Border Bees Diary

Diary of a Beekeeper in the Scottish Borders

Archive for the ‘PESTICIDES’ Category

Information on pesticides which kill bees; current campaigns and issues.

The Trouble with Queens

Posted by borderglider on August 12, 2009

Many beekeepers in the UK are having problems with queens: virgin queens fail to mate, disappear on mating flights or mate successfully, only to become drone-layers within weeks. I had a good queen-rearing season and bred 6 new queens – all of which mated successfully – and all produced fertile eggs and good brood-patterns over a number of frames. However, three of these queens were superseded (replaced) by the bees within a month – which is highly abnormal; it is however a phenomenon being seen up and down the country.  Normally, a newly mated young queen would be good for at least two years, possibly three or even four – though most beekeepers try to replace their queens annually these days. However, many beekeepers are reporting that young, apparently vigorous and fertile queens are being killed by their own workers and replaced with new queens within a matter of weeks; this is highly abnormal behaviour and indicates that something is going terribly wrong.

My own hypothesis is that we are seeing the results of bio-accumulation of neo-nicotinoid pesticides in young queens which are affecting their behaviour in sub-lethal ways.  French research by Dr Bonmatin at Montpelier University in 1998-99 revealed that the neo-nicotinoid pesticide Imidacloprid kills bees when they ingest it at levels of just 3-5 parts per billion (ppb)however, his team also found sub-lethal effects at far lower levels of contamination – a mere 0.1 ppb – an almost infinitesimally small level of poison. This independent research dramatically conflicted with that of Bayer- the manufacturers of Imidacloprid – who initially claimed that their new nerve-poison only killed bees at levels in excess of 50,000 ppb; they revised this downward to 10,000, then 5,000, then 1000 – and latterly – in the face of mounting evidence they have said that it kills bees at 50-100 ppb.  Bonmatin’s research still claims that it kills bees at 5 ppb.

Why might Pesticides be Affecting Queen Bees?

Well, a worker bee only lives for 6 weeks – and sometimes less, depending on how hard it has to work in the field. So in its short life, it only eats pollen and nectar for this limited period. However, a queen bee lives for up to two years, and while a queen larva is growing in its cell, it is fed far more food than a worker larva. So if pesticides are present in the pollen and nectar which is used to feed a developing queen-larva, it will bio-accumulate far more pesticide than a worker-larva.  The levels may still be sub-lethal but since these are neuro-toxins, they affect the nervous system and brain first – which control all complex queen-activities such: as the mating-flight, navigation to and from the hive, mating on the wing, laying eggs and so on. Moreover, the nervous system controls the production of pheromones by the queen, which affect all activities in the hive.

The queen bee regulates virtually all the activities of the hive through her production of queen-pheromones, sometimes called ‘queen substance’. In reality the ‘queen substance’ is made up of a dozen or more distinct pheromones, each of which plays a vital role in the governance of the hive.  One vital pheromone for example suppresses the urge of the worker bees to produce queen cells – and hence make new queens; as the queen gets older, she produces less and less of this substance and at the same time, the population of the hive increases to perhaps 50,000 workers – so there is less and less inhibiting chemical to go around.  When the ‘queen-cell-inhibition’ pheromone drops below a certain threshold, the workers cease to be repressed and they suddenly start to make new queen cells and new queens.

However, if the queen loses her potency in terms of any of the 20 or so pheromones which she creates and distributes in the hive, the bees will sense that ‘somethng is wrong’ and they may kill and replace her.

In addition, if the queen’s nervous system is damaged in any way that affects her behaviour, her egg-laying pattern for example – the bees will kill and replace her. There have been reports from France and from America that while bee-colonies have died by the thousands in areas where pesticides are routinely used on sunflowers, oilseed rape, almonds, apples, peas, beans and so on – there have been virtually no bee-losses in areas where such pesticides are not used: forests, heather-moorlands, offshore islands, mountain districts.

