Sacred Honey Bee Evening video clip, CLICK ON THE PHOTO TO VIEW

Sacred Honey Bee Evening video clip, CLICK ON THE PHOTO TO VIEW
Click on this photo for a video of "Evening in Honor of the Sacred Honey Bee". Photo by Daniel Bahmani

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Marguerite Rigoglioso, speaking on "The relationship between bees and ancient Mediterranean priestesses" for Evening in Honor of the Sacred Honey Bee


Photo by Joe Burull
Marguerite Rigoglioso [pronounced
REGAL-yo-zo], Ph.D., is a member of the faculties of Dominican University of California, the California Institute of Integral Studies, and the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, where she teaches courses on women and religion. Her pioneering research on female deities and women’s religious leadership in the ancient Mediterranean world and beyond has appeared in various anthologies and journals, including Feminist Theology, The Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature, Societies of Peace, She Is Everywhere, Trivia, and the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, where her paper on the cult of Demeter and Persephone in Sicily received an honorable mention for the New Scholar Award. She is also the editor of Where to Publish Articles on Women’s Studies, Feminist Religious Studies, and Feminist/Womanist Topics.
http://cultofdivinebirth.homestead.com/

Fairmont Hotel in Washington D.C. checks in 105,000 honey bees

Fairmont Hotel in Washington D.C. checks in 105,000 honey bees

Cross-pollination of culinary benefits and environmentalism is sweet as honey.
Read more: ANIMALS, BUSINESS

Photo: Todd Huffman/Flickr
The Fairmont Hotel in Washington, D.C., is abuzz with 105,000 new guests: Italian honeybees that have settled into their new home in hives atop the hotel’s roof. The bees will enhance the hotel’s culinary program by providing honey and pollinating the fresh herbs and edible flowers in the Fairmont’s interior courtyard garden.
Executive Sous Chef Ian Bens and Executive Pastry Chef Aron Weber, who share the responsibility of chief beekeeper, expect to retrieve 300 pounds of honey within in the first year. The honey collected from the Fairmont hives will be used in soups, salad dressings, pastries, ice cream and other offerings at Juniper, the hotel’s restaurant.
Aside from beewitching guests with sweet treats, the Fairmont Hotel’s choice to put hives on the rooftop helps support bee populations, which have suffered in recent years from colony collapse disorder and other problems.
"Many pollinating bees have disappeared due to habitat loss and pollution. Creating these new hives helps keep the bee population healthy and helps to ensure that plants are pollinated, which is also essential for insects, birds and animals to survive. Eventually, The Fairmont hopes to use the honeycomb to create candles, soaps and even lip balm”, states Executive Sous Chef and Bee Keeper Ian Bens.
Here’s hoping the bees enjoy a relaxing yet productive stay at the Fairmont, and that this unbeelievably cool trend spreads to other hotels across the nation.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

AN EVENING IN HONOR OF THE SACRED HONEYBEE


If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area please join for this very special, unique, and wonderful night of surprises--from traditional Bulgarian bee rituals, a fascinating talk by Marguerite Rigoglioso PhD on "The Bee and its Relationship to the Goddess and the Graeco-Roman Priestesshoods", a trailer of the new film "Return of the Honeybee", to Bulgarian circle dance with live music provided by artists and musicians Karina Guggenheim, Jana Mariposa, and the Melissae Ensemble of singers. Here follows a little about our musical presenters.

