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2849Re: Demise of the honey bee?

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  • pollinator2001
    Aug 9, 2013
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      --- In beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com, Joe Franke <sapogordoeco@...> wrote:

      > > 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 ³what else will they use² somewhat confusing. Could you
      > > clarify? 


      I retired before neonics were common, so I haven't had experience with them, and cannot comment from personal experience.

      But, as a former pollination contractor, I can attest to the damage done (and still continuing) by other pesticides. What the public doesn't realize is that this has been an ongoing struggle for beekeepers for many decades. 

      Arsenicals have caused bee losses since the turn of the 20th century, but their use was limited.

      The damage really started with the widespread use of DDT following World War II. There were ongoing battles between beekeepers who saw their bees wiped out by aerial applications, and the applicators. That included fist fights in local bars between members of the groups, and sabotage of planes, even beekeepers pulling trucks directly in front of planes as they were landing and taking off.

      Harry documents this story in California in the late 40s in his autobiography, "Bees are My Business," an out-of-print book that can still be found in used book shops and sometimes on E-Bay.

      After DDT, there were formulations that were far worse on bees, and usage became ever more widespread. With the advent of FIFRA in 1972, label directions stated that they were not to be used, if bees were foraging in the application area, but the label directions were widely ignored (and still are), and enforcement is very difficult to obtain, except in a few areas where growers know how dependent they are upon bees.

      Label directions (correctly) focus on bees as they forage, and do not relate to the beehives. Surprisingly a lot of beekeepers, and even some people in science think that the problem is when pesticides are sprayed on hives. That has little effect, if the bees are all inside. What is important is contamination of the food supply, and direct contact with individual bees, as they forage.

      All of this history has been focused on honey bees, but you just have to know that any pesticide that contaminates the food supply for honey bees is going to have similar effects on any bee that gathers pollen and nectar.

      Penncap M, which has now been banned from most of the worst bee killing situations, was one of the worst pesticides ever for bees. It was slow acting, and bees would carry home the tiny capsules mixed with their gathered pollen, which would cause lingering death for bees for months, even for a small exposure.

      Sevin dust (and other dust formulations) is similar in effect. The powder acts just like pollen. It is appropriately sized to adhere to the fuzzy and electrostatically charged bees. I would like to see dust formulations banned, because they are stored with pollen and cause lingering death. 

      When colonies die in the fall from contaminated pollen, beekeepers learned that they had to sort out frames of pollen and throw them away, because, in making nucs in the spring, a frame of this pollen would start poisoning all over again, interupting the spring buildup, until enough brood died that the poison had all be used up. 

      Most of the problem before neonics was from applicators ignoring label directions. Last Wednesday, the local mosquito control guys went by our home spraying in the late afternoon, when bees were still foraging. No doubt they are using Malathion, or some similar material that forbids application when bees are out. They've been notified many times about this, so it's not that they don't know.

      Cotton applications in this area constantly violate these label directions. Orchard spraying when bees are working on clover in the orchard floor is another common violation. Of course these kinds of applications, by removing wild and domestic bees, is constantly increasing the need for contract pollination by honey bees.

      Pesticide kills were an ongoing problem for beekeepers that was only marginally on the scene for the public, and didn't register until the public began to be aware of pollinator decline.

      Each year on the garden groups online, more and more are reporting symptoms of inadequate pollination, and areas which did not have the problem.

      So the focus on neonics is increasing public awareness, which is a good thing. 

      Banning neonics may or may not be the solution, depending on the response of growers. If they return in great numbers to the pesticides used before neonics, it could be disastrous, especially to many of the young beekeepers who have not had the experience of finding whole yards of bees piled up and dying in front of the hives, and wouldn't know what to do.

      To some extent (that which is possible) beekeepers are trying to avoid crops upon which pesticides are used. But you never know from year to year what crops will be planted, and if you have bees in maybe 50 different locations, it's impossible to keep track of all the surrounding fields. And you can always be surprised by unexpected spraying for many different reasons.

      In widespread aerial spraying, applicators try to slough off the label directions, by notifying beekeepers to "protect their hives." This is of course, impossible for beekeepers, and it provides NO protection for wild bees at all.

      Closing up bee hives in hot weather would kill them as surely as a pesticide would. You'd have to have a tanker truck and an employee in each bee yard to keep them hosed and cool.

      I remember when a beekeeping family tried desperately to avoid a widespread aerial application for mosquitoes by moving their hives away from the spray.  They had to pull off all supers, most full of nectar that shook out with every bump, load these on dripping trucks, then load the bees themselves on rented tractor trailers to move a hundred miles. It took more than a week to get the badly stressed bees set up and working again, and the exhausted family to get some rest. Then, about a week later, farmers began spraying alfalfa in the new location for an alfalfa weevil outbreak. Since the alfalfa was in bloom, this was a label violation, but it didn't matter; this beekeeping family was wiped out, and had to start over from scratch.

      So, while there's a hue and cry for banning neonics,  professional beekeepers are not so sure this is sufficient. Return en masse to 
      the previously used pesticides would have known results and they would not be good. At least not without some serious enforcement of label directions.

      I've been thinking of setting up a 501(c)3 to help protect the bees by education for label adherence and by legal action to get better enforcement. (Most of the enforcement people are from the pesticide industry, so they have an inherent conflict of interest.) 

      We've been needing this for years, but my own resources are so limited. I might have been wealthy, but every time the bees were really looking good, they'd get hit again. I always dreaded August (illegal spray on cotton bloom), because it was always a struggle to build back enough strength for fall crop pollination.

      There are two basic effects of insecticides. The slow acting, and long residuals ones are carried home and usually cause the death of a hive, if not immediately, during winter when they are totally dependent on stored (contaminated) pollen.

      On the other hand, many of the quick acting pesticides drop the foraging bees in the field, so the hives lose the ability to feed themselves, or they have to take younger nurse bees out to forage earlier than normal. One of the key methods of salvaging honey bees thus is to feed them (yes corn syrup!) That way, they can continue to raise brood and build back up to strength. Of course that is expensive and it takes time.

      And we must always keep in mind that wild bees have no one to help salvage them and restore populations that were decimated.

      Dave Green
      Coastal SC
      Retired pollination contractor (East Coast FL - NY)
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