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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Friday, November 9, 2012

Companies Get Sweet on Bees

Beekeeper Spencer Marshall of Marshall's Farm harvests honey from the Fairmont rooftop hives in San Francisco. The hotel's bar serves pints of ale infused with honey from the apiary. The buzz at Intel Corp.'s Folsom campus isn't about its latest computer chip. Intel installed five beehives, home to about 200,000 bees, at its offices in June. Now the Santa Clara-based company has a beekeeping club with several certified beekeepers, offers classes for employees and serves honey made from its bees in the employee cafeteria, says an Intel spokesman. The chip maker is among a growing set of businesses in and around the Bay Area that are adding beehives in their backyards and on their rooftops—part of efforts to cultivate honey, but also to help with pollination and promote a greener image. "It's really starting to become an integrated way of life in San Francisco and the Bay Area," says Robert Mackimmie, founder of City Bees, a beehive management and advocacy group in San Francisco. Mr. Mackimmie helped install eight hives on the roof of Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco last year, and the grocery store sells the honey it produces in eight-ounce jars for $11.99. "It's a bit more than you'd pay at a bigger chain, but imagine that that's honey that's made literally 10 feet above your head," he says. The Bay Area is particularly friendly to bees because the temperature rarely dips below freezing, and so native plants provide consistent food and activity for the pollinating critters, say beekeepers such as Mr. Mackimmie. Google Inc. GOOG +1.65% has four hives at its Mountain View headquarters, and the bees have helped the company grow a multitude of flowers and other flora. The company serves the fruits of the bees' labor in its well-stocked cafeteria and teaches beekeeping classes for brave engineers and programmers, says a Google spokeswoman. Bill Tomaszewski, general counsel for San Francisco-based online wine purveyor Inc. and co-owner of Marin Bee Co., provided beehive supplies for Google and Intel, as well as the San Francisco Chronicle for its rooftop apiary. The former police officer says he is eking out a modest profit from his beekeeping services, which include selling three-pound packages of bees at $105 each and honey-based skin-care products. "A lot of these companies are trying to get a little green and bees are a good way to do it," Mr. Tomaszewski says, cautioning that beekeeping isn't for everyone. "This is hard work, you've got to make sure these bees are happy." He convinced the landlord of's building at 114 Sansome St. in San Francisco to install hives on the 14th-floor roof two years ago. The building manager, Seagate Properties Inc. in San Rafael, distributes honey to its tenants a few times a year, says Seagate partner John Conely. While there are no known statistics on how many buildings and businesses have their own beehives, it is apparent the trend is growing, says Philip Gerrie, president of the San Francisco Beekeepers Association. He says many businesses were spurred to help fortify the bee population by previous reports of a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder, in which worker bees fail to return to their hives, leaving the colony to fend for itself. San Francisco also has a permissive attitude to beekeeping, says Mr. Gerrie. "Generally, as long as the neighbors don't complain, it's OK," he says. The city of San Francisco's real-estate department is looking to put two beehives on its 8th-floor rooftop at 1 South Van Ness Ave. by the spring of next year, says District General Manager Lesley Giovannelli. She says the hives would be looked after and donated by nonprofit San Francisco Bee-Cause, so there would be minimal cost to taxpayers. "We may sell jars of the honey at the Alemany Farmers' Market," Ms. Giovannelli adds. Blue Bottle Coffee Co. maintains 10 hives on the roof of its Oakland headquarters. "Our customers don't even know they're up there," says coffee-bar manager Sarah Guldenbrein. "We're looking to develop a pastry with the honey, but it's mostly to help create a positive footprint in the neighborhood." Other food purveyors are getting in on the act. Mediterranean-influ
enced restaurant Nopa, in the San Francisco neighborhood of the same name, has served a honey-balsamic vinaigrette, almond butter and scones using honey cultivated from hives on its roof, says Stephen Satterfield, a manager. And visitors to the Fairmont's bar on Nob Hill can sample poured pints of Almanac Beer Co.'s ale infused with honey from the hotel's rooftop apiary. The hotel plans to start selling four-packs of honey beer for $20 this month, says spokeswoman Melissa Farrar. Beside the rare bee sting—experts say the bugs only attack when provoked—there is at least one other peril in keeping colonies in densely populated areas, says Mr. Mackimmie of City Bees. "Tens of thousands of bees in one place can leave a lot of bee poop behind on cars," he says, noting it looks like tiny yellowish dots. "It washes off, but it's a nuisance." Write to Greg Bensinger at

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Isabella Rosselini: the Drone Bees

Isabella Rosselini: The Queen Bee

Isabella Rosselini's bee film

Isabella Rossellini: the Bee movie star

Sunday 30 September 2012 With its populations in crisis and scientists baffled, the humble honey bee has a new, unlikely champion: Isabella Rossellini. The actor and model tells Tim Lewis why she has swapped life as the most glamorous woman in Hollywood for quirky conservation films and paper beards Isabella Rossellini – actor, muse, style icon – sits on the ground, legs splayed. She's not in a good way: she has a pair of black eyes, her yellow and black tunic is rumpled, her antennae are bent all out of shape. Most alarmingly, her penis has snapped off and blood is seeping from her midriff. An old man, who looks very much like Rossellini but with a lush beard made from shredded newspaper, leans forward, concerned. "What happened to you? You are severely wounded," he points out. "I had sex," she replies matter-of-factly. "What kind of sex?" he asks. "Regular bee sex." If you have been following Rossellini's career lately, this is a routine, unexceptional exchange; if you haven't, it might come as a shock. The daughter of director Roberto Rossellini and actor Ingrid Bergman, she started out as a model – most visibly as the face of Lancôme for many years. She then became an enigmatic screen beauty with a quirky edge, unforgettably in David Lynch's Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart. More recently Rossellini has made eye-catching guest-turns on Friends and as Jack Donaghy's estranged wife on 30 Rock. Who knew, however, that the roles she was really born to play were animals and bugs: a sinister praying mantis, a voracious bed bug, a kinky dolphin? In 2008, when she was in her mid-50s, Rossellini unveiled a bizarre, provocative and often hilarious set of short films called Green Porno, made for Robert Redford's Sundance Channel. They are a scientific, X-rated look at the sexual proclivities of various creatures, told with a homespun, PG-13 aesthetic of handcrafted costumes and origami backgrounds. Rossellini wrote the scripts, performed and directed the action. She won awards, too, including a Webby – an Oscar of the online world. She followed it up with two companion series on mating rituals called Seduce Me. Rossellini's new films focus on honey bees. Made with the cosmetics company Burt's Bees, the three two-minute vignettes detail different aspects of life in a colony. They show an imagined conversation between Burt Shavitz, veteran beekeeper and eccentric founder of Burt's Bees, played by Rossellini in drag, with the three types of bee in the hive: the queen, the workers and a drone. As with Green Porno and Seduce Me, they are crammed with odd facts and salacious details about sex (the drone suicidally leaves its penis inside the queen in a bid to guarantee paternity, the tragic injury alluded to earlier). Accuracy has always been important to Rossellini – she took biology classes at New York University to research her films – but her latest work has a more explicit environmental message than before. Colony collapse disorder (CCD) has seen bee populations plummet by around 30% a year over the past decade, with the effects particularly heavily felt in the United States and Europe. A solution is desperately sought, and there are fearful predictions of what might happen. Not that Rossellini is getting all serious on us just yet. "I ask a lot of questions before I start, but I hope none of the depth remains in the films," she says. "I want them to be comical." It's half an hour before the premiere of the films and we are sitting on a rooftop in downtown Manhattan, the sunset dipping behind the skyscrapers, drinking elderflower, honey and vodka cocktails (better, and stronger, than they sound). All of the drinks and canapés have been created to show off ingredients that would be in peril if bees ceased to exist. Extinction would mean no honey, obviously, but also none of the plants that worker bees are responsible for pollinating: apples, strawberries, almonds, cocoa and coffee, among something like 70 crops. That's one in every third bite – and most of the fun ones – in the developed world. Rossellini is dressed down in a black trouser suit, but she is still a striking presence, with a natural, unfussy elegance. On the way to the event I stopped at a newsagent and noticed her smiling face on the June issue of Italian Vogue, photographed by Steven Meisel. It is her 24th Vogue cover and this time she's the face of the magazine's new global Health Initiative, encouraging a healthier approach to body image. It's a satisfying compliment for a woman who has just turned 60, but this world is not a big part of Rossellini's life now. "I'd like this to become my principal activity: to make films about animals," she says. "Of course it's always interesting to model, but it depends who you are working with. I will continue to make acting, too, but I'm old – I'm getting tired of it. And at 60 you don't get many big roles – you have supporting roles most of the time – so there is time to evolve and do other things. That's how my films came about. I had more time, so I thought: 'OK, I'll go back to school; I'll study what I'm interested in.' So I'd like to follow what has been my hobby." Rossellini points out that hers is hardly a high-fashion existence any more. She lives on a farm in Long Island, an hour or so outside New York, where she is surrounded by a menagerie of creatures. She keeps chickens and has a couple of pigs, and trains labradors and golden retrievers from birth for the Guide Dog Foundation. She is also a member of the local farming co-operative and is responsible for tending the beehives. "I grew up in Italy and our country is a country of great agriculture and food produce," she explains. "It wasn't like I was urban and only knew about high-heeled shoes and purses and never knew where my eggs came from. When I grew up we always had our chickens and we ate our eggs and we ate our chickens. The family always had a pig and we would kill it at Christmas and eat it for three or four months afterwards. The only part I've lost is eating the one I know. That is New York. Many years in New York has made me urban, and I won't eat my chicken because I met him personally!" Bees, in this sense, are perfect. "They have been domesticated to produce more honey, but still they are wild," she says. "So we can use them without killing them." At the premiere, the shorts are well-received by the bee campaigners and aficionados, as are the chocolate-dipped strawberries that follow them. "The films anthropomorphise the situation a bit, they exaggerate a little, they use some artistic license but what they do is they get you curious," says Laurie Adams, executive director of the Pollinator Partnership, an influential bug-friendly charity. "And it allows people to see that they can play a role in helping to protect them." "Isabella's really accurate with what goes on with bees," agrees Dr Christina Grozinger, an associate professor of entomology at Penn State University and one of America's foremost bee experts. "The films actually touch on a lot of points that scientists have been confused about for years. Like the fact that the queen mates up to 16 times; we are probably all surprised by how promiscuous she is. But recently it's become clear that colonies that are more genetically diverse are more resistant to diseases and they are also more productive." No one, though, is becoming too carried away and the fact that bees keep disappearing – often overnight, without trace, like an alien abduction – creates a sombre undercurrent to the evening. Colony Collapse Disorder has been linked to parasites, pathogens and pesticides; one recent study was particularly suspicious of a pesticide called neonicotinoids, or neonics, which are widely used to grow genetically engineered corn and seem to make bees become disorientated. Grozinger and others, meanwhile, believe the strongest link is with habitat loss. The situation is further confused by the fact that the cases of CCD significantly decreased last winter, and yet still the overall numbers of bees lost remained around 30%. "We can say that bees that are in environments that have lots of plants seem to be doing better," says Grozinger. "Everyone hopes there's a silver bullet, but essentially it's like cancer, there's multiple causes. Each individual colony that dies may be dying from something entirely different. So at this point it's thought that it's multiple factors probably acting in synergy." The situation in the UK is worryingly similar. There are around 30,000 beekeepers here and the honey bee is particularly valuable as a pollinator because it is smaller than our bumble bees, so can access more plants, and also travels more widely, up to three miles from the hive. Honey bees also put in a longer shift than other pollinators, starting in February and only clocking off in November. It's estimated that one colony, which will typically contain around 30,000 bees, can pollinate up to 300 million flowers in one day. As numbers dwindle, their absence is sure to have an impact on the environment around us. "Within the next 20 years we will either see beekeeping surviving as an activity or we won't and the numbers will drop to 10,000 beekeepers in favoured parts of the country," says Robin Dartington, who runs the bee sanctuary Buzz Works in Hitchin, Hertfordshire. "We will certainly notice the effect environmentally. There are a number of trees that flower early and go on to produce berries that feed birds. Trees that require early pollination will fade and the countryside will shift to favouring plants that flower later, when there are other pollinators around. It's not to be taken for granted." We can't necessarily rely on scientists to bail us out, either. Dartington has noticed a drop-off in research in recent years and now much of the funding is being left to interested parties, such as the almond and blueberry industries in the States and Burt's Bees, which uses bee and plant extracts in almost all of their products. Rossellini hopes her films will help bring the subject to a wider audience and, once they have stopped tittering, they will do something to help the bees in the their area, starting with buying honey from local beekeepers. She has tried to do her bit, too: for her 60th birthday in June, she asked all the guests at her party to buy her bulbs, which she will plant in her garden next year for her bees to forage. "It will be great, because in spring I will see all my friends coming up," she says. Momentarily she turns serious. "If you learn about nature you become fascinated by it and it's natural you want to protect it. If you know they do suffer, they do disappear, they do get killed, you start to take a responsibility. But I'm optimistic for the bees: I think people want to care for bees because of the honey. People like dessert." To see the films, visit