Jana (Jana Mariposa) and Karina (Karen Guggenheim) met in a Balkan dance line 35 years ago. There was an instant, yet unspoken, recognition between them of the transformative power of this ancient music and dance. Thus began their inquiry into the cultures from which this music came.The intricacies and complexities of the rhythms and dance steps captured their creative spirits and led them deeper still into their studies of the Balkan cultures. Bulgarian culture soon became their primary focus. Through a series of dreams, the two Sin Twisters understood that they were being called upon to play two of the most ancient ritual instruments known historically. Gaida (bagpipe), which Karina plays and tupan (2-headed drum), which Jana plays were traditionally played only by men.
In order to grasp the multi-dimensional aspects of this music and culture, they found it essential to travel to Bulgaria and live among the people and upon the land from which this music emanated. In 1983, Karina bought a one-way ticket to Bulgaria and lived there for 18 months. She graduated from the choreography school in Plovdiv and also studied with the local gaida masters. Jana came over for several months and studied alongside her.
Since that time, Jana and Karina have conducted workshops in California, the northwest, the mid-west, and at various west coast camps including Balkan Music and Dance Camp, Lark in the Morning Camp, Sweet's Mill Art Institute, and at the conference centers of IONS and the Ecological Farming Conference and New College of California in Santa Rosa.
In 2003, Jana bought a one-way ticket to Greece and lived on Naxos Island for 13 months, where she gratefully participated in ongoing cultural festivals and rituals, performed with her friend Souzana at local events, and studied dance at the Dora Stratou Theater in Athens. She returned to Greece in 2007 for a 6-week stay, which included participation in the Pagan Apokries/Carnival rituals in Northern Macedonia.
In 2005, The Institute of Archeomythology invited Jana and Karina to be the guest musicians for a 2-week tour of village rituals in Bulgaria. The tour included visits to Goddess worshiping archaeological sites and museum exhibitions featuring artifacts from these sacred sites.

The Bulgarians were deeply honored by Jana and Karina’s devotion to their culture and by their passion for keeping the old ways alive . It was certainly a mutual honoring.
The ancient wisdom encoded in the rituals, festivals, music, and dance is very relevant to our current times and challenges. The communal joy that is generated from these activities is necessary for the health of the community, and is conspicuously absent from much of western culture. Encoded in traditional dance is a sense of belonging that is an essential human need and desire.
Through their re-creation of traditional rituals throughout the calendar year, Jana and Karina aspire to reawaken a connection to and reverence for nature, natural cycles, and the World Family.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bee Sanctuary


Bee Sanctuary
BY MICHELE MCCARTHY, PHOTOS BY LINDA BELL HALL

Ron Breland is an architect and a builder. His custom-built homes are an example of how green design can be functional, user-friendly, and fit for a queen—bee, that is.

The world's honeybees are dying. Pesticide spraying, loss of habitat, and, more recently, two species of mites have devastated the honeybee population. In 1996 Breland, a commercial photographer turned beekeeper and organic gardener, lost all of his bees. That set him to thinking—about sacred geometry, Brancusi's Endless Column, and how to build a better beehive. Constructed of untreated spruce, Breland's hives are five-sided, with matching conical roofs that closely approximate the kind of housing bees might naturally build for themselves.

Breland is convinced that the honeybee's demise began in 1857 with industrialization and the invention of the Langstroth hive, a boxy, flat-topped structure that became standard housing for honeybees around the globe: "It's like keeping bees in a file cabinet. We've enslaved a formerly sacred creature and chained it to a production system that's pure bottom-line driven."

Many ancient cultures considered bees messengers of the gods. The Greeks called them "birds of the Muses;" Egyptians believed they were the tears of the sun god, Ra; and according to the Prophet Mohammed, honey was "a remedy for every illness." But it was the desire to produce large quantities of honey for market consumption that changed our reverential relationship with bees.

According to Breland, the bees are still bringing us messages: "Bees are an umbrella species par excellence. They sensitize us to the landscape and ask us to be wakeful. Care for the bees, and other things will take care of themselves."

Learn more at Bumps & Co. nursery in West Nyack: (845) 353-0513.The End

Honeybee Collapse Strikes Japan, Up to Fifty Percent of Honeybees Gone…

Honeybee Collapse Strikes Japan, Up to Fifty Percent of Honeybees Gone…

April 29, 2009

For the first time, Japan has been hit with a large-scale collapse of honeybee populations like that experienced in other countries around the world.

“There have been small-scale honeybee losses for many years, but a massive collapse like they had in the U.S. is very unusual,” said Kiyoshi Kimura of the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science. “We must investigate the situation in Japan.”

The phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder, in which large numbers of worker bees simply vanish, was first identified in the United States in 2006. Since then, it has also been reported across Europe and, most recently, in Taiwan.

