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Nicotine Bees: Watch the Feature Documentary

By on July 9, 2010

Transcript of the film:
JB- What we are going to do now is, we are going to light a smoker. Beekeepers use smoke to, ah, to calm down the bees. It also masks all the chemicals & the pheromones that are going on, ah, masks the attack smells. So I think, I think we’re ready.

JM- Caught my first swarm in 1947 in a dynamite box up in, up in Forest County & I’ve kept them off & on ever since. Guess I’m about ready to do battle here. (laughs) Now let’s take a look here.

JB- Bees at the front of the hive are guard bees. And if I do a little puff of smoke here & a puff of smoke there, you can hear them buzz a little bit & the guard bees all go into the hive & they are going to gorge on honey. Now the bees glue everything together with this sticky stuff called propolis. Propolis has a lot of medicinal properties in it. If you chew on it when you have a soar throat it numbs your throat. So, here’s the queen right here. What’s she’s doing right now is she’s wandering around & she is looking for a cell that is empty so that she can lay some eggs & that’s her primary job is to just to lay eggs in the hive. And as she wanders around you’ll see different bees will come up & they’ll start to touch her & they’ll get her smell & they’ll pass that smell around inside the hive and every bee in the hive has to get her smell every forty-five minutes. If it goes for more than forty-five minutes & they don’t get that queen smell than they know that something happened to the queen & they have to raise a new queen immediately. Here we see capped brood; this is the pupa. You can get the bees to move away by just touching, tapping them on the back shoulder. The brood are the babies. And you can see how this is a solid pattern, so we call this a nice brood pattern. While a shotgun pattern is when there’s only capped brood here and there; where there’s a lot of empty holes.

JM-Yeah, these, these are brood cells right here and the shotgun of empty holes may be indicative of something else too. Normally that should be pretty solid

JB- Most of the bees in the hive are worker bees & the worker bees are all females. Some of them go in and do housecleaning. Some of them feed the young babies. Some of them make wax. And here’s another, another cast. This is not a worker. This is one of the boys. This is a drone. The drones don’t do any work in the hive. In fact, most of the time they just go around and beg for food from their sisters.

WH- It’s just like with humans, um, they like to be fed & only think about sex with the queen. You can see the drone is bigger, has these bigger eyes & doesn’t have a stinger. There’s a professor in Germany that has developed IQ tests for bees & for certain tests the individual bees will outperform a dog. It’s really impressive what the bees can do individually & certainly as a colony. It’s a super organism. They don’t, they are not this intelligent so they can enjoy art & opera, you know. Being this intelligent is essential for their survival. They work a field systematically. They have a language, um, the bee finds something attractive on that field, comes home to the hive, shares this with the other bees, does the famous figure eight dance to tell everybody in the hive where to find this good stuff, and they are all going there. They don’t care what is blooming along the way. They finish that job.

JB- Well, we can see here, this is capped honey and then this is nectar that they are in the process of turning into honey and the way they make honey is that they bring the nectar in and they start to fan it and they have to evaporate all of the moisture out of the nectar.

JM- Now, what we have here is a frame of honey left over from last, last fall that the bees haven’t used yet. But when they get into rearing a lot of brood they’ll use that up pretty quickly.

JB- When we want to extract the honey, we would take this frame, if it was all completed like this & then I put it into a centrifuge & then spin it.

Wh- We are in the middle of extracting honey here. These are the frames where I just extracted some honey from. In my particular case I spent almost 14 years in the high tech industry in silicon valley doing venture capital looking at financial markets, at business models, and so what I bring to the beekeeping community is a good understanding of the motivations behind corporations and their products.

DH- I’ve been in Washington a lot in my life because I’ve served as President of the American Beekeeping Federation and I’ve worked with EPA on getting chemicals approved, with chemical companies to get chemicals approved for mite treatments.

JB-My name is Jim Bobb and I was the President of Montgomery County Beekeepers & the President of the Pennsylvania State Beekeeper Association & currently I’m the Chairman of the Eastern Apiculture Society which represents all the beekeepers east of the Mississippi from Ontario down through, down through into the Caribbean.

We think of honeybees as being important for honey but that’s only a byproduct. The real value to agriculture is pollination. Apples, peaches, pears, cherries are not native to the United States. There is not a native pollinator here that will pollinate them.

