularly neonicotinoids.

For more on the history of neonicotinoids and the problems with EPA’s approval process, go here.


Bacteria from bees possible alternative to antibiotics

Date: September 8, 2014

Source: Lund University

Raw honey has been used against infections for millennia, before honey -- as we now know it -- was manufactured and sold in stores. So what is the key to its' antimicrobial properties? Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have identified a unique group of 13 lactic acid bacteria found in fresh honey, from the honey stomach of bees. The bacteria produce a myriad of active antimicrobial compounds.

These lactic acid bacteria have now been tested on severe human wound pathogens such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Pseudomonas aeruginosa and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE), among others. When the lactic acid bacteria were applied to the pathogens in the laboratory, it counteracted all of them.

While the effect on human bacteria has only been tested in a lab environment thus far, the lactic acid bacteria has been applied directly to horses with persistent wounds. The LAB was mixed with honey and applied to ten horses; where the owners had tried several other methods to no avail. All of the horses' wounds were healed by the mixture.

The researchers believe the secret to the strong results lie in the broad spectrum of active substances involved.

"Antibiotics are mostly one active substance, effective against only a narrow spectrum of bacteria. When used alive, these 13 lactic acid bacteria produce the right kind of antimicrobial compounds as needed, depending on the threat. It seems to have worked well for millions of years of protecting bees' health and honey against other harmful microorganisms. However, since store-bought honey doesn't contain the living lactic acid bacteria, many of its unique properties have been lost in recent times," explains Tobias Olofsson.

The next step is further studies to investigate wider clinical use against topical human infections as well as on animals.

The findings have implications for developing countries, where fresh honey is easily available, but also for Western countries where antibiotic resistance is seriously increasing.
Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Lund University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Scotland: Pesticide Ban Call to Save Bees

MSPs have called on ministers to ban certain pesticides during a Holyrood debate on the plight of bees.

SNP MSP Angus MacDonald tabled a motion calling for action to "reduce pesticides that harm pollinators".

The Scottish Wildlife Trust believes pesticides known as neonicotinoids are partly to blame for a 60% decline in the bumblebee population.

The Scottish government said it was adopting a "precautionary approach" pending more research.

The trust said there had been a 60% decline in the number of bumblebees in the past 50 years and other important pollinators including hoverflies and butterflies were under threat.

Species such as the great yellow bumblebee have become rarer and confined to the north and west of Scotland while butterflies such as the marsh fritillary and the pearl bordered fritillary had also dwindled, it said.

'Action plans'

Mr MacDonald's motion in parliament backed a call from the campaign group Buglife for "the Scottish government to develop and implement action plans, coordinate pollinator monitoring programmes, reduce pesticides that harm pollinators and conserve pollinator species while maintaining places for pollinators to feed and breed".

The Liberal Democrat SNP for Orkney, Liam McArthur, said: "Loss of habitat, use of pesticides and insect disease are all thought to be factors in this decline.

"However, as islands we have a unique opportunity to put in place more effective measures to protect our bee populations.

"As well as supporting further research into pesticides that are less harmful to pollinators, I want to see steps taken to restrict the import of bees and hives into Orkney.

"Given the devastating impact that the varroa mite has had on bee numbers in

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Cassie Cox
Executive Secretary
PO Box 435
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