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"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]

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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
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