January 7, 2016

The EPA Finally Admitted That the World’s Most Popular Pesticide Kills Bees—20 Years Too Late

By Tom Philpott / January 7, 2016 / Mother Earth News

Bees are dying in record numbers—and now the government admits that an extremely common pesticide is at least partially to blame.

For more than a decade, the Environmental Protection Agency has been under pressure from environmentalists and beekeepers to reconsider its approval of a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids, based on a mounting body of research suggesting they harm bees and other pollinators at tiny doses. In a report released Wednesday, the EPA basically conceded the case.

Marketed by European chemical giants Syngenta and Bayer, neonics are the most widely used insecticides both in the United States and globally. In 2009, the agency commenced a long, slow process of reassessing them—not as a class, but rather one by one (there are five altogether). Meanwhile, tens of millions of acres of farmland are treated with neonics each year, and the health of US honeybee hives continues to be dismal.

Complete story

October 7, 2010

A new study on Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) led by pathologist Robert Cramer at Montana State University suggests that the combination of a virus and a fungus together may cause the widespread honey bee deaths. The virus is insect iridescent virus, similar to a virus found in moths. It was first reported in India 20 years ago. The fungus, known as Nosema ceranae, sickens bees if they ingest the spores. Cramer said there seems to be a CCD correlation when these two pathogens appear together.

August 18, 2008
NRDC Forced to Sue to Get Public Records on Bee Mystery

EPA Buzz Kill: Is the Agency Hiding Colony Collapse Disorder Information?

September 2007
Honey Bees in Crisis
Colony Collapse Disorder update

dead bee

A new clue has surfaced in the search for answers to the Honey Bee crisis. IAPV (Israeli Acute Paralysis virus) appears to be linked to Colony Collapse Disorder. Colonies that collapsed all had IAPV present, while there was no IAPV in healthy colonies. The study also suggests this virus may be spread globally, but no one knows its origins.

Complete Press Release (PDF file -14KB)


Summer 2007
Colony Collapse Disorder update

The honey bee crisis has raised national concern and renewed focus on honey bee research at places like Penn State. At stake is no less than the pollination of apples, almonds, peaches, soybeans, pears, pumpkins, cucumbers, cherries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries, to name a few. Dollarwise, the Pennsylvania apple crop is valued at $45 million. Nationwide, honey bee pollination is worth an estimated $15 billion.

The Colony Collapse Disorder Working Group, consisting of scientists and bee experts, is working on three possible hypothesis:

  1. New or re-emerging pathogens

  2. Environmental chemicals or pesticides that may negatively affect bees' behavior and/or physiology

  3. A combination of factors: parasitic mites, diseases, and nutritional stress, that could be weakening bee colonies for opportunistic pathogens such as fungi. Of worthwhile note is that all adult bees in CCD colonies are infected with fungal pathogens, which may suggest they have been immunosuppressed.

Our original story about Honey Bees....

McMurray, PA - Spring 2006

In 30 years of working outdoors, we'd never seen anything quite like it...
  "What the heck is in that tree?" 
  "Where? .....Wow, that looks like a HUGE mass of bees!"
Sure enough, it was a honey bee swarm clustered together on the lower branch of a blue spruce tree. For whatever reason, the queen bee had taken the hive on a journey to find a new home, and this spruce branch was just one stop along the way.
After working in the horticulture industry for several decades, I knew how beneficial honey bees were to agriculture. Years ago a beekeeper had told me that honey bees were on the decline in our area due to mites and disease, so I further realized how important it was to preserve this colony of bees.

Therefore, I began searching for a local beekeeper who would come to collect the mass of bees. My first phone calls were to the two local county agricultural extension offices, who promised to have any potential prospects phone me. After several hours there hadn't been any return calls, so it was time to continue the search for a beekeeper.

It finally occurred to me that one of the local commercial farms would surely be interested in another beehive, so my phone calls resumed. Around 8:00pm I reached a local farmer who said yes, he would be interested in the bees and would bring an empty beehive box over at dusk, once the bees had settled from their daily work.
Upon arrival, he scooped a handful of bees onto one of the racks in the box (he informed me bees aren't as aggressive when they're "in transit"). After a day or two, when the bees had (hopefully) taken up residence, he said he'd return to pickup the beehive. Sure enough, by the next morning, about 80 percent of the bees had moved into their new home, and by that afternoon the beehive was busier than O'Hare's no wonder, since the beekeeper estimated the size of the swarm at 5,000 bees!
That evening around dusk the beekeeper returned in his pickup truck to move the bees to their new home. They are now hard at work pollinating fruit trees and melon crops on the local farm.


