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:
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.
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
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.
Click to listen to Tom Theobald’s interview on Bee Culture’s “Beekeeping Today” podcast
I’m resurrecting another interview I did, The Problem with Neonicotinoids, previously posted on Tom’s Corner in 2018. I did this one with old friend Kim Flottum along with moderator and new friend Jeff Ott.
I’m bringing these interviews to the fore for a number of reasons. First, I think they are important and they represent what some of my concerns are. Second, we have had a lot of new beekeepers enter the craft in the last few years and I think these postings are important for them to listen to. And finally, while I do not dismiss any of the other challenges that beekeepers face today, I believe that ultimately it is the neonicotinoids and the massive environmental poisoning they represent that are leading to the bee deaths we are experiencing, and we must address these and the knowledge of these hazards must be passed on to a younger generation of beekeepers. If you scroll down you will see that we have lost some important voices just with the past few months.
Take the time to listen to this podcast, and when you finish scroll down and listen to the others as well.
Another sad message to share. Dutch toxicologist Henk Tennekes died July 7, 2020. Henk had been in increasingly poor health for some time. His passing is the loss of another leading voice in the war against pesticides in general, and neonicotinoids in particular.
Henk entered the scene in 2011 with his book, A Disaster in the Making. He applied his years as a toxicologist in cancer research to actions we were seeing with the neonicotinoids, introducing us to the Haber’s rule, the Druckrey-Kupfmuller equation and the dose-time relationship. In short, he demonstrated that the action of neonics is cumulative and irreversible, that there is no safe dose, and given sufficient time, even the smallest exposure can lead to death.
Henk was excoriated mightily by the chemical industry and even within his own profession, ironically a measure of the validity of the concerns he raised, which made them all very uncomfortable. Even today the “Plant More Flowers For the Bees” movement ignores the message Henk brought to us and few researchers appear willing to grasp the enormity of the environmental poisoning he warned of.
Henk’s last words were reported to have been “be careful with the earth.” Are we? Will we?
Rest in peace, Henk. You did your best, your battle is over now, and the rest falls to those of us who remain.
I include two links which expand on Henk’s work.
The first is a powerpoint published by the Hampshire Beekeepers Association which talks a little about Rachel Carson, and then Henk’s work and his book, A Disaster in the Making.
Click the image above to view a powerpoint about Henk Tennekes’ book, “A Disaster in the Making.”
The second is an interview June Stoyer and I did with Henk in 2013.
The loss of my friend Graham White (scroll down for a remembrance of Graham) brought home to me very clearly that those of us who have been fighting the pesticide battles for decades need to pass the torch to a younger generation while we are still here to answer questions and offer guidance.
While my focus for the past 15 years has been the neonicotinoid family of pesticides and the toll they have taken on honey bees, the challenge goes far beyond the honey bees and far beyond the neonicotinoids.
I stumbled on these two videos a day or two ago and listened to refresh my own memory.
They were done about 10 years ago. I was struck by how little has changed in the intervening years. Ten years of poisoning have continued at massive levels while the regulators drag their feet.
So for those of you who share our concerns over what is being done to the earth and it’s inhabitants, including us, I bring these 2 interviews back to the surface to provide a context to the issues we face today.
I also encourage those of you who are interested to scroll back through earlier postings. While far from complete, they provide much of the history of the battles we have waged. It is the homework, the stuff you need to understand if there is any hope of confronting the issues with knowledge and intelligence. The more you know the better you will be able to confront the challenges.
Here’s the torch. My hope is that some of you will pick it up.