DT- Most people don’t realize that the honeybee itself is a non-native species. It was brought over by the Europeans when they brought over most of the European crops or Mediterranean crops that we depend on. It is very good at pollinating particularly apples, fruit trees & many of the crops that we rely on. And it’s easy to manipulate. You can move those colonies where you want them & create large numbers of them. So it’s very convenient for agriculture.

DH- You are looking at about 15 to 16 billion dollars worth of crops a year in this country that the honeybees are responsible for. One out of every three bites of food that you put in your mouth comes from something pollinated by honeybees.

Wh- There were so many bee colonies kept by people that a farmer with the exception of very few regions didn’t have to worry about pollination, bees were just there.

DH- Beekeeper are good at what we do. I mean, there’s a lot less of us than there was 10 years ago. There’s a whole lot less of us than there was 20 years ago. And if you go back forty years ago, I mean, we are just a fraction of what we were. I mean, today there are probably less than a thousand commercial beekeepers left in the United States.

WH- You know a hundred years ago you had about four million bee colonies, is what the estimate is in Germany, and now we are down to about eight hundred thousand And, so now as beekeeping is in decline, pollination is not something that just happens everywhere.

SS- Bees are not as healthy as they used to be. The environment is not as good as it used to be. I can maintain colonies only by constantly splitting them & putting new queens in & I’ve heard other beekeepers say that that’s is the only way they are staying in business now, too.

JB- Well, I can tell you what happened a couple of years ago when we had the fifty percent bee losses in the winter time. When it came time for the blueberry pollination, the apples, everybody was calling & trying to find bees. Most of the apple orchards that had their own bees, they lost them all.

JM- In a normal thriving hive this would be nearly solid they are definitely, they are definitely weak.

WH- The most challenging part for a bee colony and the beekeeper managing it is getting the colony healthy for the winter.

JM_ This one is very weak and strangely enough it was the strongest colony going into winter.

Wh- If something bad happens during the summer you don’t necessarily notice anything but it will show up in the winter losses.

JM- No new brood & from what I can see there are no eggs or anything being started. This time of year in a healthy, a healthy colony those should be practically solid with brood.

Wh- In the past, a good winter was if you lost maybe three percent of your colonies and a bad winter was if you lost ten percent of your colonies.

SS- Years ago bees, with very little maintenance, would remain healthy here and I rarely had losses over the winter of fifteen percent. Now I always have losses in the range of thirty percent and this past winter it was forty percent.

Narrarator- By 2006 huge numbers of bees were dying simultaneously on a global scale. Worldwide many bees acted in the same strange ways before they died. The United States lost half of its bee colonies. In Germany and France losses reached forty percent. Canadian beekeepers lost half their colonies all in a span of a few months. Despite the huge losses few honeybee bodies were found. This strange pattern was new. Everyone was losing bees from small hobby beekeepers to the largest commercial beekeepers.

DH- By September late September, early Oct we trek all the bees back to Florida, from up north here everything goes back. My son went back to Florida right after Christmas calls me on the phone and says forget shipping the bees to California. All the bees we put this honey on there’s something wrong with them. They are down to a couple handfuls of bees. My son gets on the forklift, I light up a smoker I start smoking these pallets of bees and after I smoke four or five pallets of bees I realize, something’s telling me, there’s no bees on the entrance there’s no nothing & I just started jerking covers open & frantically start opening beehives and there’s nobody there. I get down on my hands and knees and you know we’re talking about gravel we are not on the sand we are not in the grass we are on gravel. I get down on my hands and knees and literally look for bees on the ground but there’s no bodies. You know, the ground would have been just that thick with bees. If you have a spray kill or something where somebody sprayed you or the mites got you, if you had a mite problem there would have been dead bees laying on the ground. The brood that was left behind would be all full of holes where the mites were in that stuff but there was none of that. There was no wax moth and there was no small hive beetles and in Florida that time of year, the wax moth, if the hive is dying the wax moth have already moved in and they eat the wax. They’re not there. Now wait a minute there’s something strange, weird here.

WS- I’m in the pollination business, I’ve been taking bees out for pollination for over twenty years. So in the year 2000 over the winter of 1999, and 2000, and 2000, and 2001 I lost 1000 colonies and now I have about 100 colonies left.

SS- By 99 yeah, I was experiencing a lot of die off and what it was, was colonies collapsing in the summer time which was unusual.