Day 1

A huge bee swarm was spotted on the lower branch of a spruce tree

Honey Bee Swarm
thousands of bees

Thousands of bees en masse!

Can't believe our eyes! The beekeeper estimates there are 5,000 bees

Honey Bees
Honey bee

One of the casualties got brushed off the beekeeper's shirt during the move



Day 2

By morning we could see that most of the bees had already moved into their new home

bee colony
bee hive

Bees clustered on the side of the hive

By afternoon the bees were busy making honey again

busy bees

Their next stop is the local farm




Day 3

The new colony joins other beehives on a wagon at the farm

The wagon is parked close to whatever crop currently requires pollination

The distant apple orchard along the ridgeline will benefit from our bees


PENN STATE Press Release
College of Agricultural Sciences
January 29, 2007


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- An alarming die-off of honey bees has beekeepers fighting for commercial survival and crop growers wondering whether bees will be available to pollinate their crops this spring and summer.

Researchers are scrambling to find answers to what's causing an affliction recently named Colony Collapse Disorder, which has decimated commercial beekeeping operations in Pennsylvania and across the country.

"During the last three months of 2006, we began to receive reports from commercial beekeepers of an alarming number of honey bee colonies dying in the eastern United States," says Maryann Frazier, apiculture extension associate in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences. "Since the beginning of the year, beekeepers from all over the country have been reporting unprecedented losses.

"This has become a highly significant yet poorly understood problem that threatens the pollination industry and the production of commercial honey in the United States," she says. "Because the number of managed honey bee colonies is less than half of what it was 25 years ago, states such as Pennsylvania can ill afford these heavy losses."

A working group of university faculty researchers, state regulatory officials, cooperative extension educators and industry representatives is working to identify the cause or causes of Colony Collapse Disorder and to develop management strategies and recommendations for beekeepers. Participating organizations include Penn State, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the agriculture departments in Pennsylvania and Florida, and Bee Alert Technology Inc., a technology transfer company affiliated with the University of Montana.

"Preliminary work has identified several likely factors that could be causing or contributing to CCD," says Dennis vanEngelsdorp, acting state apiarist with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. "Among them are mites and associated diseases, some unknown pathogenic disease and pesticide contamination or poisoning."

Initial studies of dying colonies revealed a large number of disease organisms present, with no one disease being identified as the culprit, vanEngelsdorp explains. Ongoing case studies and surveys of beekeepers experiencing CCD have found a few common management factors, but no common environmental agents or chemicals have been identified.

The beekeeping industry has been quick to respond to the crisis. The National Honey Board has pledged $13,000 of emergency funding to the CCD working group. Other organizations, such as the Florida State Beekeepers Association, are working with their membership to commit additional funds.

This latest loss of colonies could seriously affect the production of several important crops that rely on pollination services provided by commercial beekeepers.

"For instance, the state's $45 million apple crop -- the fourth largest in the country -- is completely dependent on insects for pollination, and 90 percent of that pollination comes from honey bees," Frazier says. "So the value of honey bee pollination to apples is about $40 million."

In total, honey bee pollination contributes about $55 million to the value of crops in the state. Besides apples, crops that depend at least in part on honey bee pollination include peaches, soybeans, pears, pumpkins, cucumbers, cherries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries.

Frazier says to cope with a potential shortage of pollination services, growers should plan well ahead. "If growers have an existing contract or relationship with a beekeeper, they should contact that beekeeper as soon as possible to ascertain if the colonies they are counting on will be available," she advises. "If growers do not have an existing arrangement with a beekeeper but are counting on the availability of honey bees in spring, they should not delay but make contact with a beekeeper and arrange for pollination services now.

"However, beekeepers overwintering in the north many not know the status of their colonies until they are able to make early spring inspections," she adds. "This should occur in late February or early March but is dependent on weather conditions. Regardless, there is little doubt that honey bees are going to be in short supply this spring and possibly into the summer."

A detailed, up-to-date report on Colony Collapse Disorder can be found on the Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium Web site.

On average, Pennsylvania beekeepers lost 49 percent of their colonies in 2006
Source: Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association survey.

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