In Japan, the Japanese Beekeeping Association undertook a survey of its 2,500 members and determined that 25 percent of all beekeepers had “experienced sudden losses of honeybees” on some scale.

“The number of beekeepers to lose large numbers of bees was more than we expected,” Kimura said.

Although most honey in Japan is imported, honeybees play a critical role in the pollination of a wide variety of fruit and vegetable crops in the country. According to Osamu Mamuro, owner of a company that supplies beehives to farmers for pollination purposes, populations of the insects have dropped so drastically that he expects to have to cut his deliveries by more than 50 percent this year.

“If this keeps up,” he said, “it’ll be the end of my business.”

A wide scale collapse of bee populations might also mean local food shortages. At the very least, it would probably mean rising prices as farmers turn to hand pollination and retailers turn to importation to make up for lessened domestic production.

“From now on,” said the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, “it is possible that it will be increasingly difficult to secure honeybees for the purposes of pollinating eggplant, melon, watermelon and other produce plants.”

Sources for this story include: www.freshplaza.com.

Source: Natural News

The Plight of the Honeybee

The Plight of the Honeybee

For Ron Breland, beekeeping is all about the bees, not the honey.

By Susan Piperato

From spring through fall, Ron Breland can be found among his beehives in New York’s Hudson Valley carrying a smoker filled with smoldering sage, red sumac, and artemisia, which is used to announce his presence and calm the bees. Unless an animal has knocked over a hive or the biodynamic calendar indicates that the bees are fractious, he doesn’t bother with a veil and gloves. Wearing protection, he says, means “doing battle with the bees, which are misperceived as aggressive, stinging insects,” rather than working with “gentle creatures.”

On warm days, Breland even approaches his hives shirtless, wearing shorts and sandals. Because he respects the bees as practitioners of “tough love,” he doesn’t get stung. “Bees don’t take any nonsense and if they think you’re weak, they’ll run you out of town. They will! But if you stand your ground and prove you’re genuine, they’ll say, ‘Okay, we’ll work with him.’”

The honeybees need more friends like Ron Breland. They are dying. According to entomologists at Cornell University, upwards of 90 percent of wild honeybees have disappeared since 1990. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture reports that commercial beekeepers maintained 4.2 million bee colonies in 1982 and only 2.4 million in 2005. And beekeepers across the U.S. have reported honeybee losses of 50 to 80 percent. The reasons for the decline are many: loss of habitat, use of chemical pesticides and herbicides, infestation by two species of mites, pollution, climate change, and commercial exploitation.

The disappearance of honeybees could have catastrophic implications for our agricultural economy and the health of the planet: honeybees are responsible for pollinating 80 percent of the crops worldwide that need pollinating. “If we lost the honeybee tomorrow, there would be no more cucumbers, or pumpkins, or zucchinis,” says Breland. Or squash, tomatoes, peppers, apples, and pears, to name a few more of our favorites. In the U.S. alone honeybees pollinate $14.6 billion of crops, according to a 2000 Cornell University study.

So, for over 30 years, Breland has dedicated his life’s work to helping save honeybees through practicing organic farming and the natural art of beekeeping. An organic gardening instructor at Rockland Country Day School, he also mentors other beekeepers; travels the region speaking about beekeeping; oversees a public bee sanctuary; and runs a nursery selling bee-friendly, open-pollinated seeds and plants.

Breland also builds wooden beehive “temples,” resembling Buddhist stupas, based on the principles of sacred geometry. “My aim is this: I know the higher organization of the bee cries out for a place for it to incarnate in the material world under hospitable circumstances, and I am trying to create a kind of temple where this creature can come into the world to do what it [is meant] to do.” Breland can’t help speaking of bees in these terms. “I believe the absence of such a place is, in part, if not in whole, the reason that we’re faced with the prospect of losing the entire species [of honeybees],” he says.

A Dilbert Depression
One of the honeybees’ problems, according to Breland, is the box-shaped modern beehive containing movable frames with narrow passageways for bees—“a filing cabinet for bees to live in”—invented by a Philadelphia pastor named Lorenzo Langstroth in 1851. “It’s as if we had taken this sacred creature that has been revered throughout history and said, ‘Here are your chains; put your shackles on and do our bidding.’”