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Pope's bees brave summer heat to produce organic wildflower honey

Thursday, September 20, 2012 By Catholic News S... By Carol Glatz Catholic News Service Add Comment ShareThis VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The pope's bees had a bittersweet year producing a lower-than-expected yield due to intense summer heat. The bees live on a 50-acre farm at the papal summer villa in Castel Gandolfo, a small town in the hills southeast of Rome. Despite their hard work, the one-half million bees only managed to pull in 176 pounds of wildflower honey -- produced from nectar from surrounding gardens, fruit trees and other blossoming trees like chestnut. Temperatures and rainfall can affect both nectar production and restrict honeybees from foraging. The honey crop was produced by eight beehives, which were donated to Pope Benedict XVI last year by members of Coldiretti, an Italian trade group that promotes agricultural education and lobbies to protect agricultural land and promote farm-friendly policies. Italian farmers belonging to the organization also gave the pope his own vineyard of native red and white grape varieties, Coldiretti said in a press release Sept. 20. The donation was part of the group's "locavore" initiative to help produce a papal wine while producing zero carbon emissions next year. The group planted 1,200 square yards of grape vines this year "in a striking corner" of the papal gardens "under a statue of Christ giving his blessing," it said. They also donated the necessary equipment for processing the grapes and new oak and chestnut casks for the wine to age properly in the small papal wine cellar. The vineyard was given to Pope Benedict as a way of commemorating his first words to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square on the day of his election April 19, 2005, when he called himself "a simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord." The papal farm is home to an olive grove, fruit trees and greenhouses used to raise flowers and plants which often are used to decorate the papal apartments and meeting rooms. Each day, 25 cows produce more than 150 gallons of milk, and more than 200 eggs are collected from some 300 hens. In addition, about 60 chickens are raised for meat. What the pope and his aides do not use is sold to Vatican employees and retirees at their discount supermarket. Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Monday, September 17, 2012