I recently read about a beekeeper called Andrew Abrahams who keeps native black bees on the remote island of Colonsay in the inner Hebrides:

http://www.colonsay.org.uk/

His bees forage on the wildflowers of the ‘Machair’ – the famed coastal flower-pastures which thrive because of the calcareous shell-sands created from billions of sea-shells ground by the Atlantic waves.  The Machair habitat is found on many West-facing shores of most of the Hebridean islands and the vast carpet of wildflowers feeds millions of insects in May, which in turn attract thousands of migrant wading birds to breed here.

Since there is no intensive, pesticide-based farming on islands like Colonsay, the bees are uncontaminated – and the varroa mite has not reached the islands either, he writes:  http://www.colonsay.org.uk/honey2.html

Industrial farming has laid waste the natural bee forage of most of Britain. Hedges uprooted, every weed sprayed, grasslands fertilised by nitrogen instead of clover. Only now at the margin, in places such as Colonsay, can a wide diversity of wildflowers still be found. Colonsay and Oronsay have varied habitats from the machair near the shore, to non intensive farmland, hedges, woodland and open heather moorland. Over 50% of all British wildflower species grow in this small area. A very mixed and varied feast for the bees!. The important nectar flows that make the bulk of the honey are sycamore and bluebell in the Spring, hawthorn, bramble and clover in the summer months and then the bell and ling heathers of the autumn. But it is the fragrant nectar of the numerous wildflowers that gives Isle of Colonsay Wildflower Honey it’s unique and special flavour. The strong aromatic oils of the wild thyme, growing on the sandy machair, are just one example.

A Queen from Over the Sea

I contacted Andrew to see if I could buy one of his Colonsay Queens to create a new colony at my Apiary in the Borders, and was lucky to find that he did have some queens for sale.  The new queen would be sent through the post in a small plastic cage, protected in bubble-wrap and accompanied by a dozen or so attendant bees, with a block of honey-candy as food for the journey

The new queen would arrive a couple of days later but I had to prepare a nucleus hive of queenless bees to receive the new queen.  This is a tricky procedure, since it involves taking bees from a hive which already has a queen and separating these bees from their mother-queen, whose pheromones are the very basis of their survival.  Each queen has its own distinct pheromone-character and each hive of bees has its own ‘family-smell’; the bees will fight and kill any strange bee which attempts to enter their hive, because it does not have the right smell. So, in order to get bees to accept a new queen, with a new smell, they first have to be made queenless, by separating them from their mother-hive for at least 24 hours.

Queenless bees realise they are queenless within an hour or so, and they display all the classic signs: all normal activity in the hive stops and the bees run about all over the front of the hive in a disordered, frantic mob – ‘roaring’ loudly all the time.  This noisy-chaos  is unlike any other sight you will ever see around a beehive, and once seen it is never forgotten.

Having left this newly-made colony queenless overnight, I introduced the queen in her cage between the frames of the hive at dusk the next day.

The effect was dramatic; within two minutes the noisy roaring died away, the frantic searching hither and thither stopped, and all the bees on the front of the hive trooped inside in an orderly manner.  As soon as the queen was introduced into the hive, signal-bees appeared on the landing board where they stuck their tails in the air and exposed the white Nasonov Gland which is normally concealed beneath their tail segment.  This exudes a ‘homing-pheromone’ which essentially signals that ‘this is home, everything is alright, come on in’.

Within minutes there was hardly a bee in sight and the Island Queen was being feted as the new mother of a new bee-colony; all that could be heard from the hive was the deep, contented hum of happy bees, which is one of the wonderful sounds of the world.

So I now  have a new queen from a pesticide-free island, heading up a new colony in my apiary.  The only problem of course is that I live in the Scottish Borders, in a centre of intensive, industrial, pesticide-laced arable farming. So the question is – ‘how long will she last?‘.

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LOS ANGELES TIMES: BUZZZZZZ-KILL

Posted by borderglider on August 6, 2008

http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-oe-meyerhoff30-2008jul30,0,2821586.story

by Al Meyerhof, Los Angeles Times, July 30th 2008

The loss of billions of bees raises questions about our pesticide controls.