With the advent of the Langstroth hive, beekeepers no longer had to destroy hives to harvest honey, could easily move hives in order to pollinate crops, and honey production became a viable source of income. Beekeeping moved into industrial mode. Previously, hives had occurred naturally in hollow trees, logs, and building crevices, or were created by beekeepers from natural materials at hand: branches, grasses and leaves, straw, clay, mud, even cow manure. In Old World Europe, says Breland, where the American honeybee originated, beekeeping was something peasant farmers and monks “did on the side, when they had time, producing only three to seven pounds of honey a year.” If a farmer “got a little surplus of honey he would put it on his table, and if there was a little more, he would give it to his neighbors. The idea of producing thousands of pounds of honey, and filling up 55-gallon drums with it, is relatively new. A conventional modern beehive produces as much as 50 to 200 pounds of honey a year.”

The “mechanical treatment of honeybees” enabled by the Langstroth hive “is one of the major reasons for the honeybees’ problems now,” says Breland. In 1923, he points out, Waldorf education founder Rudolf Steiner predicted commercial beekeeping would wipe out bees within 100 years. Breland believes we are at the tipping point. “Honeybees are not machines, so if you treat them like machines, eventually they break down.”

For Breland, beekeeping is all about the bees, not the honey—a stance he defends so passionately that he once gave up a lucrative position as a beekeeper on a 650-acre farm and took the bees with him rather than submit to production demands. In the face of a growing number of “violations of honeybee integrity”—like using antibiotics and chemical pesticides to “heal” hives of varroa and tracheal mite infestations, as well as plastic combs that force bees to gather nectar for honey-making rather than comb-building—Breland wants to “resanctify” the practice of beekeeping, and he’s letting the public know about it. Traditionally, he explains, “beekeeping used to be referred to as ‘the art of beekeeping.’ There is a science to beekeeping that’s been done fairly well, but I’m trying to put the art back into it. Bees should not be treated as a resource like coal or oil that has fallen into the marketplace and can be used up and cast aside.”

Learning the Art—and Science
Breland is a former successful commercial photographer based in Manhattan, who abandoned his professional career for full-time farming and beekeeping in the 1990s after growing tired of “corporate assassinations.” Although he began beekeeping in the early 1970s, inspired by the books of Euell Gibbons and mentored by “a very eccentric, 80-year-old Ukrainian beekeeper,” his approach to bees tended to be conventional until the summer of 1996, when he lost his own bees and more than 35 other hives he was caretaking. “In the winter of 1995, half of all the bees in this country died [because of the varroa mite infestation]. An organic farm I know lost all their bees, and I didn’t lose any of mine, and I thought, ‘Well, I’m a better beekeeper than they are,’” he recalls. “Then in the summer of ’96 I lost every single one of my hives. I realized things had changed.”

After losing his hives, Breland turned to scientific and beekeeping journals for help on dealing with the Asian varroa mite, which first appeared in North America in 1986. But he was disappointed to find only information on using Apistan pesticide strips. “The beekeeping journals were all saying we need something to kill the parasite: ‘Here’s this magic insecticide; it won’t kill the bees, it’ll just make them sick for a while, but it’ll kill the parasites so that’ll solve our problem,’” he says. “But they didn’t tell us there was some question about whether the honey you’re producing will be poisoned as well, or that whenever you spray poison into the environment to kill something, whatever it is you’re killing, not all of it dies, and then the survivors’ offspring oftentimes are resistant to whatever it is you were using to kill them—so pesticide resistance is a problem. Downstream, they discovered that residues of this poison appeared in beeswax, so when you’re having a candlelight dinner with your loved ones, are you inhaling this stuff?”

By delving into mythology along with the scientific literature, Breland also discovered that for millennia, honeybees have been held sacred, considered Ra’s tears in Egyptian mythology and messengers of the Greek gods.

As the result of his research, Breland reformulated his concept of the honeybee as a “genetically weakened” being—“incapable of fending off” infestations or diseases, or of “surviving on its own”—that needs healing and nurturing. The bees are still delivering messages from the gods, he says, and the latest one is, “we need to rethink our relationship with the bees,” literally “out of the box.”