Neonicotinoid Seed Treatments and Honey Bee Health

by Greg Hunt and Christian Krupke, Purdue University CAP Updates: 28 Jointly published in the American Bee Journal and in Bee Culture, September 2012. In the last 10-15 years, the EPA has gradually eliminated many uses of several “older” classes of pesticides. These include the widely used organophosphates, a staple of many agricultural systems. This left farmers and chemical companies looking for alternatives. A new class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, or neonics for short, were initially developed in the 1970’s. The chemical structure of these is derived from nicotine (also an insecticide, keeps tobacco plants safe from caterpillars) and they are relatively non-toxic to most vertebrates. Most are water-soluble and break down slowly in the environment, so they can be taken up by the plant and provide protection from insects as the plant grows and develops. During the late 1990’s this class of pesticides became widely used (primarily as imidacloprid, trade names include Gaucho, Provado, Merit). Beginning in the early 2000’s, two other neonics began to see wide use to treat corn and other field crop seeds. These compounds are clothianidin (trade name Poncho) and thiamethoxam (trade name Cruiser), the latter rapidly breaks down into clothianidin in living organisms. Currently, virtually every corn seed that is planted in the Midwest is treated with one of these two compounds, along with a cocktail of fungicides. In addition, most soybean seeds are also treated with neonics (usually thiamethoxam). Clothianidin is one of the most toxic substances we know of for honey bees. The lethal oral dose to give a 50% chance of death (the LD50) among an exposed group of adult honeybees is about 3 nanograms per bee. That’s 3 billionths of a gram, a tiny fraction of the weight of the bee (1/10 of a gram). Of course, toxicity by itself is not informative without exposure data. How often do honey bees encounter these pesticides? Where does this issue rank among the challenges facing honey bee health? These are some of the questions that the beekeeping and agricultural communities are trying to answer. Here we describe the current situation as we see it, and the status of our own investigations into health threats from neonicotinoids. These studies were funded by the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign and the Bee Health Coordinated Agricultural Project (CAP). Some beekeepers saw this issue coming before we did. In the spring of 2010 we became aware of it when we saw dead bees in front of most of the Purdue bee hives during the week that corn was being planted nearby. Conditions were hot (85°F), dry and windy and clouds of dust were kicked up by the planters – a common sight throughout the Midwest in early spring. We tested bees that were dying in front of hives near agricultural fields and also healthy hives. The dead bees had clothianidin and several other seed treatment chemicals in or on their bodies. Most of the bees that were dying were actually the nurse bees that may have consumed pollen that was being collected from dandelions and other flowering plants in the area. We saw the characteristic color of dandelion pollen on most of the foragers. Pollen collected by returning foragers and pollen sampled from the cells of those hives had about 10 times the level of clothianidin and thiamethoxam as compared to that detected in the dead bees. In 2011, we conducted further studies and found that the talc that is put into seed hoppers to keep seeds flowing properly during planting contained an extremely high concentration of clothianidin and thiamethoxam (about 1 to 1.5%). A gram of talc containing 1.0% clothianidin could theoretically kill a million bees if they ingested it and could threaten about half as many bees if the dust contacted them (Laurino et al. 2011; Tremolada et al. 2010). Later in the season, pollen collected by bees when corn was shedding pollen in the area had up to 88 parts per billion (ppb) of clothianidin in it. These results suggest that there are many potential routes for exposure, but does not identify the key factor. We hypothesize that corn being planted nearby acts as a source of talc which may have contaminated flowers that bees were foraging on. Corn pollen from plants grown from treated seed had much less clothianidin, about 4 parts per billion. This is not enough to kill bees outright, but about 45% of the pollen our bees were collecting at that time was corn pollen. We do not know what effect this level of pesticide has on nurse bees that consume the pollen, or on the larvae they are feeding it to. Clothianidin is fairly stable in the soil with a documented half-life (the amount of time until half of the material is broken down in soil) of up to three years (EPA - 2003). After testing soil from various fields, we found that levels were just as high (about 9 ppb) in a field that had not had treated seed of any kind planted in it for the previous two growing seasons. Our overall conclusion was that the greatest danger occurs at planting time (due to the waste talc from planters), but that bees are exposed to sublethal levels of pesticide throughout the growing season. Our research paper is published online and is freely available ( Figure 1. Bees can be exposed to neonicotinoids at low concentrations from corn pollen and windblown soil that lands on other flowers. They are exposed to much higher concentrations from contaminated talc that escapes from seed hoppers for a short period around planting time (photo courtesy of Purdue entomology extension). We have also communicated with beekeepers on how they can report beekills to state agencies and the EPA ( This report has generated some discussion and of course, and more questions. It is not a “smoking gun” that points to neonicotinoids as the cause of CCD. What the work does show is that there is significant room for improvement in how we plant field crops in North America. Although problems with bee kills and clothianidin had been seen in Germany in 2008, there are many differences in planting practices, land use, and equipment that mean the European experience does not readily translate to questions here. For example, the virtually ubiquitous pneumatic planters that use forced air to plant seeds (and exhaust used talc in the process), are not widely used in the E.U., nor is talc widely used as a seed lubricant. It is also important to note that the acreages (both in total and individual fields) here in North America dwarf European production. At some 95 million acres planted this year, corn alone accounts for almost a quarter of the harvested acres in the United States. It is the largest use of US agricultural land and virtually every seed is coated with neonicotinoid insecticides. The United States accounts for over 40% of worldwide production, over 20 times more than the highest ranking country in the E.U. (France, ranking 7th worldwide). What does all this mean? Is this a tempest in a teapot, or will our agricultural practices spell the end of honey bees in North America? It is tempting in the era of “thumbs up/thumbs down” and instant judgements to label every scientific finding as one or the other – but of course the truth lies in the middle. Only more data will reveal the extent of the problem and possible solutions. For example, this spring we have observed more dead and twitching bees in front of colonies during the corn planting here in Indiana. The Indiana Office of the State Chemist worked on a handful of incident reports and all of the dead bee samples tested positive for clothianidin and other seed treatment chemicals. Similar reports have been coming from Ohio, Minnesota and the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. In Ontario, more than 100 samples from this year’s spring bee kills are being analyzed and regulation of neonicotinoids is being re-evaluated because of threats to pollinators ( It is certainly true as Randy Oliver recently pointed out that many people are still successfully keeping bees in the corn belt (Oliver 2012). If growing treated seed led directly to drastic reductions in honey bee health, we would not need research (or researchers!) at all. The results would be apparent to beekeepers and field crop producers alike. This story is like the layers of an onion, that unfortunately require time to peel. There is no question that other potential causes of these bee kills should be considered as well. However, when we see kills that are synchronized with each other and with corn planting over a wide area, and the pesticide is found in dead bees near agricultural fields, the weight of the evidence points in just one direction. Some of the problems associated with planting can likely be solved with some effort to change planting practices. The neonics are effective pesticides that are relatively non-toxic for many life forms (most notably humans), but (of course) are highly toxic to insects. Like all pesticides, they should be used judiciously – where there is a demonstrated need. This is a principle of pest management that has largely gone by the wayside in some large acreage cropping systems. The bee story is one indication that perhaps it is time to re-evaluate whether it is necessary to use up to 1.25 milligrams of neonicotinoids on virtually every single corn kernel that is planted in the country. Planting corn is the largest use of arable land in the US, and each corn seed theoretically has enough pesticide to kill well over 100,000 bees. The EPA is currently in the process of re-evaluating the registration of clothianidin. This includes convening a scientific advisory panel to weigh the published information, data packages from the registrants of these chemicals, and input from stakeholders. This is the time to make your voice heard. The public docket can be found online under the docket number EPA–HQ–OPP–2011– 0865. Remember that in these cases, the most useful input is factual, science-based, and presents an argument that is not based on emotion, feelings or perceptions but data. Let’s try to put the seed treatment issue into perspective with what is going on with our bees. We are all still hearing the words “colony collapse disorder” and it is synonymous in the media with the major bee health problem. Yet it is not clear how common these symptoms (rapid dwindling of colony population, leaving untended brood and food stores, but no dead bees) occurred in the past or are happening now. Symptoms of CCD were noticed during 2006 and 2007, perhaps less often since then. Since that time, there has been a comprehensive tallying of the nation’s winter bee kills, and there is a general belief that losses have increased - we are averaging about 30% winter die-offs each year. But prior to that time, losses were recorded from regional surveys that exceeded 30% after the spread of parasitic mites (occurring about 1990). For example, a survey of beekeepers in Indiana during the winter of 1995-1996 showed that about 57% of the state’s bee colonies died, and that not treating for Varroa resulted in much higher losses (Hunt 1998). In Pennsylvania, 53% of all bee colonies died that year, and losses were much higher for colonies not treated for Varroa [Finley et al. 1996]. Recent surveys and studies around the world still put Varroa at the top of the list among factors causing winter losses (Guzman-Novoa et al. 2010; Le Conte et al. 2010; Peterson et al. 2010; Ratnieks and Carrick 2010). What is clear is that bees in many areas of the world (including areas far from neonicotinoid treated seed use) are in trouble. However, since we perform agriculture on a massive scale in this country, it makes sense to consider the factors that are stressing our bees in and near the modern agricultural setting. Neonicotinoids are a key player and a good place to start. Their effects are beginning to be better characterized, but they don’t occur in a vacuum - we need to also consider interactions with other stressors of honey bees (mites, other pesticides, viruses and poor nutrition). Where do these compounds and other pesticides rank as players in the CCD debate? Again, there is no definitive answer – but for a bee, it probably depends on where you live! Another CAP-funded study that surveyed levels of pesticides in colony wax, pollen and bees found that levels of neonicotinoids, when present, were usually low in wax and pollen and they were absent in bees. The study did not report any detections for clothianidin but it is important to note that the survey also did not include many samples from the corn belt (Mullin et al. 2010). Another study showed that bees reared in comb from commercial beekeeping operations that had relatively high levels of pesticides (including neonics) took longer to develop into adults and had their adult life span reduced by four days (Wu et al. 2011). These two studies highlight the complexity of teasing out how hive contamination with pesticides may have sublethal effects on bees. The real conundrum is that to design informative experiments we usually have to work with one compound at a time to uncover mechanisms – whereas the bees in the field are exposed to many compounds (and other stressors) simultaneously! What we can say at this point, is that the use of neonicotinoid seed treatments over hundreds of millions of acres annually, coupled with their extremely high toxicity to honey bees, and their persistence in plants (including nectar and pollen that bees eat) combine to create an environment where it is very difficult for bees to avoid exposure to these highly toxic chemicals. That in itself makes this topic worthy of further investigation. Another thought that gives us pause is that if we are seeing bee kills in honey bees that have a colony to rely on, what is happening to the many species of native bees in North America that have to go it alone? References Dainat B, Evans JD, Chen YP, Gauthier L, Neumann P (2012) Predictive markers of honey bee colony collapse. PLoS ONE 7(2): e32151. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032151. EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency). 2003 Pesticide Fact Sheet: Clothianidin. Available at: Finley J, Camazine S, Frazier M (1996) The epidemic of honey bee colony losses during the 1995-1996 season. Am Bee J 136: 805-808. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Statistics Division (2009). "Maize, rice and wheat : area harvested, production quantity, yield". Guzmán-Novoa E, Eccles L, Calvete Y, McGowan J, Kelly PG, et al. (2010) Varroa destructor is the main culprit for the death and reduced populations of overwintered honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies in Ontario, Canada. Apidologie 41: 443-450. Hunt GJ (1998) The war against Varroa: How are we doing? Am Bee J 138: 372-374. Krupke CH, Hunt GJ, Eitzer BD, Andino G, Given K. 2012. Multiple routes of pesticide exposure for honey bees living near agricultural fields. PLoS ONE 7(1):e29268. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029268. Laurino D, Porporato M, Patetta A, Manino A (2011) Toxicity of neonicotinoid insecticides to honey bees: laboratory tests. Bull Insectology 64:107-113. Le Conte Y, Ellis M, Ritter W (2010) Varroa mites and honey bee health: can Varroa explain part of the colony losses? Apidologie DOI: 10.1051/apido/2010017. Mullin CA, Frazier M, Frazier JL, Ashcraft S, Simonds R, vanEngelsdorp D, Pettis JS (2010) High levels of miticides and agrochemicals in North American apiaries: Implications for honey bee health. PLoS ONE 5(3): e9754. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009754. Oliver R (2012) The extinction of the honey bee? Am. Bee J. 152(7):697-704. Peterson M, Gray A, Teale A (2010) Colony losses in Scotland in 2004-2006 from a sample survey. J. Apic. Res. 48: 145-146. Ratnieks FLW, Carreck NL (2010) Clarity on bee colony collapse? Science 327: 152-153. Tapparo A, Marton D, Giorio C, Zanella A, Solda L, Marzaro M, Vivan L, Girolami V (2012) Assessment of the environmental exposure of honeybees to particulate matter containing neonicotinoid insecticides coming from corn coated seeds. Environ. Sci. Technol. 46: 2592-2599. Tremolada P, Mazzoleni M, Saliu F, Colombo M, Vighi M (2010) Field trial for evaluating the effects on honeybees of corn sown using Cruiser and Celest xl treated seeds. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 85:229-234. Wu JY, Anelli CM, Sheppard W (2010) Sub-lethal effects of pesticide residues in brood comb on worker honey bee (Apis mellifera) development and longevity. PLoS ONE 6(2): e14720. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0014720.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Monsanto Loses to Beekeepers of Yucatan Peninsula

