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 wheels are coming off the wagon in Australia. For more than a decade the chemical companies’ excuse for the massive worldwide bee losses has been varroa, varroa, varroa, and Australia was trumpeted as a success story, an example of the safe use of neonicotinoids. Australia is the last continent without varroa, and the chemical company line was “Look at Australia, neonicotinoids are being used widely and the bees and beekeepers are doing just fine.” Well, once again no surprise that they were just lying to us, as this Neonicotinoid View interview with Australian beekeepers Jeffrey Gibbs clearly shows.
The bee kill in South Carolina is getting a lot of press, and in most stories is being characterized as “an accident.”
This was no accident. Naled is an organophosphate. It is highly toxic to bees. Aerial application is the worst kind of delivery system and it looks like it was done during daylight. This was no accident. They knew exactly what they were doing. And if they didn’t, the decision makers should be relieved of their responsibilities for incompetence.
We’ve had these kinds of kills repeatedly, year after year, all over the country, not always the same chemicals, always the same excuses. And at least according to this story, an “oops we’re sorry” is all the beekeepers and the environment get for significant and costly destruction.
If any of you are interviewed about this because you are beekeepers don’t let yourselves be led into the “it was an accident” excuse.
“In Australia neonicotinoids are everywhere. In my opinion Australian Beekeepers are being used as a massive field test on neonicotinoids. Australia is a worldwide excuse for insecticide companies who are blaming Varroa mite for bee colony collapse overseas and claiming that Australian bees are healthy. Given the present situation of most beekeepers in Australia, this is not only a joke but an insult. The only winners here are the pesticide corporations, making a mockery of your present hardship.”
The above quote by Australian beekeeper Jeffrey Gibbs is from this article, Neonicotinoids in Australia, in The Australasian Beekeeper. Australia has been touted by the chemical companies as a success story. It turns out that Australia has not escaped the devastating effects of this family of pesticides and the story there is the same as in every country where the neonics have been used.
The new article raises some legitimate questions which will be influenced by whatever further steps Minnesota may or may not take. The current steps will accomplish little.
They still have us making comparisons in pounds, totally inappropriate given that the neonics are 5 to 10 thousand times more toxic than DDT to lower level life forms. As I’ve said before, it’s like comparing rocks and nuclear warheads, both weapons, by weighing them.
According to the figures given, Minnesota is using 95,250 pounds of neonics a year (381,000 divided by the 4), which multiplied by 5000 gives the toxic equivalent of about 476 million pounds of DDT.
It gets worse though, because seed treatments go unaccounted for and represent 90 per cent of actual use. If you add seed treatments in it means that Minnesota is applying the toxic equivalent of about 42 billion pounds of DDT, every year. Year after year.
In its year of highest usage, 1959, only 80 million pounds of DDT were used in the entire country. Nobody seems to grasp the enormity of this environmental poisoning or they prefer to avoid that dirty little secret.
Governor Dayton may take further steps, but it looks like the ones taken so far are just more smoke and mirrors, however well-intentioned they may be.
Minnesota has taken a step to control neonics – Seeking to reverse bee decline, Dayton orders limits on pesticide use – and it has the support of many leading Minnesota beekeepers who have been working on this, but what will it really accomplish? Is there any real substance or is this more smoke and mirrors to give the illusion that something is being done? For all the positive press this announcement is getting, unless the Minnesota Governor plans to outlaw neonics the Executive Order is likely to do little more than prolong the death of Minnesota beekeeping.
The only safe use of neonicotinoids is NO use. Neonicotinoids are the plutonium of pesticides and even if farm use is reduced significantly, one field in ten is enough to cause widespread poisoning of the environment.