A Temple for Bees

Today, Breland works alongside his wife, Otti, operating Bumps & Company, their nursery in West Nyack, New York, named after 19th-century English gardener Gertrude “Bumps” Jekyll and dedicated to “spreading the word about open-pollinated non-hybrid varieties that have fallen by the wayside.” The nursery grows all sorts of bee-friendly, nectar-rich plants in a charming, messy, cottage garden of the style advocated by Jekyll. Among the floral jumble poke the conical wooden roofs of the chalice-like “temples” Breland has built for his “15 or 16, or maybe 17” colonies of bees.

“The best beekeepers don’t count their hives, because they’re not their hives,” he quips when asked how many bees he cares for between Bumps & Company and The Bee Sanctuary, which he runs at the Harrison Farm in Claverack, New York. “The beekeeper is the servant of the bees. He has to know his hives the way you know your children, but you don’t count your children because it puts you in the wrong relationship to them.”

Breland’s current crop of dodecahedron (12-sided) and earlier five-sided hives were the result of his quest to “make a cylinder or sphere, which is what handmade hives were before the Langstroth hive, out of flat board,” and fueled by the theory that “there are no squares, no corners, in nature,” as well as the study of sacred geometry (a belief system attributing spiritual value to fundamental spacial forms) and the abstract sculptor Brancusi “and his notions of tension and release and his endless column form, and how that mimics the sap in trees and lifts everything away from earth and back to the heavens.”

Purposefully placed to be seen from the road at The Bee Sanctuary as well as at Bumps & Company, Breland’s hives are advertisements for the plight of the honeybee. “I don’t expect that building these eccentric hives can make 150 years of sins against the bees go away,” he says. “But at the moment, the hives have enough stopping and staying power to get people focused, and most people say, ‘I didn’t know the bees were in trouble,’ or ‘I heard there was a problem, but I didn’t know it had such magnitude.’ Artists and architects look at the hives and say, ‘Wow, that’s a good idea.’ Well, maybe it is, or it isn’t. The bees are going to determine that.”

In the meantime, Breland is comfortable being a maverick, the kind of beekeeper who “works on the margins, and in the interstices, the spaces in between.” Ultimately, he says, he may be “some wacko fiddling around with an idiosyncratic, crazy idea.” But trying to “create a temple where the gods can come and incarnate as bees” will be worth it even if his experimental hives fail, and even if sometimes when he talks of bees “in poetic terms,” which is frequently, “people look at the ceiling and I can tell they’re thinking, ‘What did he put into his smoker?’

“As the poet Antonio Machado wrote: ‘The bees at night in our dreams, where even angels would fear to go. To heal, they go to heal.’ There will be no healing of the honeybee unless the beekeeper is able to heal himself. What motivates me is that the bees are forces of tremendous healing power,” Breland continues. “They can heal the most fallen of our human aspects if they’re given a place to do that. As the beekeeper attempts to heal a beleaguered honeybee, he heals himself and those around him.”+

Susan Piperato writes on sustainable agriculture from New York’s Hudson Valley.

Pesticides indicted in bee deaths May 18, 2009

Pesticides indicted in bee deaths

Agriculture officials have renewed their scrutiny of the world's best-selling pest-killer as they try to solve the mysterious collapse of the nation's hives.

By Julia Scott


Environment and Science

Salon

May 18, 2009 | Gene Brandi will always rue the summer of 2007. That's when the California beekeeper rented half his honeybees, or 1,000 hives, to a watermelon farmer in the San Joaquin Valley at pollination time. The following winter, 50 percent of Brandi's bees were dead. "They pretty much disappeared," says Brandi, who's been keeping bees for 35 years.

Since the advent in 2006 of colony collapse disorder, the mysterious ailment that continues to decimate hives across the country, Brandi has grown accustomed to seeing up to 40 percent of his bees vanish each year, simply leave the hive in search of food and never come back. But this was different. Instead of losing bees from all his colonies, Brandi watched the ones that skipped watermelon duty continue to thrive.