JB- The definition of colony collapse disorder is when you have a healthy hive, lots of brood, lots of worker bees, & within a very short time all of the adult bees leave the nest, and go somewhere and all you are left with is a queen and a handful of young workers bees. You’ll have a large number of capped brood but all the adult bees have left.

SS- They had a big population earlier and then suddenly their population had collapsed there was no adult bees and the brood then came down with diseases.

DH- Here’s a hive a bees that should look like the rest of these, with lots of bees flying out, and yesterday my son was working these and said this was a hive with ccd, we’ll take a look at it here.

CB- Something clearly happened around 2004, 2005 that sort of served as a tipping point and pushed many of the beehives in north America and Europe over the edge to where, kind of all of a sudden and inexplicably, the bees would take off in the morning and never come back.

DH- there’s no old bees here these are all real young bees so something’s happening the old bees are disappearing. You look at these nice little warm fuzzy looking fellows here, they are the ones that have just hatched out.

CB- They would just disappear. Very few of their bodies would be found. And a hive would go from one day seemingly healthy, full of a few thousand bees, and the next day they are gone.

DH- A normal bee lives about six weeks. If you cut three or four days off that bees life you are effecting the whole population of the hive because now the younger bees are going to have to do older chores, have to get to the field earlier b/c the older bees aren’t living as long to gather honey and nectar. And so the populations instead of building up becoming thirty thousand beehives, thirty-thousand, you get a hive like that that only has about fifteen hundred bees in it.

WS-I’m losing bees almost every day. So its still continuing and so, and I help start new beekeepers each spring and those beekeepers are having difficulty.

DH- Well the largest beekeeper in the United States, Richard Adee and his son Brent, you know, you know, great beekeepers, I mean you’re running sixty, seventy thousand hives of bees, you’re not, I don’t care who you are, you got to know what you are doing. And I stood in their massive holding locations that goes on for miles, literally miles, in two valleys and, uh, literally stood there and looked at the piles and piles of dead outs. One outfit here in Pennsylvania a year ago had fourteen hundred hives of bees and had five alive when springtime arose. You know that’s, the guy’s out of business.

Narrator: At first many possible causes were considered by scientists and beekeepers: Honeybee disease like nosema, foulbrood, and chalkbrood, parasites like varroa mites, stress from moving commercial beehives for pollinating crops, viruses like Israeli acute paralysis virus, genetically modified crops, cellphone electromagnetic fields, and pesticides used on crops, yards, or in beehives themselves.

JM- I said to myself ‘What do all these have in common across the country? And at first I ruled out disease because disease simply does not spread that fast. Disease takes a long time to move around through the country.

DH-I brought back here, right here to this warehouse, that was in mid-November – I brought back thirty some dead beehives, ah, thirty some hives, some of them alive some of them dead. Penn state showed up here on Sunday afternoon with a whole crew. Pulled samples out of this stuff and within four or five days basically said, ‘wow, we ain’t never seen nothing like this.’

JM-Of course early on they were finding promising things like, it was the Israeli virus and then it was something else. And then a news bulletin would come out and claim that they found the cause of the bee collapse and then a week later they would discover that it was still going on in spite of, you know – for example the Israeli virus got a lot of press for a while and then somebody discovered they had some bees frozen in a freezer for seven years and they had it. So that meant that the virus was already there and hadn’t caused problems.  

SS- Now, adult bees are pretty hardy. The only ah, the only thing that really kills adult bees, well there are some viruses, but mostly it’s nosema, which is a gut parasite called a micro-sporidian. But when they sampled my bees at the university they didn’t find high nosema levels, and we didn’t have this knew nosema back then and nosema was always endemic and I even fed Fumidil at times, which is something you can do against nosema.

CB- Bees from an evolutionary point of view have a relatively simple immune system. They’re not very able to take care of themselves, is kind of the simple way to put it. So they are vulnerable to bacteria and viruses and over the years there have been large die offs of bees.

DH- What we have found is, these bees ain’t got no immune system. Something’s wiped out their immune system. It’s like AIDS, you know. I mean, AIDS, you know, is not killing anybody. AIDS, is just, you know, that’s an immune system break down and then you got all kinds of other funguses and you know like if people and pneomonia and stuff that come in and wipe them out.

JM- Many beekeepers now are just suspicious about the whole thing. All we know is, there is a big die off taking place.