By Al Meyerhoff
LOS ANGELES TIMES July 30, 2008

“It’s likely that most people have never heard of Gaucho. And no, it’s not a South American cowboy. I’m talking about a pesticide.There is increasing reason to believe that Gaucho and other members of a family of highly toxic chemicals — neonicotinoids — may be responsible for the deaths of billions of honeybees worldwide. Some scientists believe that these pesticides, which are applied to seeds, travel systemically through the plant and leave residues that contaminate the pollen, resulting in bee death or paralysis. The French refer to the effect as “mad bee disease” and in 1999 were the first to ban the use of these chemicals, which are currently only marketed by Bayer (the aspirin people) under the trade names Gaucho and Poncho. Germany followed suit this year, and its agricultural research institute said it concluded that the poisoning of the bees was because of the rub-off of the pesticide clothianidin (that’s Pancho) from corn seeds.

So why did the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2002 grant an “emergency” exemption allowing increased use of Gaucho — typically invoked during a major infestation — when only a few beetles were found in blueberries? Why did the agency also grant a “conditional” registration for its close relative, Pancho, allowing the chemical on the market with only partial testing? And why is the agency, hiding behind a curtain of “trade secrets,” still refusing to disclose whether the additional tests required of companies in such cases were conducted and, if so, with what results?

Therein lies a tale. Most pesticides, we’re told, are safe. So we add about 5 billion pounds a year of these deadly chemicals to our world, enough to encircle the planet if it were packaged in 100-pound sacks. Sure, they are regulated — but badly — under the antiquated Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. This law allows a chemical on the market unless it’s proved to pose “an unreasonable risk,” far too weak a standard.

Gerard Eyries, a Bayer marketing manager, said in connection with the French action that “imidacloprid [that’s Gaucho] left a small residue in nectar and pollen, but there was no evidence of a link with the drop in the bee population.” Bayer also blamed seed makers and suggested that there may be “nonchemical causes” for this massive bee kill. But Bayer may not be entirely objective here. In 2006, Gaucho sales topped $746 million.

Something is killing the bees, though. Some scientists suspect a virus; others mites, even cellphones. (Bees are not known to use phones, though, having their own communications system — a dance called the “waggle.”)

Here in the U.S., the bee kill is a big problem. Domesticated bees were brought to the U.S. on the Mayflower. Today, they contribute at least $15 billion to the nation’s agricultural economy. For example, California’s $2-billion-a-year almond crop is completely dependent on honeybees from about 1.5 million hives for pollination. This year, more than 2.4 million bee colonies — 36% of the total — were lost in the U.S., according to the Apiary Inspectors of America. Some colonies collapsed in two days.

Part of the problem is how we farm. Rather than rotating crops, farmers grow the same one each year. This “monoculture” creates a breeding ground for pests. Farmers then use chemicals that kill not only the target organism but other life forms as well — like honeybees. That this approach may now be coming back to bite big-production agriculture is not without some irony. For decades the agriculture industry has been its beneficiary — with farmworkers, consumers and local communities the victims. But, actually, we’re all in trouble.

No independent government testing is required before a pesticide is registered for use. Large gaps in basic scientific knowledge about pesticides remain, including their environmental “fate” (where they end up) and their toxicity to humans and to wildlife. A problem pesticide may be removed from the market only after a long process and full trial — something that should be done before. The Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 improved control of residues in our food. That didn’t help the bees.

Rachel Carson was vilified by an industry smear nearly 50 years ago, after the release of her book, “Silent Spring.” “If we were to follow the teachings of Miss Carson,” said American Cyanamid, the maker of DDT, “we would return to the Dark Ages … insects, vermin and disease would once again inherit the Earth.” But, as Carson so eloquently put it in a CBS documentary in 1964: “Man’s attitude toward nature is today critically important simply because we now have acquired a fateful power to alter and destroy nature. But man is part of nature, and his war is inevitably a war against himself.”

