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Honeyrun Farm produces pure raw, honey, handcrafted soap, and beeswax candles in Williamsport, Ohio


Back to the Neonicotinoids

Honeyrun Farm

 -Posted by Isaac

Back on the warpath.
The whole neonic controversy has been back in the forefront of my mind lately. There are a few recent happenings which have gotten me thinking about it, and I'm going to share with you.
For one, the bees are bringing in a lot of corn pollen:

For those of you unfamiliar, neonicotinoids are a relatively new class of pesticides that are used to treat corn and soybean seed, among many other things. Specifically, something called clothianidin on corn.
These are different than the old style insecticides in that they are systemic, meaning carried with the plant as it grows. It's not a one shot, short period ordeal as far as killing insects. It's a many days or months ordeal. The controversy surrounding neonics involves the argument that the chemical remains in the environment for too long and damage is caused to way more than just the target pest. They have been banned in Europe and may soon be outlawed in Canada due to evidence that the chemicals are wreaking havoc on pollinator populations.

If your livelihood depends on keeping insects alive and those insects happen to be foraging on a neonic treated plant, it tends to make you worry:

I'm not an alarmist.
And I don't want to be. I follow and almost always side with Randy Oliver at  Oliver is a commercial beekeeper in California and in my opinion a top tier scientist. He basically says, of yet, there is no overwhelming evidence that neonics are causing the harm many are claiming. I read his research and always feel better about life... we can continue to put faith in the system, the science, the testing and the fact that there are many intelligent people working on this.

On the other hand...

Some things make me wonder.

Are we really looking that hard?

Many of us carry a nervous and suspicious outlook regarding our regulatory agencies. Specifically the EPA and ODA here in Ohio. There are reasons for this. Allow me to expand-
I got the lab results back from my May bee kill. The conclusion... drum roll... NO CONCLUSION!
Well, not exactly. The lab did find evidence of nosema in a few of the samples and no varroa was found. But??? But??? What about the dead bees from the pesticide? This was a PESTICIDE RELATED KILL! In small print near the bottom of the page it said that the samples were not tested for chemical toxins.
So what was the point? Come on ODA? Nosema and varroa? Whoop de do.
I would normally just write this off as a gross oversight or miscommunication, but as a beekeeper with growing suspicions, I now have some real doubts. Remember 2012? Major bee kills statewide during corn planting.
This continues to happen!
A whole state's worth of dead bee samples coming in and the news given back to beekeepers that spring was that the bees were dying of starvation! Later that year in the fall beekeepers got word that the many samples had been run and nothing was found. Again, ODA, do your job!
Well, this was a real head scratcher. No link between corn planting and dead bees? Bees dying of starvation? (In big piles in front of the hives?) Interestingly Bayer CropScience, the vanguard of bee health, took the same stance... the bees were starving. What a freakin' joke!

Things like this begin to make you wonder. Will I too be crushed beneath this wheel?

I mentioned that neonic use has been banned in Europe. Why is this? In another post I got ranting that the moratorium was probably not done on a whim. You don't just turn your back on billions. This was revenue, progress, technology and jobs... and they put a stop to it. Wouldn't there have to be some hard scientific evidence to make a decision this big? Truth is, I don't know... did they simply ban the chemicals because beekeepers were mad?

There has, of course, been a lot of testing with neonics. For one, the companies that produce the stuff, namely Bayer CropScience, have put the insecticides though years of "rigorous" field studies and find that "when used according to label specifications" the chemicals are harmless to bees. (Lethal to the target insect but harmless to others.  Hahaha.)
Clothianidin has been used extensively on corn since the early 2000's. Oddly enough, something called CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) also happened in the early 2000's. CCD is the unexplained and massive die off of honeybees that cannot be attributed to varroa mite, nosema, foulbrood or any other common and widely known bee affliction. The beekeeping industry took a nosedive.
There has since been a slow if not stagnant recovery. CCD is still largely unexplained, but commercial beekeepers persist nonetheless.
There is much more splitting of hives these days. Re-queening. Feeding syrup. Feeding protein. Treating. Treating again. And again. General hive maintenance.... more than has ever been required in the past. You can still keep bees alive, it's just much harder!

The most rigorous, cruel and damning neonic field studies were of course the involuntary experiments conducted on commercial beekeeping operations. Here were people who had spent generations taking care of bees and suddenly they couldn't keep their hives alive. Many were screaming about the new pesticides. Many were pointing fingers directly at Bayer, Monsanto, Syngenta and the EPA... with little action taken. They're still pointing, bees are still dying. The EPA is still "working on it."

Taking the advice of three different commercial guys (In New York, Pennsylvania and Iowa) I'm feeding a lot of protein this summer.
This is not a normal practice for summer hive maintenance, but these guys say they've had more success when "diluting" the incoming poisons. ("Poisons"...meaning corn pollen)
The bees seem to eat it right up but I have not observed any of it being stored in cells.
The clover and corn pollen however, is easily found.
The bees are still looking good. Nice solid brood patterns, plenty of honey on the hives... I truthfully don't see adverse effects on hive health due to corn pollen.

So am I worried about nothing?

I've got the Power!