WS- Well, there is a theory about pesticides and I have been hit some by pesticides over the years, but, ah, I don’t know whether it’s a specific element in the pesticides that’s causing a problem, it very well could be.

DH- A personal friend of mine Murray Fordraven in new Brunswick, that called me in the fall of 2001, 2002 telling me we got a problem; we got this new pesticide that’s basically wiping out my bees. The bees were on clover it had been potatoes the year before and the bees are getting something out of this clover and by fall the bees are dead or vanishing, you know.

Narrator: But not all the possible causes worked. Honeybee diseases like nosema, foul-brood, and chalk-brood have been with the bees for many years and there are collapsed hives without these diseases.   Pests and parasites like varroa mites are well-known problems that many beekeepers already know how to control. Stresses from moving commercial beehives for pollinating crops have existed for decades and many dead bee colonies were never moved. Viruses like Israeli acute paralysis virus have not spread around the world and bees with the disease do not exhibit symptoms characteristic of the collapsing colonies. Genetically modified plants are toxic specifically to other insects and are not allowed in some countries that are having colonies collapse. Cell electromagnetic fields phones have been around for long before the initial die offs. By 2005 a new class of pesticide had come to dominate the global market.

DH- In December I started, basically, spending a lot of time in front of the computer trying to figure out what has changed in agriculture in the last couple of years and the only thing that changed, I mean major change in chemistry in agriculture, was that fact that in 2004, 2005 give or take, we started using high levels of neonicotinoid systemics in agriculture, horticulture, treating your dogs and cats, you know the list goes on and on and on.

CB- They are a family of chemistry that Bayer, the agricultural company Bayer, the German based company, discovered it and brought to market the first one, called Imidacloprid. It’s trade name in the US is Admire. It’s what most farmers would say, well we spray Admire.

SS- It’s really toxic to insects. It’s toxic, it interferes with the transfer of nervous synapses in the insect and very, very tiny amounts will kill the insect about, depending on what source, somewhere between twenty to forty parts per billion is the lethal dose for fifty percent but lower doses than that can have effects on the insect and even Bayer’s own research shows that.

CB- It’s a synthetic form of nicotine.

DH- And one of the things these chemicals do is they stop the insects from feeding.

SS- This is Imidacloprid, or Admire, is the trade name. It’s made by Bayer. It’s the one that Dave Hackenberg is saying is a problem. It is the most used insecticide in the world now.

DH- It’s just like the landscapers and lawn care people tell you ‘the only chemicals we got available anymore are the systemics. They’ve taken all that old stuff that was available pre 2004-2005-2006, all that stuff has been swept off the market.’

CB- The pyrethroids, synthetic pyrethroids, and the organophosphate seed treatments that had been used for most of the 1980’s 1990’s, they just weren’t working very well anymore because resistance had evolved to those chemicals and so the chemical industry came up with the idea to switch to neonicotinyl seed


DH- I knew about neonicotinoid and systemic chemicals but, you know, we were told that these things are safe. That they don’t effect adult bees.

WH-The plant, when it grows, will take up the substance and it will reappear in the pollen and the nectar of the plant. So later when the plant is blooming we have problems with the bees.

DH-The manufacturers say that it doesn’t go up into the pollen or the nectar. Other scientists out here that have done their own studies are finding high levels of it in pollen and nectar. You get a cold front coming through or rain for a week and they got to dig into that old pollen they’ve got stored away, all they have is that contaminated pollen. These bees are new beehives that were started this spring and they are doing well but the minute they start getting into the water and the pollen coming off the corn and so these bees are going to get moved out of here and hopefully get moved into an area in Upstate New York where we don’t have nearly as much of this but we still, it’s everywhere, I mean, ah, well it’s everywhere.