Beekeepers have succeeded in preventing, through two suspensions obtained in amparo (specialized protection), the seeding of transgenic soy for 253,500 hectares in Campeche, Quintana Roo, Yucatan, Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosi, Veracruz, and Chiapas. 59 organizations of beekeepers, environmentalists, and NGO´s have maintained that the amparos (or protections) granted by the second district court of Campeche, are setting a precedent to continue demanding the definitive suspension of permits that have been issued by SAGARPA to Monsanto. The organizations added in their press release communication that they will not cease in their fight for production that is free of transgenic interference. They have been encouraged greatly by the recent Felipe Carrillo Puerto council, which approved the initiative to declare its territory a “GMO-free zone”. The Felipe Carrillo Puerto council ruling signifies that the judges of Chiapas, Quintana Roo, and Yucatan have resolved in favor of the organizations that presented the initiative. The producers interested in the seeding of transgenic soybeans “are at risk when investing in such cultivation, as there is now a strong opposition and legal and political struggle that this country be declared a GMO-free zone” stated the press communication. During a reunion at SAGARPA, Simon Treviño Alcantara, director general of the Fomento a la Agricultura, assured that this year there will be no planting of transgenic soybean. He insisted that this seeding would affect close to 25 thousand families that survive in the agricultural sector. Alcantara mentioned that European businesses have suspended the purchase of honey from Yucatan and Quintana Roo until they have evidence that the product is free of transgenic organisms. Environmental groups, women, and community development organizations in Chiapas reiterated their rejection of transgenic planting of 30,000 hectares in the municipalities of Acacoyagua, Acapetahua, Cacahotan, Escuintla, Frontera Hidalgo, Huehuetan, Huixtla, Mazatan, Metapa, Suchiapa, Suchiate, Tapachula, Tuxtla Chico, Tuxtla Gutierrez, Tuzantan, Villa Comaltitilan, and Villaflores, as most of these areas are near protected natural zones. The environmental groups argued that Monsanto sells to farmers who plant the transgenic soybean a required herbicide, Roundup Ready, whose formula contains glyphosate, a chemical that when dissolved in water damages plants, animals, and people. Beekeepers blame, Juan Elvira Quesada, Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), in evading its responsibility in the approval of GM seed, this organization has the ability to issue an opinion to the SAGARPA binding so the institution can issue a final and negative decision to plant GM crops.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

NATIONAL HONEY BEE DAY! TODAY AUGUST 18th National Honey Bee Day 2012: August 18th. Make plans now to participate! The 2012 Theme: "Sustainable Agriculture Starts with Honey Bees!" ************************** We Welcome You To The National Honey Bee Day Website. The primary goals of the National Honey Bee Day Program include: 1) Promotion and advancement of beekeeping. 2) Educate the public about honey bees and beekeeping. 3) Make the public aware of environmental concerns as they effect honey bees. ********************************************************************* ********************************************************************* Important Message to Beekeepers, Bee Groups, and the Public: While great strides have been made in recent years in getting ordinances passed allowing beekeepeing once again in many parts of the country, there are also ongoing efforts in some locations trying to ban or severly restrict beekeeping elsewhere. Building support within your own community is as important as ever in the bee industry. Invite key local politicians such as the mayor, township supervisors, zoning board members, and state politicians to your National Honey Bee Day event. Build bridges, and connect with others who could possibly help in the future. The bee industry, and your local bee community, can benefit greatly from connecting with others and getting more educated in beekeeping. Get Involved. Be proactive...not reactive! Help Support National Honey Bee Day. Consider purchasing wildflower seeds for the 2012 season to help the honey bees, native pollinators, and the environment. Click here for more details. The National Honey Bee Day program started with a simple concept. Bring together beekeepers, bee associations, as well as other interested groups to connect with the communities to advance beekeeping. By working together and harnessing the efforts that so many already accomplish, and using a united effort one day a year, the rewards and message is magnified many times over. We encourage bee associations, individuals, and other groups to get involved. The program is free and open to all. Sponsor and Contributors The National Honey Bee Day program operates and is funded by the generosity of our sponsors and contributors. Please check out our sponsors page, and patronize the businesses that are helping to make this program a success all across the country. Latest addition to the website: What NOT to do if you find honey bees. See the video link on the News and Events page. click here. Please help save the honey bees. SEEKING LOGO ARTWORK! PennApic and the National Honey Bee Day program is seeking submissions for logo artwork and graphics to be used for marketing and promotional use. We would like to support an inspiring graphic artist or individual who would like to add to their portfolio by helping out a nonprofit association while getting national exposure. We would like something that is unique, easily recognizable, and used exclusively by PennApic and the NHBD program. If this interests you, please contact me by clicking here. Thank you. The honey bee industry needs your help and support. Some of the pages listed on this website are intended to educate the public on issues, and steps we can take to help the honey bee. National Honey Bee Day may be one day per year, but the care of the environment to which the bees reside, takes a year long commitment. We encourage all to become good stewards of the environment through practical and commonsense approaches. All authorized programs and fund raising efforts are listed on this site. If you have questions about a particular program or questionable fund raising, please notify us as soon as possible. Thank you. Ridgecrest Ca., had thier first NHBD event in 2011, which was packed with excited folks eager to learn more about honeybees. Thank you for the efforts of Dave Jester for making this happen. **************************************************** We are hard at work planning the next National Honey Bee Day program scheduled for August 18, 2012 Beekeepers: Please visit the 2012 participants page. If you do not see your bee association listed, please contact your association officers. If you have no association in your area, we encourage individuals to get involved. If you or your association wants to host a National Honey Bee Day program, click here. Friends of Honey Bees: If you are not a beekeeper, please support the closest bee association or participating National Honey Bee Day program. We encourage you to support local agriculture markets, and enjoy local honey varietals. Please consider making a donation to the overall NHBD program. Your contributions will support programs by allowing us to provide educational material to schools, environmental centers, and programs across the country. This website has information on getting started in bees, how homeowners can help the bees, and information useful for giving a bee talk to a classroom or group of visitors. Please feel free to use any of the information. It is posted for your use and benefit. The National Honey Bee Day program operates and is administered under the nonprofit listing and status of Pennsylvania Apiculture Inc., adhering to all laws and guidelines of a 501c and filed in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The National Honey Bee Day program is always striving to build upon the existing program and expand our outreach while moving forward. We value feedback and constructive comments. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any suggestions or questions. Counter Since 9-24-10

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

French Ag Minister to ban Syngenta’s bee-killing pesticide, Cruiser

06Jun2012 By geobear7 By Phil Chandler Friends of the Bees The French Minister of Agriculture has announced his intention to ban Syngenta’s pesticide ‘Cruiser’ from the French market in a few weeks time; ‘Cruiser’ is largely used on oilseed rape and contains the neonicotinoid ‘Thiamethoxam’, which recent studies in ‘Science’ have revealed to be harmful to bees ability to forage and navigate. Other studies have revealed that this pesticide affects bumblebees and other pollinators in a similar harmful manner. Thiamethoxam was used on over 736,000 acres of crops in the UK in 2010. Here are the most recent figures for Thiamethoxam in the UK (2010) – as you will see, the usage increased TENFOLD from 2009 to 2010. It stood at 298,000 hectares – or 736,000 acres in 2010. We do not know what the usage was for 2011 but presumably if the rate of increase is sustained it could well be over a million hectares now? THIAMETHOXAM USAGE IN THE UK Year Region Crop Group Active Substance Total Area Treated (ha) Total Weight Applied (kg) 2010 Great Britain All Crops Thiamethoxam 298,007 9,105 2009 Great Britain All Crops Thiamethoxam 22,567 938 2008 Great Britain All Crops Thiamethoxam 21,909 940 2007 Great Britain All Crops Thiamethoxam 1,333 5.6 2006 Great Britain All Crops Thiamethoxam 1,213 5.4 2005 Great Britain All Crops Thiamethoxam 1,213 5.4 Given that the French are about to ban this dangerous neonicotinoid, how long before DEFRA and the other regulators here in the UK follow suit? How long before the British Bee Keepers Association calls for a ban? Or will they do their usual trick of leaping to the defense of the pesticide industry? From Reuters: The decision was based on a report from French health and safety agency ANSES, which went along with recent scientific findings suggesting that a sub-lethal dose of thiamethoxam, a molecule contained in Cruiser, made bees more likely to lose their way and die…. The French ban on the pesticide will take effect before the start of the next rapeseed sowing campaign in late summer, a farm ministry official said, stressing that it would not affect versions of Cruiser used for other crops such as maize (corn)…. In a separate opinion published on Friday, the European Food Safety Authority said doses of neonicotinoids tested in the bee research were above the highest residue levels actually recorded in plant nectar, adding that more studies were needed to evaluate exposure in different field situations. Dave Goulson of Stirling University in Scotland, who led another recent study on risks to bees from neonicotinoids, said there was growing evidence that these chemicals may play a role. “It would be massively oversimplifying to say that these chemicals are the only cause of bee decline, although it is clear they are a part of the problem,” he told Reuters.