Al Meyerhoff, an environmental attorney in Los Angeles, is a former director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s public health program.

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Pesticides Are Seriously Messing Up Our Honey Bees

Posted by borderglider on August 6, 2008

“The Indictment Against Farm-Insecticides Is Growing More Detailed”

Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture

Kim Flottum, Editor of Bee Culture

A thought-provoking article by Kim Flottum – Editor of Bee Culture magazine in the USA which reveals that some very experienced beekeepers are convinced that neo-nicotinoid pesticides are directly involved in Colony Collapse Disorder. For full article please visit:

http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/blogs/bees/honey-bee-pesticides-55080101

ABSTRACT:

” How the Government Serves the Chemical Companies

These chemicals I’ve mentioned are all in the neonicotinoid family of insecticides. They came along after the government, several years ago, decided that the long lived pesticides had to go and better, shorter, less troublesome chemicals and integrated pest management programs had to replace them (this was called the FQPA … food quality protection act … you can sound out the letters any way you want).

Well, those long lasting chemicals were the bread and butter of the agrochemical companies and the government essentially took them away. But the government wants cheap food and there’s only one way to do that, and that’s to have good management practices, including good insect control. Very good insect control.

Long story short, budget cuts forced the EPA to cut corners and one of those corners was testing new products. Why not let the chemical companies test them, and we’ll evaluate the results, went the EPA thinking. Better: why not let the fox in the chicken house, went the thinking, and we’ll see if the chickens die.

So now the only major chemicals used to control insects on crops are in the neonic family. They are all the same, and they are all over. And all the chemicals listed here are in that family.

Do they accumulate from one year to the next in the soil, building to levels three to four times what they should be? When, after three or four years they are ingested by honey bees in nectar or pollen do they cause behavior or health problems?

There seems to be evidence that they do, but it’s only anecdotal, and science doesn’t deal with this sort of data, does it….

Dave Hackenburg has brought up a boatload of questions about pesticides. Whether they have anything to do with CCD or not is less important than if these chemicals, and their multi-season accumulations are causing significant risks for bees, or people, remains to be seen.

And what about this agrochemical complex Dave describes? What do Bayer, Syngenta, Monsanto, and others have in store for us?

Dave’s comment? “We still don’t know what’s going on, or why. But bees are dying, and we better figure it out … quick”.”

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AMERICAN RESEARCH TEAM FIND 46 DIFFERENT PESTICIDES IN CCD COLONIES

Posted by borderglider on July 4, 2008

Dr Maryann Frazier’s team has been studying 92 CCD colonies from all over the USA. They examined pollen, brood and wax samples from the hives and analysed them for a very wide range of insecticides, herbicides and fungicides.

They found an alarming total of 46 different pesticides in the affected colonies.

Nurse bees feeding larvae in my hives – July 4th 2008

In one single hive they found seventeen different pesticides.

The average number of pesticides they found per hive was five

Of 108 pollen samples analysed – only three did not contain pesticides.

CONCERN OVER FLUVALINATES (Bayvarol & Apistan strips)

The team found high levels of fluvalinate in wax samples from the CCD affected hives; in some case the levels of contamination were so high that they were close to the LD50 level for bees (the dosage at which 50% of exposed bees would die). The team also point out that the modern forumulation of ‘Tau-fluvalinate’ is more than twice as toxic as the original licensed product; moreover they detected an ‘amplification’ effect when a particular fungicide was present along with fluvalinate – which increased the toxicity by almost ‘one thousand times’.

Abstract:

“As found in pollen, fluvalinate, coumaphos and chlorpyrifos were the most
commonly detected pesticides with fluvali-nate and coumaphos being detected in 100% of the samples. survival. In addition, Piperonyl butoxide (PBO) (a pesticide synergist often added to formulations of pyrethroids to increase their potency) can be found in frequent use around urban apiaries. With or without the addition of PBO or other adjuvants, fluvalinate is now considered to be a highly toxic material to honey bees.
Based on its prevalence in wax, wide-spread resistance in varroa and its toxicity to honey bees, fluvalinate appears to have outlived is usefulness.”

