This is a little exerpt from an article written by Kim Flottum about
the First National Beekeeper's Conference held in Sacramento this past
January. If any of you have seen the 60 Minutes piece on CCD, you'll
be familiar with David Hackenburg, the beekeeper credited with first
reporting what turned out to be Colony Collapse Disorder last year
(please pardon any typos, this article isn't online yet and I had to
retype it, but it is well worth my time if you all learn something
Speaking of new problems, Colony Collapse Disorder and associated
problems were high on everybody's list of must-see.
It started with pesticides aplenty here, and even if they aren't the
CCD curse, they are killing bees faster than beekeepers can make them.
David Mendes, a 7,000 colony, Massachusetts/Florida
beekeeper/pollinator talked about pesticides in the environments his
bees must visit when pollinating crops and how these chemicals may be
contributing to his problems...and his problems have been significant.
His first comment was that pesticides aren't tested by the EPA but
rather by the Chemical companies that make them, and then the EPA
approves them for use, or not. Any guesses on how those results come
He talked about not only the financial but emotional stess that losing
60 - 80% of your bees has on beekeepers....anything more than 50% in a
year and it gets real, real hard to recover. Two years in a row and
you could be looking for a job as a greeter at Wal-Mart, he said.
David Hackenburg, the first to report Colony Collapse Disorder last
year (but not the first to have it, certainly), first told about the
2000 or so colonies he had moved to Florida in early January, but
within a couple of weeks 80% were gone with the same symptoms of CCD
he saw in his bees last year. He quoted Jerry Hayes, the State Apiary
Inspector from Florida (where CCD is common) who said that beekeeping
was the ugly stepchild of American agriculture". How so? The
government has made lots of promises so far Hackenberg said...but so
far....not much has happened.
He also mentioned pesticides, specifically Imadaclprid, and how it was
used everywhere, by everybody. But he went on, and I quote..."Big Ag
has control of the USDA from the Secretary right on down to almost
thel owest guys on the totem pole." What to do? Get a hold of your
congress folks and get them to get some action...get the money out,
get control of the chemicals.
David Ellingson, another commercial beekeeper and beeswax processor
talked about doing everything the way he had been doing things... and
nothing was working. It used to be, when a colony dies, air it out
and reuse it....now, that new colony will die, too. His pesticide
comment was that farmers are now 'stacking' pesticides...that is,
combining insecticides, herbicides and fungicides in a single trip
across the field instead of three trips. The problem? When combined
these chemical blends become a thousand times more toxic than when
used alone. A thousand times more toxic. Imagine.
Gene Brandi, a 2000 colony commercial beekeeper talked about one
specific pesticide problem. Spraying fungicides on blooming plants.
Generally these compounds aren't harmful to honeybees....adult honey
bees, that is, which is all the EPA makes the chemical companies test
(remember who does the tests, and who approves the results).
Meanwhile, these non-adult-harming compounds that are brought back to
the hive are being fed to baby bees. Would you feed fungicides to
your children? No? Neither would I but we are routinely letting
honey bees do just that. These chemicals come back to hives on the
pollen the bees collect, then store, then feed to their children. This
just screams for long term studies on the effects of these chemicals
on all the inhabitants in the hive over several generations....the
question is, do these chemicals, when fed to brood, affect the adults
the brood eventually becomes? Right now absolutely nobody knows.
Scientists still don't know for sure what causes CCD, and it may be
pesticides are the problem pure and simple (well, pesticides aren't
pure or simple, are they?). Certainly the stress that constant
exposure to pesticides exerts on the honey bee population, and the
strain this stress puts on a honey bee's immune system is one of the
links in the CCD chain.
As part of this session that list of chemicals I talked about last
month that was found in wax, brood, adult bees, honey and pollen was
shown again, and again it started at the ceiling, ran down the wall,
down the center isle (dodging the many people sitting on the floor),
and headed out the door. The list is so scary that it makes me want
to sit on the floor. We are surely killing bees by the way we are
Ann, gardening in Zone 6a
South of Boston, Massachusetts
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