Monday, June 4, 2012

After damning research, France proposes banning pesticide linked to bee collapse

Jeremy Hance June 04, 2012 Following research linking neonicotinoid pesticides to the decline in bee populations, France has announced it plans to ban Cruiser OSR, an insecticide produced by Sygenta. Recent studies, including one in France, have shown that neonicotinoid pesticides likely hurt bees' ability to navigate, potentially devastating hives. France has said it will give Sygenta two weeks to prove the pesticide is not linked to the bee decline, known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). France's decision comes after its National Agency for Food, Safety, and the Environment (ANSES) confirmed the findings of two recent studies published in Science. The two studies found that neonicotinoid pesticides, although not immediately lethal, likely hurt bee colonies over a period of time. In the French study, researchers glued tiny microchips to free-ranging honeybees and then administered small doses of thiamethoxam, a primary ingredient in Sygenta's Cruiser OSR to some of the bees. Bees exposed to the pesticide were two to three times more likely not to return from foraging trips, allowing researchers to hypothesize that the pesticide impairs the bee's ability to navigate its surroundings successfully. Because neonicotinoid pesticides work by impacting insects' central nervous systems, they have long been a target for researchers trying to understand Colony Collapse Disorder, but the difficulty has been proving that pesticides harm hives even though they don't kill bees outright. However, Sygenta denies that their pesticides have played any role whatsoever in the bee collapse. "All Syngenta’s crop protection products are thoroughly tested to ensure that there are no unwanted effects on beneficial insects such as bees or excessive residues in food or risks to human health," the company says on its website. The French government disagrees and has stated it would also raise the question of a ban on the pesticide for the entire European Union (UN). Evidence of harm piling up Despite Sygenta's statements, studies continue to appear that find a link between neonicotinoid pesticides and Colony Collapse Disorder. Recently, researchers in the U.S. fed tiny doses of neonicotinoid pesticide-laced high-fructose corn syrup, which is commonly used to feed bees, to 16 hives in the field and left four hives untreated. For months all the hives remained healthy, but after around six months over 90 percent (15 out of 16) of the hives fed with the pesticidal corn syrup had collapsed, while the four control hives remained healthy. "There is no question that neonicotinoids put a huge stress on the survival of honey bees in the environment," lead author Chensheng (Alex) Lu, an associate professor at the HSPH, told Meanwhile another U.S. study published last month in the Journal of Experimental Biology, found that bees hit by neonicotinoid pesticides underwent behavioral changes. Exposed bees only fed on very sweet nectar, ultimately limiting their feeding choices. In addition the bees ability to communicate was injured. Foraging bees communicate via 'waggle dances' whereby they show the hive where to find food sources. But says lead author Daren Eiri, "Remarkably, bees that fed on the pesticide reduced the number of their waggle dances between fourfold and tenfold. And in some cases, the affected bees stopped dancing completely." Scientists first started recording alarming declines in bees in North America in 2006. Shortly thereafter similar declines occurred throughout Europe, and have also been noted in Taiwan. While periodic colony collapses have been recorded since the 19th Century, the current crisis has proven much worst than past ones with some producers losing 90 percent of their hives. A number of theories for the collapse have been posited, including disease, parasitic mites, habitat loss, and, of course, pesticides. Many researchers have suggested a combination of these factors. CITATIONS: Chensheng Lu, Kenneth M. Warchol, Richard A. Callahan. In situ replication of honey bee colony collapse disorder. Bulletin of Insectology. 2012. D. M. Eiri, J. C. Nieh. A nicotinic acetylcholine receptor agonist affects honey bee sucrose responsiveness and decreases waggle dancing. Journal of Experimental Biology, 2012; 215 (12): 2022 DOI: 10.1242/jeb.068718. M. Henry; O. Rollin; J. Aptel; S. Tchamitchian; M. Beguin; F. Requier; O. Rollin; A. Decourtye. A Common Pesticide Decreases Foraging Success and Survival in Honey Bees. Science. 2012. P.R. Whitehorn; S. O’Connor; D. Goulson; F.L. Wackers. Neonicotinoid Pesticide Reduces Bumble Bee Colony Growth and Queen Production. Science. 2012. Related articles Researchers recreate bee collapse with pesticide-laced corn syrup (04/05/2012) Scientists with the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) have re-created the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder in several honeybee hives simply by giving them small doses of a popular pesticide, imidacloprid. Bee populations have been dying mysteriously throughout North America and Europe since 2006, but the cause behind the decline, known as Colony Collapse Disorder, has eluded scientists. However, coming on the heels of two studies published last week in Science that linked bee declines to neonicotinoid pesticides, of which imidacloprid is one, the new study adds more evidence that the major player behind Colony Collapse Disorder is not disease, or mites, but pesticides that began to be widely used in the 1990s. Smoking gun for bee collapse? popular pesticides (03/29/2012) Commonly used pesticides may be a primary driver of the collapsing bee populations, finds two new studies in Science. The studies, one focused on honeybees and the other on bumblebees, found that even small doses of these pesticides, which target insect's central nervous system, impact bee behavior and, ultimately, their survival. The studies may have far-reaching repercussions for the regulation of agricultural chemicals, known as neonicotinoid insecticides, that have been in use since the 1990s. The value of the little guy, an interview with Tyler Prize-winning entomologist May Berenbaum (04/06/2011) May Berenbaum knows a thing or two about insects: in recognition of her lifelong work on the interactions between insects and plants, she has had a character on The X-Files named after her, received the Public Understanding of Science and Technology Award for her work in making science accessible to the public, and this year has been awarded the prestigious Tyler Environmental Prize. "Winning the Tyler Prize is an incredible honor—most of my scientific heroes have been Tyler Prize winners and I’m exceedingly grateful to be considered worthy of being included among their ranks," Berenbaum told in an interview. "The Prize is also tremendously enabling—because the money is unrestricted I can use it to carry out projects that have been difficult to fund."

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Last (Chemical) Gasp for Bees?

Colony collapse disorder threatens food crops valued at $15 billion a year. New research says farm chemicals put our food system at risk. Document Actions
by Shannan Stoll Newly published scientific evidence is bolstering calls for greater regulation of some of the world’s most widely used pesticides and genetically modified crops. Earlier this year, three independent studies linked agricultural insecticides to colony collapse disorder, a phenomenon that leads honeybees to abandon their hives. Beekeepers have reported alarming losses in their hives over the last six years. The USDA reports the loss in the United States was about 30 percent in the winter of 2010-2011. Bees are crucial pollinators in the ecosystem. Their loss also impacts the estimated $15 billion worth of fruit and vegetable crops that are pollinated by bees in the United States. The studies, conducted in the United States, France, and the United Kingdom, all pointed to neonicotinoids, a class of chemicals used widely in U.S. corn production, as likely contributors to colony collapse disorder. The findings challenged the EPA’s position—based on studies by Bayer CropScience, a major producer of the neonicotinoid clothianidin—that bees are only exposed to small, benign amounts of these insecticides. The new studies found that bees are exposed to potentially lethal amounts of neonicotinoids in pollen and in dust churned up by farm equipment. They also found that exposure to neonicotinoids can reduce the number of queen bees and disorient worker bees. An alliance of beekeepers and environmental groups filed a petition on March 21 asking the EPA to block the use of clothianidin in agricultural fields until the EPA conducts a sound scientific review of the chemicals. Meanwhile, farm chemicals and the biotech industry have come under fire for the problem of pest resistance. Some weeds and bugs have become less susceptible or immune to the chemicals or biotechnology used to control them. In March, national experts on corn pests published a letter to the EPA describing how rapidly rootworms are becoming resistant to the larvae-killing gene in Monsanto’s genetically engineered “Bt” corn. The letter warns that the EPA should move to regulate Bt corn—by requiring, for example, non-GM buffer zones—with “some sense of urgency.” In a similarly alarming trend, Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready” soy and corn, which are genetically modified to tolerate the active ingredient in Roundup, are associated with the creation of “super weeds.” The widespread use of these crops has led farmers to vastly increased use of the herbicide, leading to the development of resistant weeds. The agriculture industry has responded to Roundup’s failure by developing new crop varieties resistant to another pesticide/herbicide, 2,4-D. An ingredient of Agent Orange, 2,4-D is linked to birth defects, hormone disruption, and cancer. Last December, Dow AgroSciences LLC asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to approve the new varieties for cultivation. In response, the Pesticide Action Network, Union of Concerned Scientists, Center for Food Safety, and Food and Water Watch are gathering public comments for a petition to the USDA against Dow AgroSciences’ request.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Andrew Gough - The Esoteric Flight of the Humble Bee - 3rd ARC Convention

Leaked document shows EPA allowed bee-toxic pesticide despite own scientists’ red flags By Tom Philpott