CB- By 2004 there was a substantial share of the conventional corn crop, probably over ninety percent, where the seed treatment was now nicotinyl, either Imidacloprid, or Clothianidin, or Thiamethoxam. Thiamethoxam was sold as Cruiser, Imidacloprid as Gaucho, and Clothianidin as Poncho. And not only had the chemical industry decided that, well, this is a good idea to switch chemistries, they also had a strong reason to substantially increase the punch delivered by these seed treatments. This is an important part of the story, and one that is not known or understood by very many people. At this time the biotech companies were coming out with their first genetically engineered seeds to control the corn root worm. The young corn plant when it first germinated wasn’t producing enough of the BT toxin in the roots to stop the feeding by the corn root worm. So when they realized they had an early season efficacy problem, they solved it by going first to the encapsulation and the timed release of the seed treatment, and then they went to a higher dose. They increased the dose of nicotinyl, which started out at 0.25 milligrams per seed, they jumped it up fivefold to 1.25 milligrams per seed and those seeds hit the market in about 2004- by 2005 a significant portion of the corn was planted to those seeds. And I think it peeked around 2006. What it did was it resulted in higher level of Imidacloprid up through the corn plant for longer in the season to the point where the level in the pollen, collected by the bees that might be foraging in the corn field, reached toxic levels. We don’t have technology capable of measuring it, but it’s still high enough to cause an impact on the neurological system of the bee. So that it can, it has the strength to go out and fly and it can fly but imagine how fine-tuned that neurological system of the bee is, to be able to find its way back to the hive. I mean, they don’t have a roadmap; they don’t really see very well. It’s a very fine-tuned way that they relate to their environment and I think it’s that feature of bee neurological behavior, performance, and health that is impaired by the nicotinyls. It’s not killing them. It’s impairing their ability to find their way back to the hive.   That’s what causes colony collapse disorder.

DH- And that’s what happening to the honeybees, and they lose their memory and they can’t find their way home. I can give you guys, beekeepers, that have ran, while the rest of us are all having problems, they are doing fine until they encounter these insecticides one time. This past winter, citrus, they started using Provado, which is a neonicotinoid systemic this past year for greening. These guys that had never had a problem before, where they ran from the woods to the woods and only went to oranges and basically stayed away from all kinds of row crops and cotton and all those things where they are using this stuff, weren’t having a problem. But the minute they started using this stuff on citrus, they got the same thing going on we’d seen in two thousand. I had conversations this week with beekeepers in Georgia; forty percent of their boxes are showing up empty.

WH- Now, in Germany we had losses that were so massive they were beyond anything that had ever been experienced here. And, um, the connection to a particular insecticide, a particular seed treatment, was so obvious that, you know, it was impossible to deny. It was way over 90% of the samples of dead bees that were sent to the government research lab had very high levels of this particular pesticide; the brand name is Poncho, by Bayer. After it became clear that it is certain seed treatments that are causing specific problems, the beekeepers went to court and managed to get some of these seed treatments banned. That was an event that got everybody’s attention in the beekeeping community but also got everybody’s attention in the agro-chemical industry. The German government basically withdrew the approval, or suspended the approval, for this particular insecticide and all insecticides that are in the same chemical group.

Text: [The massive bee-death incident Walter Haefeker refers to was caught on tape][German Beekeeper Karl-Rainer Koch lost these bees to poorly-controlled seed treatments][Karl-Rainer Koch filing a complaint with German police for his bee losses][This incident was unusual- Extremely high exposure to Nicotine Pesticides caused bees to die quickly near their hives]

JB- Well, Pennsylvania is the forefront for CCD research primarily b/c of Dave Hackenberg. Ah, Dave Hackenberg, although he might not have been the first person to experience Colony Collapse Disorder, he was the one that raised the red flag and Dave is very vocal and so he managed to get the both the Florida Department of Agriculture, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, and Penn State University working on this problem.

JM- People have thriving colonies one week and ah, the next week they go out to either move the bees or do something and they find they are all gone, some as high as, like Dave Hackenberg lost eighty percent of his and we are talking thousands of hives. So when they started opening up dead hives that day it must have been a bad, a bad thing.

