Tom's Corner

Time Line: The Events Behind “Tom’s Corner”

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…

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Pollinator plantings: helping or hurting bees?

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.

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Is the Pesticide Industry Clipping the Wings of Bee Protection Efforts?

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.

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Advocacy Groups Comment on Imidacloprid

After 22 years of carnage from the first neonicotinoid, imidacloprid, the EPA concluded in this preliminary assessment that “maybe” imidacloprid might have an adverse effect on honey bees on two crops under certain circumstances, yet countered that revelation with a near blanket dismissal of harm from any other uses.

On January 15, 2016 the EPA opened a 60 day comment period on its full review of imidacloprid, an exercise it is required to go through by law, but which it rarely pays much attention to if comments run counter to the corporate pesticide agenda.

Below are a number of comments submitted by advocacy groups.  Click on each logo to read each group’s comments.  They are well thought out, articulate, and well worth the time for those of you who want to understand the intelligent arguments. Read the full range of comments on the EPA Docket.


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Insect biomass decline documented in Germany

This paper, an Investigation of the Biomass of flying insects in the Orbroich Bruch Nature Reserve near Krefeld, Germany, and the italicized notes below, came yesterday from Graham White in Scotland. Worldwide the environmental destruction is enormous. This recent exploratory study by the USGS, Native Bees Foraging in Fields Are Exposed to Neonicotinoid Insecticides, found neonics in native bees right here in the grasslands of northeastern Colorado far removed from agriculture. Even were we to wave a magic wand and stop the use of neonics today, it will likely take years for the environment to purge itself of these poisons.


Orbrioch Nature reserve

Please see attached a science study published by the Krefeld Entomological Society in the Orbroich Bruch Nature Reserve – a wetland and water meadow area near Krefeld in Germany. The reserve has been managed for conservation objectives for many decades.

In 1989 – when flying insects were trapped, identified and the total weight of insects was recorded in grat detail.

Twenty five years later, in 2013, the same experiment was duplicated: using the same insect traps, on the same sites, in the same Nature Reserve and over the same sampling periods.

The entomologists describe their results as “frightening”.

The biomass of insects trapped in 2013 had fallen to less than 20% of the biomass collected in 1989 – and during some collecting periods, the biomass had fallen to less than 10% of 1989 levels.

The decline was not merely the physical biomass of insects, but was also reflected in a decline in the variety of species and taxa.

This ecological collapse took place within a designated Nature Reserve which has been specifically managed to maximise “conservation benefits” for over 25 years.

Pesticides and herbicides had been used on grassland areas nearby and neonicotinoid coated seeds are used on farmers fields, which surround the reserve, but the massive decline in flying insects within the reserve itself came as a great shock.

The accelerating decline of insect life parallels the decline of other wildlife species in the reserve, notably the Shrike – which bred widely in the reserve up to the 1960s but has now entirely vanished – largely because of the disappearance of the beetles and grasshoppers which the Shrike depended on to feed its chicks.

The study could not determine the ‘cause’ of this ecological collapse but concludes that if the decline of insects continues at the current tate, the reserve could be facing ecological collapse as soon as 2025.

Given the extensive use of herbicides, fungicides and pesticides in adjacent fields, the obvious hypothesis is that these biocides are spreading into the Nature Reserve via air and water, and decimating insect populations.

The implications of all this, for wildlife of all kinds in Europe – but especially for insectivorous birds – are extremely alarming.

One wonders if any similar time-comparison studies of insect life being carried out by wildlife organisations in the UK and USA?

– Graham White

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Jim Doan on the state of American beekeeping

Here is a stark but enlightening interview with commercial beekeeper Jim Doan, on the state of American beekeeping. Thirty minutes long, but well worth the time for any of you trying to understand the elements of the crisis we are in. The first half is the interview with Jim. In the second half host June Stoyer and I discuss a number of pertinent topics.

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