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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Monarch butterflies and the neonicotinoids

Pollinator Stewardship Council logo

Click to read more about Monarch butterflies and the neonics at

“The pine forests of the mountains of central Mexico are unrecognizable in winter. The oyamel firs shiver with butterflies, tens of millions of them alighting on trees in clusters of rustling black and orange, seeking warmth and protection during the cold months. This striking phenomenon – the only one of its kind in the world – may not exist in thirty years.” The Tragic Driver Behind Monarch Decline, Pollinator Stewardship Council.

The Xerces Society recently reported a 99.4 decline of the West Coast Monarch population, 2000 individuals counted in 2020, where just a few short years ago there were millions. Until now the decline was attributed primarily to the elimination of milkweeds by Roundup. but for the past 15 years there were a few of us saying that the loss of milkweeds was only a part of the problem. This article published by the Pollinator Stewardship Council, The Tragic Driver Behind Monarch Decline, finally confirms the role neonicotinoids were playing. The environmental damages from neonics are escalating geometrically and the human population may be next on the list.

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The neonics are an ecosystem issue

Civil Eats logo

Click to read Lisa Held’s article about neonics and ecosystem damage in Civil Eats.

“Environmental experts say saving pollinators and ecosystems will take more than a new administration or state and federal bans of a few individual neonics. Real solutions may also require closing regulatory loopholes, updates to the EPA pesticide registration process, and a more concerted effort to help farmers deal with insects in less toxic ways.” Beyond Bees, Neonics Damage Ecosystems and a Push for Policy Change is coming, Civil Eats, February 2, 2021.

The Shell Oil Company had it right when they discovered the neonicotinoid family of pesticides in 1984, concluding that there was no practical use because the neonics killed everything. Ten years later Bayer Corporation offered to buy the rights to the neonics despite the warnings of Shell, claiming that they would handle the downside. They did so, as they had with many other pesticides, by denial, diversion and distraction, denying that the neonics had any role in the damages, diverting attention to a whole host of other potential culprits and distracting the discussions from the real causes. This worked for some of their earlier poisons, but not for the hyper-toxic neonicotinoids. Purely for profit Bayer chose to put the earth and all of its inhabitants at risk and now we are beginning to see the results. While we were assured that the poisoning would be limited to insects and other low level life forms that has proven not be the case and the human species will soon be at risk.

I would like to make one caveat to the Civil Eats article linked above. The Bee Informed Partnership (BIP) reports the most recent annual colony losses at 44%. BIP is an instrument of the chemical industry, intended to skew colony losses toward things like mites, and ignore the role of neonics. I spoke just this past week with a Colorado commercial beekeeper with several thousand colonies who says that his losses this year will be on the order of 80% and this is what I hear from commercial as well as hobby beekeepers all over the U.S. Don’t be misled by the BIP diversions.

I encourage all of you to read the Civil Eats piece completely and carefully, including the links. because it brings up to date many of the concerns raised over the past 15 years by Henk Tennekes, Graham White, Dave Goulson, myself and others.

As Daniel Raichel, a staff attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council says at the end, “It is a bee issue for sure, but it’s really an ecosystem issue. It’s an everything issue.”

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Listen to Tom Theobald read Henk Tennekes’ last interview

Terry Oxford

Listen to Tom Theobald read Henk Tennekes’ last interview on the Pollinators and Power podcast hosted by Terry Oxford.

It’s finally out, the narration of Henk Tenneke’s last interview  before his death. Stay on long enough to listen to the conversation between Terry and me because there is some important information there as well. Things must change if the arthropods are to survive, and humans along with them.

Henk Tennekes, Author of The Systemic Pesticides, A disaster in the Making was a Dutch Toxicologist who researched neonicotinoids, the most used agro chemicals on the planet. Henk wrote his book when he saw that these poisons would break the food chain at it’s most critical link, the insect/invertebrate life system of the planet.

Bayer and Academia at Wageningen University (EU equivalent to UC Davis University), who portray themselves as leaders in pollinator health, both blacklisted him and worked to destroy his career. They put a shot across the bow to those who would blow the whistle and expose the cozy relationship of Honeybee Academia and the chemical industry.

Henk’s accent was difficult to understand, so I asked Tom Theobald, friend of Henk and activist beekeeper from Colorado, to stand in and read as Henk from the transcript. If you’d like the original interview of Henk please email me for a copy. Marc Pieterse, a Dutch admirer of Henk’s work, took the time to translate Henk’s interview into a transcript. Thank you Marc and Tom for all your help. And thank you Henk for seeing the future and warning us, even if you paid dearly for it. – Terry Oxford

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Pollinators and Power: Graham White interviewed by Terry Oxford

Click to listen to Graham White interviewed by Terry Oxford at Pollinators and Power podcast.

Once again, I find it  unnecessary to add much to Terry Oxford’s preface to this interview with Graham White.

This is an important interview and Terry was the only one with the foresight to record Graham’s thoughts before we lost him. Anyone trying to understand the pesticide wars that have been forced upon us must listen to it. Graham had an encyclopedic memory and he covers the pesticide wars, and the history of the neonicotinoids in great detail. While I was a party to many of the incidents he relates, even I learned many details that have escaped my memory.

I would encourage all of you to visit Terry’s site, Pollinators and Power, Urban Bee San Francisco. where you will find a number of other powerful interviews.

Graham White of the UK was the most intelligent and outspoken soldier for pollinators and nature.  He was the most well-researched, well read and well rounded honeybee advocate who knew everything about the chemical industry’s control of our food system.  In this interview Graham speaks about the history of chemical agriculture, how the pest control industry took control of the Honeybee Associations in the US, Canada, the UK and the EU and why all you hear from Beekeeping Associations is a deafening silence about pesticides. He also outs the Entomologists from Public Universities for their cozy, ‘friends with benefits’ relationship with the chemical corporations who have infinite money to spend.  

Graham passed away this year.  Graham was my very wise friend.  I learned a lot from him in hours long calls.  We talked about the corruption of our food system and official Bayer/Monsanto enablers like COLOSS, BIP and Project Apis M.  Toward the end of his life I asked if we could start recording our calls.  I wished I’d done it sooner. I have two interviews and the 2nd one is coming soon.  I don’t know if anyone had such a reservoir of information on the poison industry.  Graham is sorely missed. – Terry Oxford

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Neonicotinoids are also killing birds

Horrifyingly but perhaps unsurprisingly, scientists now believe that bees aren’t the only animals that are adversely affected by neonicotinoids. Many bird species, too, appear to be in decline.” The pesticide that caused bee colonies to collapse is killing birds now,” Salon, August 18, 2020

Colorado hummingbird

Hummingbird by Carlos Espinosa


A new research paper suggests that those same chemicals that are so toxic to bee populations are also killing off birds at an alarming rate. “Insecticides are killing bees, birds, and who knows what else,” BGR, August 19, 2020

What have I been saying for the past several years? Neonics are going into the environment annually at a toxic equivalent to 400 billion pounds of DDT, on top of billions remaining from previous years. Despite the chemical industry’s best efforts, it is becoming harder and harder to hide the environmental devastation they have wrought.

If anything the findings in this study in Nature Sustainability are lower than what is actually occurring. The honey bee losses, for example, are reported to be about 43% annually, statistics coming from the Bee Informed Partnership, but if you talk to commercial beekeepers those figures are more like 80% or more, and for many of them there may be a complete turnover of their colony population in the course of a year.

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