Brandi discovered the watermelon farmer had irrigated his plants with imidacloprid, the world's best-selling insecticide created by Bayer CropScience Inc., one of the world's leading producers of pesticides and genetically modified vegetable seeds, with annual sales of $8.6 billion. Blended with water and applied to the soil, imidacloprid creates a moist mixture the bees likely drank from on a hot day.

Stories like Brandi's have become so common that the National Honeybee Advisory Board, which represents the two biggest beekeeper associations in the U.S., recently asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ban the product. "We believe imidacloprid kills bees -- specifically, that it causes bee colonies to collapse," says Clint Walker, co-chairman of the board.

Beekeepers have singled out imidacloprid and its chemical cousin clothianidin, also produced by Bayer CropScience, as a cause of bee die-offs around the world for over a decade. More recently, the same products have been blamed by American beekeepers, who claim the product is a cause of colony collapse disorder, which has cost many commercial U.S. beekeepers at least a third of their bees since 2006, and threatens the reliability of the world's food supply.

Scientists have started to turn their attention to both products, which are receiving new scrutiny in the U.S., due to a disclosure in December 2007 by Bayer CropScience itself. Bayer scientists found imidacloprid in the nectar and pollen of flowering trees and shrubs at concentrations high enough to kill a honeybee in minutes. The disclosure recently set in motion product reviews by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and the EPA. The tests are scheduled to wrap up in 2014, though environmentalists, including the Sierra Club, are petitioning the EPA to speed up the work.

For over a decade, Bayer CropScience has been forced to defend the family of insecticides against calls for a ban by beekeepers and environmentalists. French beekeepers succeeded in having imidacloprid banned for use on several crops after a third of the country's bees died following its use in 1999 -- although the French bee population never quite rebounded, as Bayer is quick to point out. Germany banned the use of clothianidin and seven other insecticides in 2008 after tests implicated them in killing up to 60 percent of honeybees in southwest Germany.

Imidacloprid and clothianidin are chloronicotinoids, a synthetic compound that combines nicotine, a powerful toxin, with chlorine to attack an insect's nervous system. The chemical is applied to the seed of a plant, added to soil, or sprayed on a crop and spreads to every corner of the plant's tissue, killing the pests that feed on it.

Pennsylvania beekeeper John Macdonald has been keeping bees for over 30 years and recently became convinced that imidacloprid is linked to colony collapse disorder. It's the only explanation he can find for why his bees, whose hives border farmland that uses the pesticide, started dropping dead a few years ago.

"There's the pernicious toxic effect -- it does everything nicotine does to our nervous system," says Macdonald. "There's the pathological effect, the interference with basic functions. They get lost, they get disoriented. They fall to the ground. They get paralyzed and their wings stick out. I can't think of anything in the environment that's changed other than farming, and virtually every farmer is using treated seeds now."

Bayer CropScience spokesman Jack Boyne says his company's pesticides are not to blame. "We do a lot of research on our products and we feel like we have a very good body of evidence to suggest that pesticides, including insecticides, are not the cause of colony collapse disorder," he says. "Pesticides have been around for a lot of years now and honeybee collapse has only been a factor for the last few years." (Imidacloprid has been approved for use in the U.S. since 1994 and clothianidin has been used since 2003.)

Scientists continue to investigate the causes of colony collapse disorder. Leading theories suggest a combination of factors that include parasitic mites, disease, malnutrition and environmental contaminants like pesticides, insecticides and fungicides. The current EPA review will provide further insight into the role of pesticides, as it will uncover whether honeybees sickened by exposure to imidacloprid spread it around by bringing contaminated nectar and pollen back to the hive.

EPA critics suggest that the agency allowed economic considerations to take precedence over the well-being of honeybees when it approved imidacloprid for sale in the U.S. 15 years ago. "I think the EPA and USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] have been covering up for Bayer, and now they're scrambling to do something about it," says Neil Carman, a plant biologist who advises the Sierra Club on pesticides and other issues. "This review should have been done 10 years ago. It's been found to be more persistent in the environment than was reported by Bayer."