FULL ARTICLE BY MARYANN FRAZIER OF PENN STATE UNIVERSITY

WHAT HAVE PESTICIDES GOT TO DO WITH CCD? (download PDF document)

View or download the article (pdf file) by clicking on the link above.

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REQUIEM FOR THE HONEYBEE

Posted by borderglider on June 12, 2008

Professor Joe Cummins is Emeritus Professor of Genetics at the University of Ontario. He produced a detailed scientific paper in April 2007 last year which gives an overview of all the research from France, Italy and the USA regarding the impact of Neo-Nicotinoid pesticides on honeybees. The paper contains full scientific references with detailed sources.

Certainly, honeybees are declining both in areas where GM crops are widely grown, and in other areas where GM crops are released in small test plots.

Is there a common thread that links both areas? Yes there is: the universal use of systemic pesticide seed dressing in GM crops and conventional crops; in particular, the widespread application of a relatively new class of systemic insecticides – the neo-nicotinoids -“

TO DOWNLOAD THE FULL WORD DOCUMENT; CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW


REQUIEM FOR THE HONEYBEE – CLICK TO VIEW DOCUMENT

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Last Flight of the Honeybee

Posted by borderglider on June 3, 2008

Oilseed rape is treated with Imidacloprid and other Neo-Nicotinoid Pesticides

Alison Benjamin is a Guardian journalist who has written extensively on the issue of Colony Collapse Disorder in the USA and the recent mass poisoning of colonies in the German Rhineland. On 31st May she published a major article which was the fruit of her visit to California’s Central Valley where she interviewed Dave Hackenberg – the bee-farmer who first told the world about CCD when he lost 400 hives in Florida.

Hackenberg has been intimately involved in the struggle to find out what is causing CCD and has given dozens of interviews to journalists and researchers over the last year. Interestingly – he has now concluded for himself that “Neonicotinoid Pesticides are at the root of CCD.”

Visit the Guardian article at:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/may/31/animalwelfare.environment

Hackenberg, 59, wears cowboy boots, a checked shirt and blue jeans. He even has a hard hat in the shape of a Stetson, with netting attached that he wears when unloading beehives. He began his own investigations into what killed 2,000 of his honeybees at the end of 2006, by talking to growers and reading up on pesticide use and research into their effects on bees. “It’s those new neonicotinoid pesticides that growers are using,” he says. “That’s what’s messing up the bees’ navigation system so they can’t find their way home. . . . Tests have shown that the pesticides Hackenberg refers to can interfere with the bees’ communication and orientation skills, and also impair memory

Click on the link below to read the full article in Word format

last-flight-of-the-honeybee


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Germany bans chemicals linked to honeybee devastation

Posted by borderglider on May 23, 2008

From Today’s Guardian – May 23rd 2008

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/may/23/wildlife.endangeredspecies

Germany has banned a family of pesticides that are blamed for the deaths of millions of honeybees. The German Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) has suspended the registration for eight pesticide seed treatment products used in rapeseed oil and sweetcorn.

The move follows reports from German beekeepers in the Baden-Württemberg region that two thirds of their bees died earlier this month following the application of a pesticide called clothianidin.

“It’s a real bee emergency,” said Manfred Hederer, president of the German Professional Beekeepers’ Association. “50-60% of the bees have died on average and some beekeepers have lost all their hives.”

Tests on dead bees showed that 99% of those examined had a build-up of clothianidin. The chemical, produced by Bayer CropScience, a subsidiary of the German chemical giant Bayer, is sold in Europe under the trade name Poncho. It was applied to the seeds of sweetcorn planted along the Rhine this spring. The seeds are treated in advance of being planted or are sprayed while in the field.

The company says an application error by the seed company which failed to use the glue-like substance that sticks the pesticide to the seed, led to the chemical getting into the air.

Bayer spokesman Dr Julian Little told the BBC’s Farming Today that misapplication is highly unusual. “It is an extremely rare event and has not been seen anywhere else in Europe,” he said.

Clothianidin, like the other neonicotinoid pesticides that have been temporarily suspended in Germany, is a systemic chemical that works its way through a plant and attacks the nervous system of any insect it comes into contact with. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency it is “highly toxic” to honeybees.

This is not the first time that Bayer, one of the world’s leading pesticide manufacturers with sales of €5.8bn (£4.6bn) in 2007, has been blamed for killing honeybees.

In the United States, a group of beekeepers from North Dakota is taking the company to court after losing thousands of honeybee colonies in 1995, during a period when oilseed rape in the area was treated with imidacloprid. A third of honeybees were killed by what has since been dubbed colony collapse disorder.

Bayer’s best selling pesticide, imidacloprid, sold under the name Gaucho in France, has been banned as a seed dressing for sunflowers in that country since 1999, after a third of French honeybees died following its widespread use. Five years later it was also banned as a sweetcorn treatment in France. A few months ago, the company’s application for clothianidin was rejected by French authorities.

Bayer has always maintained that imidacloprid is safe for bees if correctly applied. “Extensive internal and international scientific studies have confirmed that Gaucho does not present a hazard to bees,” said Utz Klages, a spokesman for Bayer CropScience.

Last year, Germany’s Green MEP, Hiltrud Breyer, tabled an emergency motion calling for this family of pesticides to be banned across Europe while their role in killing honeybees were thoroughly investigated. Her action follows calls for a ban from beekeeping associations and environmental organisations across Europe.

Philipp Mimkes, spokesman for the German-based Coalition Against Bayer Dangers, said: “We have been pointing out the risks of neonicotinoids for almost 10 years now. This proves without a doubt that the chemicals can come into contact with bees and kill them. These pesticides shouldn’t be on the market.”

See also:
http://www.cbgnetwork.de/2517.html
Coalition against BAYER Dangers (Germany)
www.CBGnetwork.org
CBGnetwork@aol.com
Fax: (+49) 211-333 940 Tel: (+49) 211-333 911
please send an e-mail for receiving the English newsletter Keycode BAYER free of charge.

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BAYER USES BBKA ENDORSEMENT TO SELL PESTICIDES

Posted by borderglider on May 23, 2008

Bayer -the giant multinational pesticide manufacturer is actively using the name and logo of the British Beekeeping Association to promote and sell an insecticide called ‘DECIS’. Take a look at their ‘advert’ at:

http://www.bayercropscience.co.uk/content.output/272/781/Crop%20Centre/Insecticides%20Molluscicides/Decis.mspx

ABSTRACT FROM BAYER ADVERT“target=”_blank”

“decis is endorsed by the British Bee Keepers Association when used according to the following guidelines:

  • Spray in the evening or very early morning when fewer bees are foraging.
  • Take care to prevent drift toward hives in the treated field.
  • Avoid triazole fungicide tank mixes.
  • Give local beekeepers as much notice as possible.

Bayer goes on to say that the active insecticide is DELTAMETHRIN and that . . . .

” you can be sure that all the active ingredient you spray will be insecticidal. This is coupled with a long duration of activity, rapid knockdown and short pre-harvest intervals.”

DO YOU THINK THE BBKA’S POSITION IS ACCEPTABLE, OR ILLOGICAL?

Here we have our national beekeeping organisation accepting large sums of cash from Bayer – for endorsing an insecticide as being “bee friendly”; when Bayer’s own marketing blurb stresses that this is a ‘long duration insecticide’ with rapid ‘knock down’. It is appalling that – contrary to the stated objections of many of BBKA’s membership, the excutive has allegedly been in receipt of cash payments in the order of £20,000 per annum since 2003 – for endorsing pesticides which kill bees! You couldn’t make it up! This is the equivalent of Alcoholics Anonymous taking cash from a whisky manufacturing company for endorsing their booze as being “friendly to alcoholics if consumed in the recommended dosage”.

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