It’s not just the State and Defense departments that are reeling this month from leaked documents. The Environmental Protection Agency now has some explaining to do, too. In place of dodgy dealings with foreign leaders, this case involves the German agrichemical giant Bayer; a pesticide with an unpronounceable name, clothianidin; and an insect species crucial to food production (as well as a food producer itself), the honeybee. And in lieu of a memo leaked to a globetrotting Australian, this one features a document delivered to a long-time Colorado beekeeper. An internal EPA memo released Wednesday confirms that the very agency charged with protecting the environment is ignoring the warnings of its own scientists about clothianidin, a pesticide from which Bayer racked up €183 million (about $262 million) in sales in 2009. Clothianidin has been widely used on corn, the largest U.S. crop, since 2003. Suppliers sell seeds pre-treated with it. Like other members of the neonicotinoid family of pesticides, clothianidin gets “taken up by a plant’s vascular system and expressed through pollen and nectar,” according to Pesticide Action Network of North America (PANNA), which leaked the document along with Beyond Pesticides. That effect makes it highly toxic to a crop’s pests — and also harmful to pollen-hoarding honeybees, which have experienced mysterious annual massive die-offs (known as “colony collapse disorder”) here in the United States at least since 2006. The colony-collapse phenomenon is complex and still not completely understood. While there appears to be no single cause for the annual die-offs, mounting evidence points to pesticides, and specifically neonicotinoids (derived from nicotine), as a key factor. And neonicotinoids are a relatively new factor in ecosystems frequented by honeybees — introduced in the late 1990s, these systemic insecticides have gained a steadily rising share of the seed-treatment market. It does not seem unfair to observe that the health of the honeybee population has steadily declined over the same period. According to PANNA, other crops commonly treated with clothianidin include canola, soy, sugar beets, sunflowers, and wheat — all among the most widely planted U.S. crops. Bayer is now petitioning the EPA to register it for use with cotton and mustard seed. The document [PDF], leaked to Colorado beekeeper Tom Theobald, reveals that EPA scientists have declared essentially rejected the findings of a study conducted on behalf of Bayer that the agency had used to justify the registration of clothianidin. And they reiterated concerns that widespread use of clothianidin imperils the health of the nation’s honeybees. On Thursday, I asked an EPA press spokesperson via email if the scientists’ opinion would inspire the agency to remove clothianidin from the market. The spokesperson, who asked not to be named but who communicated on the record on behalf of the agency, replied that clothianidin would retain its registration and be available for use in the spring. Before we dig deeper into the leaked memo, it’s important to understand the sorry story of how an insecticide known to harm honeybee populations came to blanket a huge swath of U.S. farmland in the first place. It’s nearly impossible not to read it as a tale of a key public watchdog instead heeling to the industry it’s supposed to regulate. In the EPA’s dealings with Bayer on this particular insecticide, the agency charged with protecting the environment has consistently made industry-friendly decisions that contradict the conclusions of its own scientists — and threaten to do monumental harm to our food system by wiping out its key pollinators. According to a time line provided by PANNA, the sordid story begins when Bayer first applied for registration of clothianidin in 2003. (All of the documents to which I link below were provided to me by PANNA.) By 2003, U.S. beekeepers were reporting difficulties in keeping hives healthy through the winter, but not yet on the scale of colony collapse disorder. In February of this year, the EPA’s Environmental Fate and Effects Division (EFED) withheld registration of clothianidin, declaring that it wanted more evidence that it wouldn’t harm bee populations. In a memo [PDF], an EFAD scientist explained the decision: The possibility of toxic exposure to nontarget pollinators [e.g., honeybees] through the translocation of clothianidin residues that result from seed treatment (corn and canola) has prompted EFED to require field testing that can evaluate the possible chronic exposure to honeybee larvae and the queen. In order to fully evaluate the possibility of this toxic effect, a complete worker bee life cycle study (about 63 days) must be conducted, as well as an evaluation of exposure to the queen. So, no selling clothianidin until a close, expert examination of how pollen infused with it would affect worker bees and Her Majesty the queen. Again, that was in February of 2003. But in April of that year, just two months later, the agency backtracked. “After further consideration,” the agency wrote in another memo, the EPA has decided to grant clothianidin “conditional registration” — meaning that Bayer was free to sell it, and seed processors were free to apply it to their products. (Don’t get me started on the EPA’s habit of granting dodgy chemicals “conditional registration,” before allowing their unregulated use for years and even decades. That’s another story.) The EPA’s one condition reflected the concerns of its scientists about how it would affect honeybees: that Bayer complete the “chronic life cycle study” the agency had already requested by December of 2004. The scientists minced no words in reiterating their concerns. They called clothianidin’s effects “persistent” and “toxic to honeybees” and noted the the “potential for expression in pollen and nectar of flowering crops.” These concerns aside and “conditional registration” in hand, Bayer introduced clothianidin to the U.S. market in spring 2003. Farmers throughout the corn belt planted seeds treated with clothianidin, and billions — if not trillions — of plants began producing pollen rich with the bee-killing stuff. In March of 2004, Bayer requested an extension on its December deadline for delivering the life-cycle study. In a March 11 memo [PDF], the EPA agreed, giving the chemical giant until May 2005 to complete the research. Clothianidin continued flowing from Bayer’s factories and from corn plants into pollen. But the EPA also relayed a crucial decision in this memo: It granted Bayer the permission it had sought to conduct its study on canola in Canada, instead of on corn in the United States. The EPA justified the decision as follows: [Canola] is attractive to bee [sic] and will provide bee exposure from both pollen and nectar. An alternative crop, such as corn, which is less attractive to bees as a forage crop, would provide exposure from pollen, only. Bee experts cite three problems with this decision: Corn produces much more pollen than does canola; its pollen is more attractive to honey bees; and canola is a minor crop in the United States, while corn is the single most widely planted crop. What happened next was … not much. Bayer let the deadline for completing the study lapse; and the EPA let Bayer keep selling clothianidin, which continued to be deposited into tens of millions of acres of farmland. Not until August of 2007, more than a year after its deadline, did Bayer deliver its study. In a November 2007 memo [PDF], EPA scientists declared the study “scientifically sound,” adding that it, “satisfies the guideline requirements for a field toxicity test with honeybees.” So what were the details of that study, on which the health of our little pollinator friends depended? Well, the EPA initially refused to release it publicly, prompting a Freedom of Information Act by the Natural Resources Defense Council. When the EPA still refused to release it, NRDC filed suit in response. Eventually, the study was released. Here it is [PDF]. Prepared for Bayer by researchers at Canada’s University of Guelph, the study is a bit of a joke. The researchers created several 2.47-acre fields planted with clothianidin-treated seeds and matching untreated control fields, and placed hives at the center of each. Bees were allowed to roam freely. The problem is that bees forage in a range of 1.24 to 6.2 miles — meaning that the test bees most likely dined outside of the test fields. Worse, the test and control fields were planted as closely as 968 feet apart, meaning test and control bees had access to each other’s fields. Not surprisingly, the researchers found “no differences in bee mortality, worker longevity, or brood development occurred between control and treatment groups throughout the study.” Tom Theobald, the Colorado beekeeper who obtained the leaked memo, assessed the study harshly on the phone to me Thursday. “Imagine you’re a rancher trying to figure out if a noxious weed is harming your cows,” he said. “If you plant the weed on two acres and let your cows roam free over 50 acres of lush Montana grass, you’re not going to learn much about that weed.” James Frazier, professor of entomology at Penn State, concurred. Frazier has been studying colony-collapse disorder since 2006. “When I looked at the study,” he told me in a phone interview, “I immediately thought it was invalid.” Meanwhile, Bayer continued selling clothianidin under its conditional registration. Then, on April 22 of this year, the EPA finally ended clothianidin’s long period of “conditional” purgatory — by granting it full registration. The agency gifted the bee-killing pesticide with its new status quietly; to my knowledge, the only public acknowledgment of it came through the efforts of Theobald, who is extremely worried about the fate of his own bee-keeping business in Colorado’s corn country. Theobald forwarded me a Nov. 29 email exchange with Meredith Laws, the acting chief of the EPA’s herbicide division in the Office of Pesticide Programs, to whom he’d written to enquire about clothianidin’s registration status. Laws’ reply is worth quoting in its entirety: Clothianidin was granted an unconditional registration for use as a seed treatment for corn and canola on April 22, 2010. EPA issued a new registration notice, [but] there is no document that acknowledges the change from conditional to unconditional. This was a risk management decision based on the fulfillment of data requirements and reviews accepting or acknowledging the submittal of the data. So, the EPA gave Bayer and its dubious pesticide a full pass without even bothering to let the public know. Now we get to the leaked memo [PDF]. It is dated Nov. 2 — three weeks before Laws’ reply to Theobald. It relates to Bayer’s efforts to expand clothianidin’s approved use into cotton and mustard. Authored by two scientists in the EPA’s Environmental Fate and Effects Division — ecologist Joseph DeCant and chemist Michael Barrett — the memo expresses grave concern about clothianidin’s effect on honeybees: Clothianidin’s major risk concern is to nontarget 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. Although EFED does not conduct … risk assessments on non-target insects, information 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. The real kicker is that the researchers essentially invalidated the Bayer-funded study — i.e., the study on which the EPA based clothianidin’s registration as an fully registered chemical. Referring to the pesticide, the authors write: A previous field study [i.e., the Bayer study] investigated the effects of clothianidin on whole hive parameters and was classified as acceptable. However, after another review of this field study in light of additional information, deficiencies were identified that render the study supplemental. It does not satisfy the guideline 850.3040, and another field study is needed to evaluate the effects of clothianidin on bees through contaminated pollen and nectar. Exposure through contaminated pollen and nectar and potential toxic effects therefore remain an uncertainty for pollinators. [Emphasis mine.] So, here we have EPA researchers explicitly invalidating the study on which clothianidin gained registration for corn. But as I wrote above, despite this information’s being made public, the EPA has signaled that it has no plans to change the chemical’s status. In the 2011 growing season, tens of millions of acres of farmland will bloom with clothianidin-laced pollen — honeybees, and sound science, be damned. Now, in my correspondence with the EPA, the agency has denied that the downgrading of the Bayer study from “acceptable” to “supplemental” meant that the agency should be compelled to clothianidin’s approval. In a Thursday email to me, the agency delivered a limp defense of the Bayer study, contradicting its own scientists and addressing none of the critiques of it: EPA’s evaluation of the study determined that it contains information useful to the agency’s risk assessment. The study revealed the majority of hives monitored, including those exposed to clothianidin during the previous season, survived the over-wintering period. And it downplayed the study’s importance to Bayer’s application to register clothianidin: The study in question is “not a ‘core’ study for EPA as claimed,” the agency insisted. “It is not a study routinely required to support the registration of a pesticide.” I ran that response by Jay Feldman of Beyond Pesticides, the group that collaborated with PANNA in publicizing the leaked document. “I find the EPA response either misinformed or misleading,” he told me. “The paper trail on this is clear. We’re talking about a bad study required by EPA [that is central] to the registration of this chemical.” Feldman’s assessment appears to bear out. He pointed me back to the above-linked Nov. 27 document in which EPA originally accepted the Bayer study. There, on page 5, we find this statement: Specifically, the test was conducted in response to a request by the Canadian PMRA [Pesticides and Pest Management Agency] and the U.S. EPA; as a condition for Poncho@ [clothianidin] registration in these countries, Bayer CropScience was asked to investigate the long-term toxicity of clothianidin-treated canola to foraging honey bees. So evidently, the discredited Bayer study does lie at the heart of clothianidin’s acceptance. (I have requested an interview with an EPA official who can talk knowledgeably and on the record about these matters; the anonymous-by-request spokesperson is, at the time of publication, still looking for the “right person,” I was informed via email.) At the very least, we have ample evidence that the EPA has been ignoring the warnings of its own staff scientists and green-lighting the mass deployment of a chemical widely understood to harm pollinators — at a time when honeybees are in grave shape. But why? Tom Theobald, the Colorado beekeeper who broke this story, ventured an answer. “It’s corporatism, the flip side of fascism,” he said. “I’m not against corporations, I think they have a good model. But they’re like children — we have to rein them in or they get out of hand. The EPA’s supposed to do that.” When regime change came to Washington in 2008, many of us hoped that an EPA under Barack Obama would be a better parent. EPA Director Lisa Jackson inherited quite a mess from her predecessor, and she faces the Herculean challenge of regulating greenhouse gases against fierce Republican and industry opposition. But as concern mounts — from her own staff and elsewhere — that clothianidin is harming honeybees, there’s no excuse for Jackson’s agency to keep coddling Bayer. Frazier, the Penn State entomologist, put it to me like this: “If the Bayer study is the core study the EPA used to register clothianidin, then there’s no basis for registering it.” He urged the EPA to withdraw registration to avoid unnecessary risk to a critical player in our ecosystem — as have the governments of Germany, France, Italy, and Slovenia. Tom Philpott was Grist’s senior food writer until May 2011. He now writes for Mother Jones.

