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2848RE: [beemonitoring] Demise of the honey bee?

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  • Stoner, Kimberly
    Aug 9, 2013
      Re: [beemonitoring] Demise of the honey bee?

      Liz, Joe, and others:

      Neonicotinoids in general and imidacloprid in particular came rapidly into widespread use in the late 90’s and early 2000s because of the need to reduce the use of organophosphates after the passage of the Food Quality Protection Act.  Oral toxicity of imidacloprid to people and other vertebrates is much lower than for most organophosphates.


      I found this article from the era when neonics and pyrethroids were replacing organophosphates.  It compares various characteristics of the three groups.



      Other newer insecticides are coming through the pipeline, and there are important questions about their effects on bees.  Hopefully, they will be carefully scrutinized before going into widespread use.




      From: Joe Franke [mailto:sapogordoeco@...]
      Sent: Thursday, August 08, 2013 6:17 PM
      To: Stoner, Kimberly; Ed Spevak; 'Peter Bernhardt'
      Cc: Liz Day; beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com; Mike Arduser
      Subject: Re: [beemonitoring] Demise of the honey bee?


      The public also needs to know something of the Precautionary Principle, particularly when the stakes are as high as they are. Too often moneyed interests have trained the public to accept that the burden of proof should fall on those who seek to limit any activity that would result in an even temporary loss of economic gain for any stakeholder in a controversy. By saying “maybe yes and maybe no”, the lazy-minded American public is then vulnerable to the usual barrage of bought and paid for BS from TV and other media, crooked politicians, etc.

      So, the message should be that until the science is done, properly and transparently, we need a moratorium on the use of certain compounds.

      Farmers got along without neonics for an awfully long time, so I find your statement about “what else will they use” somewhat confusing. Could you clarify?


      I looked up the guide to Eastern bumble bees, and it looks great!  Congratulations to all involved.  Here is the link:
      About the other thread on communicating science to the public:
      There is a lot we can communicate that is not controversial – all this great information about the diversity of bees, their importance in the ecosystem and in agriculture, their need for floral resources, nesting sites -  and even the need for protection from pesticides is uncontroversial up to a certain point. I believe the pesticide companies would agree that the direct spraying of linden trees in bloom with active bumble bees present, as happened in the incident in Oregon, is contrary to the label and therefore illegal.
      But, as someone who does research on exposure of bees to pesticides, I can tell you that communication about a subject where there are economic interests on both sides, and the science is still not clear, is very tricky.  People want a clear answer.  They want to know what is killing the bees (honey bees, mostly, since they aren’t much aware of other bees), so they can ban it or cure it, and the bees will be saved.  That’s why there is a paper every few months that is trumpeted by the media as “the answer to colony collapse disorder.”  Last month, it was chlorothalonil, a few months before, it was imidacloprid, before that clothianidin, before that Nosema ceranae, before that it was IAPV, and imidacloprid makes a return visit periodically.
      And, of course, there are people who have an economic interest in making sure that the answer is not a pesticide (or at least not the one they manufacture, or apply, or need for their crop).
      I got into this field about eight years ago (before colony collapse disorder)  because I was reading the reports from Europe about imidacloprid, I knew how widely it was used, and how long it had been on the market; and I couldn’t believe that we knew so little about the levels of exposure and effects on bees.  I have helped to fill in a few gaps, and my collaborator Brian Eitzer, an analytical chemist who does pesticide testing for many bee projects, has filled in some more.  The many bee experts looking at effects of neonicotinoids (and now fungicides) on susceptibility to disease and on behavior and learning (mostly in honey bees and a few bumble bee species) have also filled in gaps, working from a different direction.
      The Europeans have decided there is enough evidence to ban neonicotinoids for most uses.  They have different criteria than we do in the US – specifically, they have a much more precautionary approach.  And, this decision was controversial among governments in Europe.  There are well-respected European bee scientists who would argue – who have argued in the scientific literature – that the proof is not there to attribute major bee losses to neonicotinoids, outside of certain incidents.
      I have to agree that the proof is not there – again outside of certain circumstances, like where dust from seed treatments blows off corn seed, spreading highly concentrated insecticide dust onto flowers in bloom or directly onto nearby honey bee hives. ( And even here, we need more information – how often does this happen?  Are there ways to avoid this problem other than banning the active ingredient – changing the formulation for example?  Or how farmers dispose of the dust?)
      I have to ask, too – if we ban neonicotinoids, what would farmers use instead?  Organophosphates? Pyrethroids?  The people using neonics now are not going to become organic overnight.
      Nevertheless, it is possible, if neonicotinoids really are the problem, that while the wheels of science are slowly turning, and the wheels of bureaucracy are also slowly turning, that in the meantime we are poisoning the bees (Honey bees? Bumble bees?  Other bees closely associated with crops, like squash bees? Bees feeding at ornamental trees, like lindens?).
      There are judgments to be made, based on values and economics and politics, and also based on what science we have.  But we shouldn’t pretend to have more certainty than we can support with evidence.
      I see the parallels with climate science and climate change.  I am currently reading the book, “Science as a Contact Sport” by Stephen Schneider, a leading climate scientist since the 1970s.  He recounts, in sometimes excruciating detail, the process of communicating to policy makers – not just in the US, but around the world - how much we knew about climate change at each point along the way, and what the uncertainties were. The scientists struggled to communicate the importance of uncertainties – and that uncertainties carry two kinds of risk. There is the risk that we act before we have enough evidence, and our actions turn out to be unnecessary and costly.  But, there is also the risk that we don’t act and the consequences turn out to be much greater than we expect.
      This is long and rambling, but I think all scientists whose work has policy implications need to struggle with these issues.

