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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In very unusual move, EPA Reopens Public Comment Period for Neonicotinoids

The EPA is required to evaluate and determine if toxic chemicals should be re-registered  on a 15 year cycle and several of the heavily used neonicotinoids have come up for review: clothianidin, thiamethoxam, imidacloprid, dinotefuron and acetamiprid. Typically there is a 30 day comment period as a part of the review process, there was one in 2018 and a 30 day extension, two more in 2020,  which closed on May 4th.

In collaboration with leading scientists who have been intimately connected with the controversy over the neonicotinoid family as outspoken critics and casualties, the Pollinator Stewardship Council and the Ecdysis Foundation filed three excellent letters at the close of the most recent comment period.  These are powerful reflections on the neonics, collectively calling for a ban on all outdoor uses.  Click here to read the Ecdysis Foundation’s Letter to the EPA.  Here’s the Pollinator Stewardship Council’s Letter to the EPA dated April 24th, 2020. And a second letter to the EPA from the Pollinator Stewardship Council dated May 3rd.

“Neonicotinoids hurt farmers and society far more than they help us.” – Ecdysis Foundation

“We urge EPA to use this review process to impose a total ban on the use of neonics for all outdoor applications, including foliar, drench and seed treatments.” – Pollinator Stewardship Council

“In order to protect pollinators and agricultural sectors that rely on pollination services, US EPA must make a comprehensive science- based decision to end the current neonic uses.” – Pollinator Stewardship Council

In a very unusual move, 2 weeks after the close of what was to be the final comment period, the EPA granted another 30 day extension, supposedly at the request of “stakeholders” who wanted more time. As if 60 days in 2018 and another 60 days in 2020 open for comment were not enough.

My guess is that the poison industry was caught flat footed by the quality of the PSC letters and perhaps others like them. They thought re-registration would be a slam dunk by an EPA well under their control, but now they are nervous and want more time to strengthen their arguments. It will be interesting to see what the source is of the letters filed in the next 30 days.

It may already to late for the environment unfortunately. These neonics are toxic poisons with half lives of years. It will take decades for the environment to purge itself of these chemicals even if they are stopped today. The evidence is that as a consequence of their heavy and widespread use that most of the U.S. is poisoned at toxic levels, far above the EPA’s Threshold For Environmental Damage. Their effect is cumulative and irreversible, meaning that even the tiniest doses, over time, can result in death. To approve the re-registration of these poisons knowing what we know pushes the controversy into the realm of criminality – knowingly poisoning the earth and the people for profit.

Take the time to read carefully and absorb what is said in the 3 letters, and if you haven’t already done so you might consider submitting a letter of you own, if for no other reason than to balance what is likely to be an industry lobbying tsunami.

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Remembering Graham White

Graham White who kept bees in Scotland, click the image to read White’s interview in Acres U.S.A. magazine.

Sadly, I have to be the bearer of sad news. We have all lost a great warrior in the battle against neonicotinoids and on a personal level I have lost a wonderful, inspiring friend. On Tuesday, March 3, 2020,, Graham White of Cold Stream, Scotland lost his 2 year struggle with cancer and passed away peacefully in a Palliative Care Facility in Edinburgh.

As nearly as I can recall, Graham and I probably connected in late 2010 or early 2011 when I had my 20 minutes of fame as the Colorado beekeeper who got the infamous “Leaked Memo” on the EPA’s faulty registration of clothianidin.  We both recognized early on that we were kindred souls and the friendship grew from there.

Graham was a fierce and articulate fighter in the battle against neonicotinoids and the perversion of the EPA and the poison industry. He was an invaluable and irreplaceable resource. We fought these battles together and I gained greatly from Graham’s wisdom and counsel.

In the last few years we spoke nearly every morning by way of Skype and I never failed to come away from those morning conversations inspired and enlightened. Graham had a classical education and a rich full mind. He could speak with knowledge and authority on a wide range of subjects and in a morning I might learn about Shakespeare, rare guitars, wood stoves, opera, the ancient history of Great Britain or an endless number of other topics, along with a large dose of pesticide strategizing. I began to jokingly call Graham “Mister Encyclopedia,” and indeed he was. At this time of year Graham would have been plying the local marshes to collect frog spawn for the small pond in his yard. He had wide and eclectic interests. The frogs will have to do without him now.

Graham’s passing is a loss to all of us. For me it leaves a huge hole in my life. My mornings will never be the same and I will remember on every awakening how my days once began.

Rest in peace, my friend. It was my honor to have known you and be counted as a friend.

Graham’s legacy can, indeed must, transcend his passing. If even a few will take the time to do the homework, understand what Graham was attempting to teach the world and take up the torch to carry those ideals forward, Graham’s work lives on. Click the image of Graham above to read the Acres U.S.A. interview he did. It was one of his longest and it covers much of his life history and nearly all of the elements of the pesticide wars.

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Pollinators and Power: Tom Theobald interviewed by Terry Oxford

I did these two interviews recently with Terry Oxford on her podcast, Pollinators and Power. Some minor corrections on Interview #1: the Colorado County Bee Inspector position was created in 1891, not 1861, and I have been a beekeeper for 44 years, not 35. On Interview #2, a little more serious error. I refer to the toxic equivalent of neonicotinoids to DDT in millions of pounds, it should be billions.

Interview #1 – on how regulatory agencies and land grant universities protect the pesticide industry over pollinators and people.

Interview #2 – Hear Tom speak about the outcome and non-win of Center for Food Safety’s recent settlement with the EPA and poison industry.

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Pulling Honey

Many of you will be taking your honey off soon. I stumbled across this video this afternoon and thought some of you would find it interesting and informative. We did several of these videos for the Maria Rogers Oral History Program about 15 or 20 years ago. This is typical of what pulling honey would be for  medium size beekeeping operation. Before the high colony losses put me out of business a typical harvest would have been several tons of premium table honey.

For any of you who have a sideline operation, a pickup truck and are tiring of lifting all of your supers, Boom Boom the Iron Man (the lift at the end of the video) is for sale since I no longer have  a use for it.

These videos should all be on the internet, go to the Boulder Public Library’s YouTube channel and search for Tom Theobald.  The MROHP interviews are currently located within the Oral History Interviews Playlist.  There are 5 covering all aspects of a year of beekeeping, 

This video is particularly poignant for me because Barbara is in it, before ovarian cancer took her away and left a huge hole in my life and my heart.


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New AITL study (acute insecticide toxicity loading)

Click to read the new AITL study published by PLOS One.

Check out this new study published by PLOS ONE  on August 6th, An assessment of acute insecticide toxicity loading (AITL) of chemical pesticides used on agricultural land in the United States.

Neonicotinoids are 5,000 to 10,000 times more toxic to honey bees than DDT and are now the most widely used pesticides in the United States and worldwide. They can last for years and minute doses over time will lead to death as surely as larger acute doses. Because of this long term effect they are probably even more toxic than what the AITL study  found, that the toxicity of U.S. agriculture to insects is 48 times what it was 25 years ago when neonicotinoids were first introduced. 92 percent of  this increase is attributed to the neonicotinoids.

The environmental consequence has been a worldwide collapse of insect populations and movement up the food chain to species such as insectivorous birds. More concerning is the emerging medical evidence connecting neonicotinoids with neurological and behavioral disorders, particularly in young children.

Many European countries have banned the use of neonicotinoids, but in the U.S. the EPA has ignored the evidence and has turned a blind eye to the science. As a result the environmental damages in the United States continue to grow each year.

Read more in this article published by The Guardian, Pesticide widely used in US particularly harmful to bees, study finds.


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