Welcome to “Tom’s Corner,” a blog about bee decline by Tom Theobald, founding member of the Boulder County Beekeepers’ Association. In July 2010 Theobald wrote an article about clothianidin and bees for Bee Culture magazine that ignited a conversation about the connection between systemic pesticides and declining bee populations in the United States. Timeline here:
The story continues to unfold…
This article, Feds must tighten rules on insecticide-coated seeds, describes the lawsuit filed in January, 2016 over exemption of neonicotinoid seed coatings from regulation as a pesticide use under the “treated articles exemption.” Consider this: in the face of what may be the most massive poisoning of the environment in history at least for species at the lower level of the food chain, and an avalanche of independent science showing this, what does the EPA do? Revisit their failed decision making and actually do some regulation? Hardly. Instead they choose to defend their failures in court, using your tax dollars and mine.
Here is an excellent MPR News story on Christina Mogren and Jonathan Lundgren’s recent research on pollinator protection strips: Wildflowers planted to aid bees may be crippling them. It shows the ready mobility of the neonicotinoids and calls into question the value of “habitat improvement” without first assessing the level of poisoning in the habitat to be improved. Minnesota Public Radio reporter Dan Gunderson is to be applauded for his work on this story and others. He has tracked and reported on the problems faced by bees and beekeepers for several years.
Researchers Jonathan Lundgren and Chrissy Mogren look at a research plot near Brookings, South Dakota on July 31, 2015. Dan Gunderson | MPR News
Here’s a link to a study released just last week conducted by Christina Mogren and Jonathan Lundgren: Neonicotinoid-contaminated pollinator strips adjacent to cropland reduce honey bee nutritional status. For any of you trying to understand the issues surrounding the neonicotinoid family, it is important reading.
It’s not difficult to see why the USDA has become increasingly uncomfortable with what Lundgren and Mogren have found. The study addresses questions that should have been asked and answered by the USDA and EPA 20 years ago; before clothianidin was given a conditional registration to cover Bayer’s loss of market share because of the expiration of their patent on imidacloprid, and before hundreds of millions of acres were poisoned by these water-soluble chemicals with half-lives of years, unleashed on the environment virtually without restraint. Findings like these confirm previous studies done by others, like this one from the UK showing that 97% of the neonic contamination of bees came from wildflowers not the target crops, or this recent USGS paper that showed contamination of native bees with neonics when there was no agriculture within their flight range, (and that was right here in Northeastern Colorado).
The conclusions emerging are that the environmental damage may be more mobile and pernicious than anyone in the USDA or EPA is willing to admit to, and that widespread plantings along highway rights-of-way and elsewhere may be killing fields rather than habitat unless we have a baseline understanding of what the contamination is – or isn’t. None of the EPA or USDA people who were involved in the decisions that brought us to this environmental disaster wants to go anywhere near that Pandora’s Box and it’s up to people like Mogren, like Lundgren, like you and me, to open it up.
This report by Friends of the Earth is a signal work. It clearly documents the history and current state of pollinator protection. It is required reading for anyone trying to understand what the challenges are. Take the time to read it slowly, carefully, and in its entirety.