Border Bees Diary

Diary of a Beekeeper in the Scottish Borders

Posts Tagged ‘CCD’

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.

Posted in BEEKEEPING, PESTICIDES | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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”.”

Posted in BEEKEEPING, PESTICIDES, Pests and Diseases | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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.

Posted in BEEKEEPING, PESTICIDES | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Birth of The Drones and Worker Bees

Posted by borderglider on May 13, 2008

May is the month when male drones start to emerge from the cells in which they have metamorphosed from fat white larvae into flying male bees. Note the size of the drone’s eyes in the photo below – each eye forms almost a hemisphere around the head – similar to a dragonfly. It is thought that the drone needs such amazing eyesight in order to find and mate with the Queen on her mating flight – which may happen several hundred feet in the air and up to three miles from the hive.

Male bees - drones emerging from their cells
Drones Emerging from their Cells

“Hello World! Why Am I Here? What Is My Purpose?”

Worker bee merging from its cell

A Worker Bee Cuts Her Way out of Her Cell

A young worker cuts her way from her cell to join her sisters in the duties of the hive. All of the capped cells around her contain young workers about to emerge after matamorphosis; these will probably emerge within the next 24 hours since this patch of eggs will all have been laid by the Queen at the same time – up to 2,000 a day at this time of year.

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Beekeeping in the Scottish Borders

Posted by borderglider on May 11, 2008

May 11th 2008

I have kept bees for eight years now – so I am no longer ‘a beginner’ – but many local beekeepers have forty years or more experience, so I am still a long way from being an ‘expert’.  I keep the local ‘native’ bee – i,e, British Black bees – Apis Mellifera Mellifera – rather than using imported Italian, Carniolan (Slovenian) bees.

The Merry Month of May in the beehive

Nurse Bees & Sealed Worker Cells during Oilseed Rape Season

My bees went into the winter of 2007 with five hives – all in good heart and all with first-year-queens (British blacks – or ‘local stock’. The bees were treated for varroa with Apistan strips in September and after Christmas I dosed them with Oxalic Acid – to guard against varroa gaining chemical resistance. I also tacked heavy duty plastic ‘skirts’ around the hives to shed the rain and wind – using builders damp-proof-membrane – so I thought everything had been taken care of.

When I last peeked into the hives – after Christmas – there were healthy populations of bees in all five hives and plenty of winter stores to see them through the cold months. When I revisited the hives in April I was shocked to discover that one of the hives was dead and another two were queenless – with only a small population of bees surviving.

CAUSES?

The main possible causes noted by the experts seem to be:

1. Varroa parasites and viruses

2. Nosema – dysentery

3. Prolonged cold

4. Accumulation of pesticides in stored food supplies

The general picture that is emerging throughout the UK is that there have been very heavy losses in some areas – lighter losses in others. East Lothian BKA conducted a survey which revealed 10% losses on average. Morayshire BKA reported losses in the 40-50% zone and in one case 12 out of 12 hives were lost.

My own hives are all Open Mesh Floors; all were treated for Varroa (Apistan) in September and seemed in vigorous good health. They were treated with oxalic acid using 3% solution and no more than 5 mls of solution per seam of bees – in early January. The three dead or severely depleted hives were discovered in mid April and I have been nursing my two remaining queenright colonies in the hope of breeding new queens at the end of May.

British Black Queen/em>

I took this photo of my best remaining queen on May 10th. Did not see the varroa mites through the veil while inspecting the hive, but did notice them on the enlarged photo today. Very depressing.

Posted in BEEKEEPING | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »