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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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


Welcome friends around the world to the


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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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Scientists call for global ban on bee-killing pesticides

By Damian Carrington, The Guardian
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 10:06 EDT
How valuable are bees? In the UK, about £1.8bn a year, according to new research on the cost of hand-pollinating the many crops bees service for free. If that sounds a far-fetched scenario, consider two facts.

First, bees are in severe decline. Half the UK’s honey bees kept in managed hives have gone, wild honey bees are close to extinction and solitary bees are declining in more than half the place they have been studied.

Second, hand-pollination is already necessary in some places, such as pear orchards in China, and bees are routinely trucked around the US to compensate for the loss of their wild cousins.

The new figure comes from scientists at the Reading University and was released by Friends of the Earth to launch their new campaign, Bee Cause. Paul de Zylva, FoE nature campaigner, said: “Unless we halt the decline in British bees our farmers will have to rely on hand-pollination, sending food prices rocketing.”

So what’s the problem? The losses of flowery meadows that feed wild bees is a factor, as are the parasites and diseases that can kills hives. But a third factor has now moved to the centre of the debate: pesticides called neonicotinoids. The insect nerve-agents are used as seed dressings, which means they end up in every part of the crop they protect, including pollen and nectar.

Two landmark studies, conducted in field conditions, published in Science in March clearly implicated sub-lethal doses of the pesticides with increases in disappeared bees and crashes in the number of queens produced by colonies. Then on 5 April, another study was released, showing the pesticides can cause colony collapse disorder (CCD), the name given to the ghostly hives from which bees have vanished.

“The data, both ours and others, right now merits a global ban,” said Chensheng Lu, in the department of environmental health at Harvard University, and who led the the CCD study. “I would suggest removing all neonicotinoids from use globally for a period of five to six years. If the bee population is going back up during the after the ban, I think we will have the answer.”

Lu told me he was in no doubt about the result of his work, which tested the effect of a very widely used neonicotinoid called imidacloprid, which is registered for use on over 140 crops in 120 countries. “Our study clearly demonstrated that imidacloprid is responsible for causing CCD, and the survival of the control hives that we set up side-by-side to the pesticide-treated hives augments this conclusion.” He said the hives were initially healthy, were placed in a natural foraging environment and that the doses of the pesticide the bees were exposed to were realistic.

After 12-weeks of dosing, all the bees were alive, but after 23 weeks, 15 of the 16 treated hives had died – but none of the untreated control hives. Lu said the dead hives were virtually empty, as is seen with CCD, and in contrast to the impact of parasites or disease, which leave hives littered with dead bees.

The leader of one of the Science studies, MickaĆ«l Henry, at INRA in Avignon, France, agreed with Lu that action is urgently needed on neonicotinoids. “We now have enough data to say authorisation processes must take into account not only the lethal effects, but also the effects of non-lethal doses.” In other words, testing whether the pesticide use kills bees stone dead immediately is no longer good enough, given the hard evidence now available that sub-lethal doses cause serious harm.

So what does the UK government have to say? To date, it has agreed with the neonicotinoid manufacturers that there is no evidence that the pesticides used at normal levels cause harm. A statement on Wednesday from an environment department spokeswoman suggests no change: “The UK has a robust system for assessing risks from pesticides. We keep all the science under review and we will not hesitate to act if we need to.”

What more does it need? The new data makes it impossible to maintain this position, whatever vested interests are at stake. It is 50 years since Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, which documented the devastation wrought by pesticides in the US. What better time to act?

© Guardian News and Media 2012

Photo of bees via Aleksandar Mijatovic/

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

2 Studies Point to Common Pesticide as a Culprit in Declining Bee Colonies

Scientists have been alarmed and puzzled by declines in bee populations in the United States and other parts of the world. They have suspected that pesticides are playing a part, but to date their experiments have yielded conflicting, ambiguous results.

In Thursday’s issue of the journal Science, two teams of researchers published studies suggesting that low levels of a common pesticide can have significant effects on bee colonies. One experiment, conducted by French researchers, indicates that the chemicals fog honeybee brains, making it harder for them to find their way home. The other study, by scientists in Britain, suggests that they keep bumblebees from supplying their hives with enough food to produce new queens.