Imidacloprid was approved with knowledge that the product, marketed as Gaucho, Confidor, Admire and others, was lethal to honeybees under certain circumstances. Today the EPA's own literature calls it "very highly toxic" to honeybees and other beneficial insects. Its workaround was to slap a label on the product, warning farmers not to spray it on a plant when bees were foraging in the neighborhood.

In its 2007 studies, Bayer applied standard doses of imidacloprid to test trees, including apple, lime and dogwood. Its scientists found imidacloprid in nectar at concentrations of up to 4,000 parts per billion, a dose high enough to kill several bees at once. (Honeybees can withstand a dose of up to 185 ppb, the standard amount it would take to kill 50 percent of a test population.) What caught the attention of California agricultural officials was that the test trees contained the same amount of deadly imidacloprid as the citrus and almond groves regularly sprayed by farmers, and pollinated by bees. (California's almond industry has increased its use of imidacloprid by a factor of 300 in the past five years.) Agricultural officials were also surprised to learn that the imidacloprid can persist in the leaves and blossoms of a plant for more than a year.

The Bayer results don't surprise University of California at Davis professor Eric Mussen, a well-known entomologist and one of the country's leading experts on colony collapse disorder. Mussen has seen a variety of unpublished studies with similar results, including one at U.C. Riverside that found imidacloprid in the nectar of a eucalyptus tree bloom at concentrations of 550 ppb a full year after it was applied.

"From some of the data on the trees, it appears as though there are situations where honeybees can get into truly toxic doses of the material," says Mussen, who avoids spraying imidacloprid on his own demonstration fields at U.C. Davis. "This the first time that we've had something you put in a tree that could stay there for a long time."

But Mussen isn't convinced imidacloprid is a primary cause of the honeybee die-off. He explains that some bees settle on fields of sunflowers and canola treated with the chemical and then "fly right through to next year." So imidacloprid is not the only story. "Could it be part of the story?" he asks. "I'm sure. I think any of the pesticides the bees bring back to the beehive is hurting the bees."

Mussen adds that ongoing research into chronic exposure to insecticides will be crucial. It's likely, he says, that exposure to even low doses acts like a one-two punch: It can weaken the bees until a parasite or pathogen moves in to finish them off.

As the EPA begins its pesticide studies this year, skeptics wonder whether the agency can conduct an unbiased review. Back in 2003, they point out, the EPA reported that clothianidin was "highly toxic to honeybees on an acute contact basis," and suggested that chronic exposure could lead to effects on the larvae and reproductive effects on the queen. Although the EPA asked Bayer for further studies of its effects on honeybees, it nevertheless authorized the chemical for market.

"If the EPA had sufficient concern about harm to bees that they would insist on other studies, it seemed unwise to approve it anyway and ask for research after the fact," says Aaron Colangelo, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "The EPA's job is to make a decision about whether a chemical is safe or not."

Colangelo envisions a similar scenario in coming years. The EPA has announced it will review clothianidin and other chemicals in the same family, but not until 2012. In the meantime, there's nothing stopping the agency from approving the insecticides for use on new crops based on existing policies. In the end, Colangelo has little confidence the federal agency will bring a hammer down on the agribusiness giant. The EPA, he explains, often keeps its test results confidential for proprietary reasons at a company's request. As a consequence, it's unclear where gaps or discrepancies occur until a company makes a disclosure similar to Bayer's.

"They're not making decisions about whether the pesticide can be put on the market based on impacts to bees, no matter how much evidence of harm there is," Colangelo says. "The EPA will just approve it anyway and put a warning label on the product."

Halting the sale of pesticides, though, would be no mean task. Over 120 countries use imidacloprid under the Bayer label on more than 140 crop varieties, as well as on termites, flea collars and home garden landscaping. And the product's patent expired a few years ago, paving the way for it to be sold as a generic insecticide by dozens of smaller corporations. In California alone, imidacloprid is the central ingredient in 247 separate products sold by 50 different companies.

In a statement, the EPA says that before banning a pesticide, it "must find that an 'imminent hazard' exists. The federal courts have ruled that to make this finding, EPA must conclude, among other things, that there is a substantial likelihood that imminent, serious harm will be experienced from use of the pesticide." The EPA did not clarify what is meant by "imminent hazard" and why the death of honeybees does not qualify.