      From: beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com [mailto:beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Ed Spevak
      Sent: Wednesday, August 07, 2013 10:22 AM
      To: 'Peter Bernhardt'
      Cc: Liz Day; beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com; Mike Arduser
      Subject: RE: [beemonitoring] Demise of the honey bee? [1 Attachment]


      [Attachment(s) <#TopText>  from Ed Spevak included below]

      That is an interesting idea. For the bumble bee guides in China and other parts of the world we can possibly address that through the Bumblebee Specialist Group. As you know besides our IL and MO Bumble Bee guide there is currently a guide for Eastern and Western bumble bees (published through NAPPC) with an inclusive Bumble Bees of North America in prep. For general ID I would recommend the general two pagers developed by NAPPC just to get people to realize the diversity of our bees (see attached). Limited but a start. For general ID’s on typical ground nesting and wood nesting bees/wasps this seems very worthwhile. BugLife in the UK has produced a number of laminated guides for their bees. I have also been talking with Waterford Press to produce a laminated bee guide for our region. This could be expanded to other regions as well.
      Edward M. Spevak
      Curator of Invertebrates
      Director-Center for Native Pollinator Conservation
      IUCN SSC Bumblebee Specialist Group - Programme Officer
      Saint Louis Zoo
      One Government Drive
      Saint Louis, MO 63110
      314-807-5419 cell

      From: Peter Bernhardt [mailto:bernhap2@...]
      Sent: Wednesday, August 07, 2013 9:03 AM
      To: Ed Spevak
      Cc: Liz Day; beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com; Mike Arduser
      Subject: Re: [beemonitoring] Demise of the honey bee?

      Dear Ed:


      Over the years I've received telephone calls from people asking me to identify bees or wasps that have invaded their porches or decks.  They don't want to bring in a specimen and identifications based on their descriptions is limited.  They almost always want me to recommend an insecticide.


      This sounds like a worthy project for NAPPC.  Members should know that we have a colorful and informative card allowing us to identify all the bumblebee species in Missouri via color patterns in workers and queens.  My Chinese post-doc is so pleased with his copy he wants to see similar cards produced for districts in China.  What about a similar card for common ground-nesting bees/wasps and a second card for wood-nesting bees/wasps we could give away to home owners?  Another option is to produce this guide as a web page?  We could save some people worry and money.


      Liz, when we moved to the suburbs the lawn care companies were aggressive.  They'd knock on your door or engage you while you were gardening and offer to tell you everything that was wrong with your grass.  I told them I was willing to listen but warned them I was a professor of Botany at St. Louis U.  Suddenly, they had no time to talk but they left me some nice cards to get in touch.  




      On Wed, Aug 7, 2013 at 8:39 AM, Ed Spevak <spevak@...> wrote:


      Regarding the uniformed pesticide applicators, we had an incident where one of our horticulturalist brought in a specimen that their “pest control expert” had identified as a ground nesting hornet next to their driveway and that they needed to be sprayed to protect them and their grandchildren. The specimen in question was Colletes inaequalis. I informed our horticulturalist of this and wrote up a one page ID sheet on the species with which they could educate their “expert.” Unfortunately, the “bee bed” had already been sprayed. Luckily the application was ineffective and the bees survived. Our staff member talked to their pesticide applicator, told him he was wrong and asked for their money back. The company refused and they fired him.
      Story is both our public, sometimes even our own staff, do not know the story that we are trying to tell and certainly those trying to make money off of the uneducated either do not try to become informed or willfully ignore the facts.

      Edward M. Spevak
      Curator of Invertebrates
      Director-Center for Native Pollinator Conservation
      IUCN SSC Bumblebee Specialist Group - Programme Officer
      Saint Louis Zoo
      One Government Drive
      Saint Louis, MO 63110
      314-646-4706 <tel:314-646-4706>
      314-807-5419 <tel:314-807-5419>  cell

      From: beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com [mailto:beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Liz Day
      Sent: Tuesday, August 06, 2013 7:48 PM
      To: beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: RE: [beemonitoring] Demise of the honey bee?


      >.... about 6 weeks ago a sign on his lawn went up warning of
      >'pesticide application.' On my wondering if 'pesticide applications'
      >locally might have something to do with the total absence of Monarch
      >larvae in the area, and the effect on bees, A. mellifera and
      >indigenous, my neighbor responded: "Oh, I was told that it is
      >specific for wasps, ants and mosquitos, and will not affect honey bees."

      My impression of companies that spray lawns is that their personnel
      are barely trained in their jobs, are hired mainly on their ability
      to operate the truck and the equipment, and have no background in
      horticulture or natural history. One such company fertilized my
      neighbor's bluegrass lawn during a prolonged drought in the heat of
      summer. Any horticulturalist would know not to fertilize plants that
      are under water stress, but I guess that wasn't part of their
      training. The lawn died from the treatment, and the company had to
      replace it all with sod at great expense.

      Indianapolis IN USA



      Joe Franke
      Sapo Gordo Ecological Restoration Services
      Chile Dog Designs, Inc.
      1228 Lafayette Dr. NE
      Albuquerque, NM 87106 USA
      ph: 505-515-8736
      Visit us on Facebook:

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