DH- I wrote a letter, ah, March, February I guess it was when I wrote the letter: four page letter that some of the scientists told me that you know, no-one is going to read a four page letter. So, I wrote it to my growers, I mean, twenty some growers that I work for, whether it’s apples, blueberries, pumpkins, melons or whatever it is.   I sent all these guys a letter basically telling them about the problem and something’s changed and here’s what I think it is and I wish you’d work with me try to limit your use of this stuff. B/c the bees had been to pumpkins the year before where they’d used lots of this stuff, they were history. They were gone. They had used neonicotinoids and systemics. I even had one apple grower call me two days after I sent the letter out, I mean, and he didn’t have hardly time to get the thing. Called me on the phone and said I think I’m part of your problem. I used Assail, which is one of these chemicals, in the middle of apples last year because my chemical representative told me to. He said, it says right on the label it’s safe to adult bees, you can spray during bloom. And it does say on the information in bold letters, you can spray this during bloom, but in parenthesis behind that it says, and I had to read this four times myself before I could see it- in bold letters it says ‘can spray anytime during bloom’, in parenthesis, ‘not when bees are foraging.’   Now, you know, we’ve taken this to EPA and said, you know, this is false whatever and they said no, not really, it’s right. You can spray it during bloom, if there’s no bees foraging. And it’s the farmer’s responsibility to know whether or not there are bees foraging, see. And so everybody’s got an angle, the chemical company, the EPA. Everybody’s got an angle to get around this thing. Um, but the interesting thing about this letter that nobody was going to read, you know according to one of the, you know I asked one of the scientists to please look at this letter for me, make sure I wasn’t putting my neck out on a limb somewhere I didn’t need it put and, before I sent this out. And he said it’s a great letter but you are going to lose people’s interest after the first a page and a half. Well, I guess it didn’t lose people’s interest because within two weeks that letter was around the world, I mean, I was getting calls from Chile, Europe, England. You know a guy in Chile said, you know, this is exactly what we are seeing on some things and of course, you know, the guys in England and Italy and, you know, I mean it was amazing. You know, the internet is an interesting thing because you know something you wrote to a couple growers, and I don’t know how it got on the internet to start with because I didn’t put it there, but anyhow, within a matter of weeks this thing is around, congress even! I mean congress, three weeks later and congressmen are saying oh, yeah somebody gave me a copy of your letter to your growers, you know, that’s pretty interesting what you got to say.

Narrator: At least thirty-six states in the U.S. have had colony collapse disorder. These are the same states where large amounts of nicotine pesticides were used. Canada, Brazil, Chile, Taiwan, India, China and most of Europe are affected by CCD. Colony Collapse Disorder is now a global issue that is threatening the world’s food supply.

DR- Hi my name is Dennis Reil and I’m one of the farmers here at Pennypack. I was talking with the guy who does our bees and I asked him b/c I know about the sudden death, ah, the sudden hive death syndrome that I’ve seen and so I was concerned that we had problems with our hives as well. To my surprise he said that he hadn’t had any problems with any of his hives. He said it’s probably more a problem for big commercial honey operations. I can’t say either way whether pesticides are a problem, but considering that you don’t see this problem on organic farms I would tend to, if I had to make a guess, I would say that that is pesticides and herbicides and insecticides are probably contributing to the problem of the sudden death of hives in the area.

JB- We hear of collapses in China, collapses in South America. France, Germany have had die offs; a lot of the beekeepers there are blaming it on pesticides.

WH- Two weeks ago I was at a bee house just like this about thirty kilometers away from here and there were kilos of dead bees on the ground. And that was because this farmer had the bee house just like here next to a flowering pasture and year after year everything was fine. And this year the farmer that owns the pasture in front of the bee house decided to turn it over and plant corn. And the corn was treated with Poncho and the result was dead bees. The farmers are a victim of a policy by the farmers unions, by the government agencies, by the schools where they are being trained, where they are essentially, by the trade journals that they read, everything is about farming with chemicals, you know. Farming with nature, how to avoid using chemicals is not a big part of the curriculum. And they are kept in the dark about the environmental impact, impact on the bees, but they are also, and it is really sad, they are kept in the dark about what they are doing to their own health, doing to the health of their families and their farming communities. When you look at all the medical studies about cancer rates, sperm counts, you know, it’s the rural areas that are in deep trouble.

SS- I am a farmer and I couldn’t operate without the good will of farmers. I make most of my income from pollinating for farmers. I do blueberries, pumpkins, cranberries, seed canola. And my other yards, which I rent, are all on farms and I rely on the goodwill of farmers and they are great people and they are certainly not out to harm the environment. And for them Imidacloprid has a lot of advantages. This is a great boon for them. They just put, put this chemical either in the soil or on the potato set, it turns the plant toxic to insects and it’s season long protection.

WH- All the way across the central part of the country where wheat and corn and sorghum, and soybeans and alfalfa are grown, essentially all the soybean fields, essentially all the cornfields, were planted from seeds treated with nicotinyls. Imagine yourself in an airplane flying over any part of the country where a lot of fruits and vegetables are grown. A bee could not travel more than a mile in any of those landscapes without encountering a field of one of these crops that’s been sprayed. And that would be the case all the way across the country.