Studies fault Bayer in bee die-off

A corn pesticide manufactured by the German chemical company Bayer has come under scrutiny in two scientific studies that indicate that it is responsible for mass deaths of pollinating bees.
Honeybees fill a hive at Golden Angels Apiary in Singers Glen, Va., last month. Though colony collapse disorder has not affected Valley beekeepers, local hives are still susceptible to a variety of dangers, like neonicotinoids, an insecticide thought to attack the insects' central nervous system. Michael Reilly/Daily News-Record/AP By Josephine Marcott, Minneapolis Star Tribune / April 6, 2012 Christian Science Monitor Minneapolis In a spring ritual as old as life itself, Steve Ellis' bees return to their hives day after day loaded with pollen from the dandelions and flowering trees that are in full bloom across central Minnesota. But for too many of them, a day of foraging ends in convulsions and death. "You wouldn't think people could get attached to insects," said Ellis, a commercial honey producer from Barrett, Minn. "But it's hard for us to see our bees getting injured like that." Hard enough that Ellis and other beekeepers from across the country last month asked the federal government for a temporary ban on one the most widely used pesticides until its effect on bees is clear. They fear it is contributing to a worldwide die-off and the inexplicable phenomenon known as "colony collapse disorder" that is devastating honeybee hives. "We are asking the EPA to do its job," said Jeff Anderson, a commercial beekeeper from Eagle Bend, Minn. "Give us products that are safe." The beekeepers and several environmental groups argue in an emergency petition filed with the EPA that the agency failed to require some legally mandated field testing before the pesticide was approved in 2003. New research, including two studies published last week in the journal Science, raises serious questions about its effect on pollinators of all kinds, they maintain. The EPA said it has based its continued approval on hundreds of studies. In 2010, the agency said no data show that bee colonies are harmed by exposure. Nevertheless, it agreed to accelerate its routine review of the pesticide – meaning it will be completed in 2018. Meanwhile, officials with the manufacturer, Bayer CropScience, say they are confident that the research will continue to prove the product is safe for bees when used appropriately. "I tend to believe that science will win out over emotion," said Jack Boyne, director of communications for Bayer CropScience. The beekeepers and others say they filed the emergency petition because they fear that the EPA's review process will deliver a verdict too late for the nation's honeybees and the farmers who rely on them. "Seventy percent of crops – apples, oranges, zucchini, melons, strawberries – they all need pollinators," said Vera Krischik, an associate professor of entomology at the University of Minnesota who studies the pesticides and bees. "It's a huge issue." Then there are the unknown numbers of bumblebees, wasps, butterflies and other wild pollinating insects that fill the same role across the natural world. "We are headed in a very dangerous direction," Ellis said. Anderson said beekeepers have always been on the front lines of the nation's pesticide wars; that's how he got into business in the first place. His wife's grandfather moved his California beekeeping business to Minnesota in the early 1960s after another pesticide, Sevin, critically damaged his agricultural pollinating business. Anderson went on to win a landmark case at the Minnesota Supreme Court against the state Department of Natural Resources over pesticide drift that killed his bees. Like Ellis, he is among the gypsy beekeepers who follow the seasons, pollinating almonds, cherries and other crops in the South and West in winter and returning to Minnesota in the spring to make honey. The pesticides beekeepers are fighting now are different than those of the past, Anderson said. Those were applied at predictable times, making it easy to keep bees out of harm's way. The pesticides most widely used now are among a class of nicotine-based chemicals called neonicotinoids that are designed to become an intrinsic part of the plant. They were developed in large part because they are much less toxic to humans and other mammals than previous pesticides. But in high doses, they are a neurotoxin to insects. Since their introduction in the 1990s, they have exploded in popularity among farmers and in products for home gardeners. Today, 90 percent of seed corn is coated with the pesticides before planting, and the chemicals are the active ingredient in hundreds of backyard products. The pesticide is sprayed on plants and, when used as a seed coating, it grows into all parts of the plant, including the pollen and the nectar that bees eat. When used properly, say both Bayer and the EPA, the toxin levels are not high enough to hurt bees. But many scientists and beekeepers say that, as in all pesticide regulation, the field research is questionable because it's done by the manufacturer. The emergency petition, filed by 30 beekeepers and national environmental groups that includes Beyond Pesticides and the Center for Food Safety, targets just one of the six neonicotinoids, clothianidin, in part because they say the field study for that one was inadequate. Officials from Bayer and the EPA disagree. The attorney for the environmental groups said he hopes the petition will prompt the agency to open up the issue up for public comment and discussion. EPA did not respond to questions about the petition, but it previously announced plans to hold a scientific meeting in the fall to consider the entire class of pesticides, which will include the latest research. All pesticides in the group work the same way, and none of the research underlying their approval by the EPA has taken into account "the cumulative effect" in bees, Krischik said. Beekeepers say it helps explain what they are seeing. "During corn planting we have a light kill on our bees," Anderson said. "And the inability of the colony to produce a good brood." He thinks that as farmers plant millions of acres of corn, dust from the pesticide-coated seeds floats out over the countryside. It lands on bees and other flowering plants and builds up over time in the soil. "My theory is that some of the things that come up, like dandelions, are coming up toxic," he said. "Every year they come up more toxic." Then, in August and September, when bees forage for pollen in corn tassels, the colonies are weakened just when they need to produce the brood that must be strong enough to survive the winter. Anderson said 15 to 20 percent of his bees used to die in a year. Now, the death rate has doubled, and beekeepers all over the country are seeing the same thing, he said. Meanwhile, honey prices are up significantly, as are the prices he charges to California growers for pollination, Anderson said. Neither beekeepers nor scientists think that the pesticides are the sole cause of bee declines and the collapse of colonies. Other studies have also implicated viruses, parasites and loss of habitat. "Bees have a host of diseases and parasites that are killing them, in addition to being exposed to pesticides from all classes," said Marla Spivak, a bee researcher at the university who last year won a MacArthur genius grant for her work. But the systemic pesticides could make pollinators vulnerable to other dangers, or, as one the studies in Science last week found, confuse them so much they can't find their way home. But none of that indicates that the pesticides pose an imminent hazard that would justify a ban, said Iain Kelly, director of the Bayer CropScience bee research team. Still, the EPA needs to do risk assessments that are based on solid research, scientists said. That way, said Ellis, the beekeepers and the farmers can figure out how to take care of the pollinators – just like the bees take care of them. "It's a symbiotic relationship," he said.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Creative Work Fund project to spread a message about protecting Napa’s honeybees.

The Creative Work Fund supports artists collaborating with nonprofit organizations to create new works, and ArtPlace funding will make possible four grants—to be awarded in June—that focus on collaboration and creative placemaking. In the meantime, Frances Phillips of the Creative Work Fund is bringing us stories of previously supported Creative Work Fund projects that focused on place and community building: The first thing you notice when Rob Keller opens the door to the repurposed Airstream trailer that’s the Honeybee Ecology Educator on Wheels is the odor: it’s wood in a warm attic combined with dried flowers and caramel. He unhinges two wooden panels covering the work’s centerpiece and its surface shimmers. He inserted a local bee colony into the trailer’s observation hive on March 7. They’ve steadily expanded in the space and they and their work are beautiful—glistening amber and sable browns alongside bone-pale wax structures. Healthy bee colonies are essential to an agricultural valley’s well-being. Keller embarked on his Creative Work Fund project to spread a message about protecting Napa’s honeybees. There’s a growing interest in apiaries among gardeners, farmers, and restaurateurs and the demand has led to the importing of bees—some of them aggressive and a threat to local bees. As in other places, Napa Valley is seeing bee colonies collapse—disease, genetically modified crops, and pollution all are factors. Keller’s recommendation—conveyed through the Honeybee Ecology Trailer and his many classes and lectures—is, “Let’s deal only with our indigenous stock. If we dilute our indigenous stock, we dilute their resistance.” In addition to the painstaking cultivation of strong indigenous bee strains, Keller talks to vintners about putting in orchards and gardens to diversify the forage available to Napa bees. As for creating the trailer, he reports, “It has been crazy in a fabulous way.” The Farm to Table movement has fed enthusiasm for beekeeping, but the world’s largest mobile observation beehive has focused the sustainable food conversation on a distinct, important message. And Keller’s filled with stories of taking the trailer to fairs and festivals where it has been mobbed by enthusiasts—hosting 1,000 or 1,500 people per day. Watching the bees is mesmerizing. He laughs, “Sometimes I cannot get the people out of the trailer.” Bee advising and beekeeping have taken over much of Keller’s life: he bicycles up and down the valley, attending to hives, teaching, and moving swarms. Through a project that’s all about protecting the particularities of place, he has grown a small business, keeping close at hand a crew of ten or so “honeybee homies.” When I ask for his recommendations for others, Keller emphasizes the importance of “the local” in all dimensions of one’s work, including hiring locally. He brought in a retired union carpenter to help build the hive case and has continued working with him. And what moves him most is building a collective effort—among the bees themselves and with the people of Napa Valley, to get everyone behind protecting healthy local colonies for the common good.