As Mussen points out, though, a few million dead honeybees may be the cost of doing business. "If they didn't register products that were toxic to honeybees, there wouldn't be a lot of products on the market that were available for pest control."

All the more reason to start taking the world's most ubiquitous insecticide off the market and invent a safer one, argues Walker, of the National Honeybee Advisory Board. "It's on every golf course, it's on every lawn. It's not just an agricultural product. There's really not one part of our lives it's not touching."

A Spring without Bees by Michael Schacker

A message from Barbara Dean Schacker, wife of Michael Schacker, author:

"We really need your help. We need help getting the word out about Michael Schacker's book, "A Spring Without Bees, How Colony Collapse Disorder Has Endanger Our Food Soppy".

This book is the only authoritative book out on the major suspected cause of massive honeybee die-offs--a widely used neurotoxic pesticide. The insecticide should be technically illegal because each of the combined ingredients, nicotine and chlorine were banned in pesticide formulas previously--the combination is extremely poisonous. They were shoved through the approval process without testing for toxicity for pregnant women or young children on an "emergency provisionary basis". It is in most lawn maintenance or "chemical lawn" type mixes--(the books tells you the many names of the chemical so you can know what is on the label). So the problem is not just out there in the fruits and vegetable and alfalfa fields, our children are rolling around in it and we are tracking it into our homes on our feet! France, Germany, Spain and Italy have banned this class of pesticides. In France, it took several years for the soil to recover, but the bees did come back. In addition, Michael Schacker is the only person to have designed a comprehensive plan on how to save the bees and our food supply. But Michael had a CVA and then a massive left hemisphere stroke just the day after completing the book! He is unable to tour the country or speak about all the information in the book, so my daughter Melissa and I along with a few friends are trying to do it. With running 2 companies and overseeing Michael's speech recovery or stroke recovery, I feel I am not doing a good enough job to promote the book and get the word out about the real story on this.

The beekeepers are going bankrupt--and there is "domino effect" (explained in the book) to this particular environmental crisis. We have to work on this now! Rachel Carson's, "Silent Spring" only became a best seller because it got on the Book of the Month Club and because a Supreme Court justice recommended it. Even so, it took another 10 years to ban DDT! Without a best seller, I believe we have little chance of getting the word out and overcoming the misinformation that continually replicates itself about the honeybee and the potential food and fresh produce crisis--a worldwide crisis. From my research, email lists are the new "book of the month". I need to get on as many email lists of people who are interested in the organic lifestyle, the environment and planetary survival as possible. If you can refer us to any lists that would be a great help. Also in your message to your email list, you can tell people to copy and paste and then email to their lists so we get a "word of mouth" campaign going. The request to send to other email lists of friends of bees and friends of the Earth should be replicated in each message.

You can help right away by buying a copy of "A Spring Without Bees" and reading it. It is not a "depressing environmental disaster" book, but rather is written in a surprisingly smart, easy style, almost like a mystery novel--you'll see! Then you can pass the book along to a friend and ask them to put the message out on their email or urge them to buy a copy and pass it along if they wish. You can also go to Plan Bee Central online to sign up for the Plan Bee Action Plan and to find out more about what you can do to ban these pesticides. Buy a copy for Thanksgiving and give thanks to the bees for creating the food you are eating. Buy them as Christmas or holiday gifts so that people can read them over the winter and be prepared to ban locally, plant their bee garden or get their hive to replenish honeybee populations in the spring. I guarantee you will be rewarded for your efforts by meeting a lot of nice people on this journey--I have!

Feel free to--and please--copy and paste this message into your email list or send it to someone with an email list who would be interested. We do not want to SPAM anyone. So only send this to your personal, organizational and non-commercial contact lists. I am so very grateful for your interest and your help. --Barbara Dean Schacker, (his wife) email: mdschacker@earthlink.net or bschacker@strokefamily.org
Related websites to support: ASpringWithoutBees.com, PlanBEECentral.com, strokefamily.org, NewEarthInstitute.com"