DH- The farmer now and the pesticide, and the lawn care people and everybody else are doing what they call tank mix. They are taking insecticide in this bottle, fungicide in this bottle, something else in another bottle, they dump it in a tank and spray it. And it’s not his fault. This is no disrespect to the farmer because he’s being told what to do because his, you know, his livelihoods at stake.

WH- Farmers where shocked when they saw what effects what they did had on the neighboring beekeeper. And the farmers usually did everything to try to mitigate, you know, try to, what could I do better, how could I avoid this. So there is a lot of dialogue between the beekeepers about the farming. What are you planting? What about the pollination? But also what chemicals are you using?

CB- When Bayer puts a provision designed to protect bees on its label, the EPA doesn’t review that provision for its efficacy. The EPA doesn’t render a judgment on whether it’s, it would be effective or whether it would be adequate. It vests the responsibility for avoiding economic damage to personal property on the pesticide registrants. No-one anticipated the consequences of that policy in terms of bees. But here we are now; we understand that there is a big problem and the federal law really isn’t set up in a way to deal with it. What does this mean? It means that if imidacloprid is killing a lot of bees, the EPA isn’t going to do anything about it.

DH- The problem is, though, that inside the EPA we have all these folks in management positions that basically got there through appointments or whatever, who, if you trace back their beginnings, guess where they came from? All these chemical companies.

WH- We still have a situation there where corporations have their employees sitting with a, in a cubicle or an office inside the ministries that are in charge of regulating them.

DH- And I had a pol.. you know, I had a politician, you know, and you know, I’m not going to, you know, basically make a comment to me one day, you know, he said, you know, everybody in this town has probably been paid off in one way or another by the people that you’re, that you’re talking about. Because these are the people that donate large sums of money to our re-election campaigns and our pack funds and so on and so forth. I mean and the guy was, the guy was honest. You know, they want something. They don’t just give this big money for nothing. And beekeepers aren’t the greatest people for giving money to someone’s re-election campaign.

WH- The behavior of government agencies here is highly suspicious but when you look at the lobbying environment and the level to which regulatory bodies, scientific bodies are already corrupted, it’s not surprising.

CB-You don’t criticize a pesticide or genetically engineered food in the United States. If you work for a public institution you have to be very careful about what you say or you will find your job in jeopardy.

WH- Monsanto and Bayer earlier this year put out a press release announcing that the exact seed treatment that caused the bee die off in Germany will be the standard seed treatment for all of Monsanto’s Yield Guard genetically modified corn.

CB- Twenty-six university entomologists signed a statement and sent it to the EPA as part of formal comments about genetically engineered corn. And these 26 university corn entomologists basically said we can’t do our jobs of evaluating the efficacy and safety of these new genetically engineered corn varieties because the companies won’t let us do any research on them.

Text: [“… As a result of restricted access, no truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions]

WH- The research into the causes for all these bee die offs, and it’s the same all over the world, is where the light, the financial conditions, are good to conduct the research and you are unlikely to commit “career-icide” with the results. And other areas where it’s difficult to get funding, where some fairly powerful people might get unhappy about the result, that research is very limited.

DH- We are just not getting anywhere fast. I mean there’s too many people, there’s uh, you get a lot of promises, but you don’t, but that’s all you get.

WH- These are their bread and butter products, everything is being done to make sure they can continue to market these products worldwide.

CB- As more scientists have a chance to work in the area and become familiar with the science and conduct their own research there becomes in the scientific community, kind of a strength in numbers.


CB- We could solve the problem with Colony Collapse Disorder in twelve months by taking strong action against the six or eight pesticides that we know are causing a new and significant problem for bees.

[Text: Acetamiprid, Imidacloprid, Thiamethoxam, Clothianidin, Dinetofuran, Nitenpyram, Thiacloprid]

WH- So what we’re saying is, number one, the tests on new chemicals, and oh, of course the chemicals that are currently in use have to be retested as well, have to look at the whole range of effects that are relevant to the health of the honeybee.

CB- Take the pesticides out of the risk equation and, you know, do all of the other things that we know is important to keep the bees healthy and I think that the populations will rebound.

WH- This is a fight that we cannot afford to lose as beekeepers but also cannot afford to lose as humans because as the bees go, so goes our civilization. So I don’t think failure is an option here.

