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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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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Saga of bee losses is a very human story

Ultimately, the ongoing saga of bee losses and environmental poisoning is a very human story. Two follow: the first, an audio interview with Davey Hackenberg on Dadant’s Beekeeping Today Podcast.  Dave senior was raised on a dairy and started the honey business when he was still in high school. Davey is the second generation, struggling to keep the family business alive.

The second is an interview with Jeff Anderson, head of another multi-generational beekeeping operation, California-Minnesota Honey Farms:  Bees and Beekeepers Feel the Sting of Trump Administration’s Anti-Science Efforts. These are heartbreaking stories that demand our attention and our action.

Davey Hackenberg

Click through to hear Davey Hackenberg, son of David Hackenberg interviewed by Beekeeping Today Podcast

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