The Autism Epidemic and Disappearing Bees: A Common Denominator?

By Dr Brian Moench, Truthout | News Analysis
An autistic child. (Photo: Cindy Seigle / Flickr) On a recent front page of The Salt Lake Tribune, a frightening, oversized headline read, "Highest rate in the nation, 1 in 32 Utah boys has autism." Less well publicized, another national story ran the same day: "New pesticides linked to bee population collapse." If you eat food and hope to do so a few years from now, this should be equally frightening. A common denominator may underlie both stories. A recent Stanford University study, examining 192 pairs of twins, where one twin was autistic and one was not, found that genetics account for 38 percent of the risk of autism and environmental factors account for 62 percent.(1) Suggesting an environmental and genetic tag team are other studies showing mothers of autistic children and autistic children themselves have a high rate of a genetic deficiency in the production of glutathione, an antioxidant and the body's primary means of detoxifying heavy metals.(2) High levels of toxic metals in children are strongly correlated with the severity of autism.(3) Low levels of glutathione, coupled with high production of another chemical, homocysteine, increase the chance of a mother having an autistic child to one in three, according to Dr. Jim Adams, director of Arizona State University's Autism/Asperger's Research Program. That autism is four times more common among boys than girls is likely related to a defect in the single male X chromosome contributing to antioxidant deficiency. There is no such thing as a genetic disease epidemic because genes don't change that quickly. So, the alarming rise in autism must be the result of increased environmental exposures that exploit these genetic defects. During the critical first three months of gestation, a human embryo adds 250,000 brain cells per minute, reaching 200 billion by the fifth month. There is no chemical elixir that improves this biological miracle, but thousands of toxic substances can cross the placenta and impair that process, leaving brain cells stressed, inflamed, less well developed, fewer in number and with fewer anatomic connections with each other, all of which diminish brain function. The opportunity to make up for the resulting deficits later on is limited. The list of autism's environmental suspects is long and comes from many different studies that show higher rates of autism with greater exposure to flame retardants, plasticizers like BPA, pesticides, endocrine disruptors in personal care products, heavy metals in air pollution, mercury and pharmaceuticals like anti-depressants.(4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13) (Utah's highest in the nation autism rates are matched by the highest rates of anti-depressant use and the highest mercury levels in the country in the Great Salt Lake.) Doctors have long advised women during pregnancy to avoid any unnecessary consumption of drugs or chemicals. But as participants in modern society, we are all now exposed to over 83,000 chemicals from the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe and the consumer products we use. Pregnant women and their children are experiencing 100 times more chemical exposures today than people living 50 years ago. The average newborn has over 287 different chemicals and heavy metals contaminating its blood when it takes its first breath.(14, 15) One hundred and fifty-eight of them are known to be toxic to the brain. Little wonder that rates of autism, attention deficit and behavioral disorders are all on the rise. How does this relate to disappearing bees and your ability to put food on your table? Three new studies show that the rapid rise in the use of insecticides are likely responsible for the mass disappearance of bee populations.(16, 17, 18) The world's entire food chain hangs in the balance because 90 percent of native plants require pollinators to survive. The nervous system of insects is the intended target of these insecticides. They disrupt the bees homing behavior and their ability to return to the hive, kind of like "bee autism." But insects are different than humans, right? Human and insect nerve cells share the same basic biologic infrastructure. Chemicals that interrupt electrical impulses in insect nerves will do the same to humans. But humans are much bigger than insects and the doses to humans are miniscule, right? During critical first trimester development, a human is no bigger than an insect, so there is every reason to believe that pesticides could wreak havoc with the developing brain of a human embryo. But human embryos aren't out in corn fields being sprayed with insecticides and herbicides, are they? A recent study showed that every human tested had the world's most popular pesticide, Roundup, detectable in their urine at concentrations between five and twenty times the level considered safe for drinking water. The autism epidemic and the disappearance of bees are just two of many self-imposed disasters from allowing our world, including Utah, to be overwhelmed by environmental toxins. Environmental protection- including the smallest and most vulnerable among us - is human protection. Footnotes: 1. Hallmayer J, Cleveland S, Torres A, et al. "Genetic Heritability and Shared Environmental Factors Among Twin Pairs With Autism," Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2011;68(11):1095-1102. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.76. 2. James SJ, Slikker W, Melnyk S, New E, Pogribna M, Jernigan S. "Thimerosol Neurotoxicity is Associated with Glutathione Depletion: Protection with Glutathione Precursors," NeuroToxicology 26.(2005) 1-8. 3. Adams J, Baral M, Geis E, et al. "The Severity of Autism Is Associated with Toxic Metal Body Burden and Red Blood Cell Glutathione Levels," Journal of Toxicology Volume 2009.(2009), Article ID 532640, 7 pages. doi:10.1155/2009/532640. 4. Croen L, Grether J, Yoshida C, Odouli R, Hendrick V, "Antidepressant Use During Pregnancy and Childhood Autism Spectrum Disorders," Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2011;68(11):1104-1112. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.73 5. Volk H, Hertz-Picciotto I, Delwiche L , Lurmann F, McConnell R. "Residential Proximity to Freeways and Autism in the CHARGE study," Environ Health Perspect. 2010 December 13. (Epub ahead of print.) PMID: 21156395. 6. Whyatt RM, Liu X, Rauh VA, Calafat AM, Just AC, Hoepner L, et al. 2011. "Maternal Prenatal Urinary Phthalate Metabolite Concentrations and Child Mental, Psychomotor and Behavioral Development at 3 Years of Age," Environ Health Perspect 120:290-295. 7. Kern J, Geier D, Adams J, Mehta J, Grannemann B, Geier M. "Toxicity biomarkers in autism spectrum disorder: A blinded study of urinary porphyrins," Pediatrics International. (2011) 53, 147–153 doi: 10.1111/j.1442-200X.2010.03196.x. 8. Miodovnik, A, SM Engel, C Zhu, X Ye, LV Soorya, MJ Silva, AM Calafat and MS Wolff. 2011. "Endocrine disruptors and childhood social impairment," Neurotoxicology. 9. Roberts, EM et al. "Maternal residence near agricultural pesticide applications and autism spectrum disorders among children in the California Central Valley," Environmental Health Perspectives. 115(10):1482-1489. 10. Henrik Viberg anders Fredriksson, Sonja Buratovic, Per Eriksson. "Dose-dependent behavioral disturbances after a single neonatal Bisphenol A dose," Toxicology, 2011; DOI: 10.1016/j.tox.2011.09.006. 11. Whyatt RM, Liu X, Rauh VA, Calafat AM, Just AC, Hoepner L, et al. 2011. "Maternal Prenatal Urinary Phthalate Metabolite Concentrations and Child Mental, Psychomotor and Behavioral Development at Age Three Years," Environ Health Perspect. 12. Holmes AS, Blaxill MF, Haley BE; "Reduced levels of mercury in first baby haircuts of autistic children," Int J Toxicol. 2003 Jul-Aug;22(4):277-85. 13. Allen J, Shanker G, Tan K, Aschner M. "The Consequences of Methylmercury Exposure on Interactive Functions between Astrocytes and Neurons," Neurotoxicology 23.(2002) 755-759. 14. "Body Burden - The Pollution in Newborns," Environmental Working Group, 2005. 15. Woodruff TJ, Zota AR, Schwartz JM 2011. "Environmental Chemicals in Pregnant Women in the United States: NHANES 2003-2004," Environ Health Perspect 119:878-885. 16. M. Henry et al. "A common pesticide decreases foraging success and survival in honey bees," Science. doi: 10.1126/science.1215039. 17. P.R. Whitehorn et al. "Neonicotinoid pesticide reduces bumble bee colony growth and queen production," Science. doi: 10.1126/science.1215025. 18. C. Lu, K.M. Warchol and R.A. Callahan. "In situ replication of honey bee colony collapse disorder," Bulletin of Insectology, Vol. 65, June 2012. This article may not be republished without permission from Truthout.

Friday, April 13, 2012


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where we take you into the world of insects beyond the creepy and the crawly, to the fun, the fascinating, the profound, and even the sublime . . . IMAGINE THAT!

Feed the Bees, Harm the Bees? A Citizen Science Update

YourGardenShow - Emmet Brady

As a continuing part of YourGardenShow's Citizen Science initiatives and support for The Great Sunflower Project, we will bring you a series of posts with breaking news about our pollinators, the bees.

In an ironic twist, the poisoning of the bees could come as a result of farmers and beekeepers trying to feed them. The industrial usage of the bees on an annual basis requires farmers to feed them substitutes to the nectar they gather in the fields. When the bees arrive at a monocultured pasture, there are few abundant sources of the nectar. The commercial beekeepers often feed them high fructose corn syrup, which, as a recent study suggests, could contain trace amounts of pesticides, especially the neonicotinoid class pesticides.

As posted in the Wired online article, the study by a Harvard researcher examined a dietary exposure to imidacloprid, a commonly used neonic made by Bayer. Even though the amounts were potentially higher than what might be found in the wild, the study showed a dramatic increase in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in the colonies exposed to the chemical.

The topic has international implications. The debate of the use of certain toxic pesticides - in particular the neonics - have caused a massive division between Europe and the United States. In fact, the very chemicals indicated in the study are outlawed in a number of European countries.

Stranger yet, the suggestion that corn syrup might carry trace amounts of the pesticides after being processed beckons the question of whether humans could be exposed in some capacity.

To learn more about efforts to support the bees by citizens like you, visit the YourGardenShow Citizen Science pages.

BIO: Emmet Brady has worked for over a decade with sustainable industries as a biologist, business developer and event producer. He is attracted to gardening through his predilection for insects and, as the Founder of the Insect News Network, he intends to redefine the field of Cultural Entomology - which addresses how people think and feel about 6- and 8-legged animals (especially the ones in your garden!).
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