The authors of both studies contend that their results raise serious questions about the use of the pesticides, known as neonicotinoids.

“I personally would like to see them not being used until more research has been done,” said David Goulson, an author of the bumblebee paper who teaches at the University of Stirling, in Scotland. “If it confirms what we’ve found, then they certainly shouldn’t be used when they’re going to be fed on by bees.”

But pesticides are only one of several likely factors that scientists have linked to declining bee populations. There are simply fewer flowers, for example, thanks to land development. Bees are increasingly succumbing to mites, viruses, fungi and other pathogens.

Outside experts were divided about the importance of the two new studies. Some favored the honeybee study over the bumblebee study, while others felt the opposite was true. Environmentalists say that both studies support their view that the insecticides should be banned. And a scientist for Bayer CropScience, the leading maker of neonicotinoids, cast doubt on both studies, for what other scientists said were legitimate reasons.

David Fischer, an ecotoxicologist at Bayer CropScience, said the new experiments had design flaws and conflicting results. In the French study, he said, the honeybees got far too much neonicotinoid. “I think they selected an improper dose level,” Dr. Fischer said.

Dr. Goulson’s study on bumblebees might warrant a “closer look,” Dr. Fischer said, but he argued that the weight of evidence still points to mites and viruses as the most likely candidates for bee declines.

The research does not solve the mystery of the vanishing bees. Although bumblebees have been on the decline in the United States and elsewhere, they have not succumbed to a specific phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder, which affects only honeybees.

Yet the research is coming out at a time when opposition to neonicotinoids is gaining momentum. The insecticides, introduced in the early 1990s, have exploded in popularity; virtually all corn grown in the United States is treated with them. Neonicotinoids are taken up by plants and moved to all their tissues — including the nectar on which bees feed. The concentration of neonicotinoids in nectar is not lethal, but some scientists have wondered if it might still affect bees.

In the honeybee experiment, researchers at the National Institute for Agricultural Research in France fed the bees a dose of neonicotinoid-laced sugar water and then moved them more than half a mile from their hive. The bees carried miniature radio tags that allowed the scientists to keep track of how many returned to the hive.

In familiar territory, the scientists found, the bees exposed to the pesticide were 10 percent less likely than healthy bees to make it home. In unfamiliar places, that figure rose to 31 percent.

The French scientists used a computer model to estimate how the hive would be affected by the loss of these bees. Under different conditions, they concluded that the hive’s population might drop by two-thirds or more, depending on how many worker bees were exposed.

“I thought it was very well designed,” said May Berenbaum, an entomologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

But James Cresswell, an ecotoxicologist at the University of Exeter in England, was less impressed, because the scientists had to rely on a computer model to determine changes in the hive. “I don’t think the paper is a trump card,” he said.

In the British study, Dr. Goulson and his colleagues fed sugar water laced with a neonicotinoid pesticide to 50 bumblebee colonies. The researchers then moved the bee colonies to a farm, alongside 25 colonies that had been fed ordinary sugar water.

At the end of each year, all the bumblebees in a hive die except for a few new queens, which will go on to found new hives. Dr. Goulson and his colleagues found that colonies exposed to neonicotinoids produced 85 percent fewer queens. This reduction would translate into 85 percent fewer hives.

Jeffery Pettis, a bee expert at the United States Department of Agriculture, called Dr. Goulson’s study “alarming.” He said he suspected that other types of wild bees would be shown to suffer similar effects.

Dr. Pettis is also convinced that neonicotinoids in low doses make bees more vulnerable to disease. He and other researchers have recently published experiments showing that neonicotinoids make honeybees more vulnerable to infections from parasitic fungi.

“Three or four years ago, I was much more cautious about how much pesticides were contributing to the problem,” Dr. Pettis said. “Now more and more evidence points to pesticides being a consistent part of the problem.”
A version of this article appeared in print on March 30, 2012, on page A20 of the New York edition with the headline: 2 Studies Point to Common Pesticide as a Culprit in Declining Bee Colonies.