JB-So what can you do? I think it’s very important for us to be concerned about our honeybees and our native pollinators so that we can have a food supply in the future.   And to do this I think everybody should support honeybee research to find out what’s causing these diseases and problems.

DH- The biggest thing the public can do is, is pick up the telephone call their politicians, call the EPA. You know, I’ve had numerous times in my, you know, my years of walking the halls of Congress. I’ve had congressmen and senators tell me I made a vote, I voted on something that I knew absolutely nothing about, on one phone call. The public, you know, has got to respond. Not just sitting on their front porch telling their neighbors. You’ve got to call the people that are in charge.

JB- In your own area you should leave areas that are wild and native. Probably in the boundaries of your property. Cut down on the use of pesticides. Instead of having large lawns put in gardens, put in flowers, put in things that will bring butterflies and bees and other pollinators into your area.

DT- What I want to convince people of is that their gardens now have a function. The plants in their garden are there for aesthetic reasons, which is all we used to think about, but now they’ve got an ecological function that used to be done by nature out there, but nature is gone, so lets, lets make those plants functional in our garden. And that function is to produce food that supports other living things. When those other living things come in to get that food, we can’t spray them with our, with our spray cans, or we’ve destroyed the function of our gardens. So we need a new mindset about what the role of our gardens and our landscapes are.

WH- We’re asking the consumer to buy organic products because that type of agriculture creates a healthy environment for our bees. The consumers can do two things: the consumer can demand food produced that way; the consumer can demand fuel produced that way.

DH- The butterflies are gone. All your wild insects are, I mean, you just, we just don’t see the ones we used to see. You ride up and down the road at night, you don’t have near the road bug problem we used to have on the windshield. I guess if you don’t like bugs that’s great, but I’m in the bee business and bugs are my livelihood.  

Music & Text:

  • New York Times “Bees Vanish, and Scientists Race for Reasons”
  • Los Angeles Times, “Suddenly the Bees are Simply Vanishing.”
  • Apiary Inspectors of America, “38% of captive bee colonies died during the winter of 2006 to 2007”
  • Congressional Research Service, “…between 651,000 and 875,000 of the nation’s estimated 2.4 million [bee] colonies were lost over th[e] winter.”
  • Science Daily, “Honeybee Die-off Alarms Beekeepers, Crop Growers, and Researchers.”
  • CNNmoney.com “…Honeybee colony collapse drives price of honey higher and threatens fruit and vegetable production…”
  • BBC, “Wild bee decline ‘catastrophic’”
  • Discover Magazine, “…colony collapse disorder (CCD), has wiped out 50 to 90 percent of bee colonies in 35 states…”
  • Der Spiegel Magazine, “Unexplained Mass Die-Off Hits German Hives.”
  • Congressional Research Service, “…2008 showed continued declines with… colony losses approaching 35%”
  • “Bees ‘restored to health’ in Italy after springs “neonicotinoid-free maize sowing.” Maria Chiara Bonazzi, yoursis.com June 26, 2009
  • “Bees win over multinationals in Northern Italy. New types of pesticides, responsible for decimating them, are banned.” ANSA, Italy May 5, 2009
  • “Neonicotinoids… have now been banned in four other European countries because they are thought to be killing bees.” Beyond Pesticides September 30, 2008
  • “Organic Agriculture must be widely adopted to save the honeybee.” Joe Cummins, University of Western Ontario April 25, 2008
  • Organic Eat Buy Sell

Twitter, Facebook, Myspace “Pesticides are killing the bees!!!”

Credits & Text

Suspend nicotine pesticides until third party testing verifies safety.

Antitrust investigation into current pesticide approvals process.

Independent Congressional investigation into the economic losses by farmers and beekeepers from nicotine pesticides.

Music – Nicotine Bees by Mark Leighton

Contact your senators and congressional representatives

Go to Natural Resource Defense Council’s Take Action Webpage nrdc.org/action

Contact the Head of the EPA

Environmental Protection Agency

Ariel Rios Building

1200 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W.

Washington, DC 20460


Request that neonics be suspended until they are proven safe at all levels, including sublethal

Registration Division Director

Office of Pesticides Program EPA

Section 18 Team Leader

US EPA Headquarters

Ariel Rios Building

1200 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W.

Mail Code:7505 P

Washington, DC 20460


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