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:
On a cold winter day this past week I was in my Honey House doing a run of hand dipped beeswax candles. In the background I could hear the radio, tuned to the Public Radio station. Because I was an inside captive I had the good fortune to catch the following program, A Bug’s Death. It is 47 minutes long and full of important information for those of you who want to better understand the environmental crisis we are facing. I was astounded by the report by Emma Pelton of the Xerces Society that they are documenting a 99.5% decline in West Coast Monarch population. When you have a little time, settle in and listen closely to what this program has to say.
Click this image to go to WAMU, then click the blue arrow in the upper left to listen.
The findings and conclusions reaffirm what scientists and close observers have been reporting for more than a decade. Those calls for concern were largely ignored by the chemical companies and the regulators, particularly here in the United States. I have said repeatedly over the past few years that the evidence was showing that we were being subjected to the most massive poisoning of the environment in the history of humanity. This paper confirms those concerns, I believe.
As commercial beekeepers begin moving their colonies into the almonds in California, high colony losses are being revealed and the discussion as to the causes has livened. The corporate story is that the primary cause is the varroa mites, but experienced beekeepers and the work of researchers tell a different story. The following video, Colony Collapse Disorder Threatens Bees, US Agriculture, is a synopsis of a longer interview I did with Earth Focus several years ago. It has proven to be prophetic.
June Stoyer and I interviewed Richard Coy in 2017 about the problems he was having with dicamba. This was about the time the EPA was assuring the beekeepers and everyone else that “we expect there will be no adverse impacts to bees or other pollinators.”
While soybean farmers watched the drift-prone weed killer dicamba ravage millions of acres of crops over the last two years, Arkansas beekeeper Richard Coy noticed a parallel disaster unfolding among the weeds near those fields.
When Coy spotted the withering weeds, he realized why hives that produced 100 pounds of honey three summers ago now were managing barely half that: Dicamba probably had destroyed his bees’ food.
In October, the US Environmental Protection Agency extended its approval of the weed killer for use on genetically modified soybeans and cotton, mostly in the South and Midwest, for two more years. At the time, the EPA said: “We expect there will be no adverse impacts to bees or other pollinators.”
But scientists warned the EPA years ago that dicamba would drift off fields and kill weeds that are vital to honeybees. The consequences of the EPA’s decisions now are rippling through the food system.
Dicamba already has destroyed millions of dollars’ worth of non-genetically modified soybeans and specialty crops, such as tomatoes and wine grapes. And now it appears to be a major factor in large financial losses for beekeepers. Hive losses don’t affect just the nation’s honey supply: Honeybees pollinate more than $15 billion worth of fruits, nuts and vegetables a year, largely in California, according to the US Department of Agriculture.
“It seems like everybody’s been affected,” said Bret Adee, whose family runs the nation’s largest beekeeping outfit, in South Dakota. He thinks 2018 might be “the smallest crop in the history of the United States for honey production . . . ”
Click to listen to Tom Theobald’s interview on Bee Culture’s “Beekeeping Today” podcast
I did a “Beekeeping Today” podcast for Kim Flottum and Bee Culture last week and it just came out, The Problem with Neonicotinoids. It traces my involvement with the neonic issue from the beginning up to the present and it is filled with information. It starts with my article in Bee Culture in July of 2010, which many of you have probably already read. The interview is long, 45 minutes, but listen to the whole thing to get the full benefit.