So here's the stuff that seemed to work:
Let's applaud them for that.
Now some problems.
After my little bee kill I started really looking into the seed treatment issue. I studied the history. I learned about the specific chemicals. I made calls to beekeepers. I talked to the experts at Crop Production Services. I learned a lot of disturbing things... more than I really want to summarize in a blog post. I found that the Bayer Corporation is the biggest player in this arena. The Neonicotinoid arena. They actually invented the stuff.
During all this investigation the latest issue of Bee Culture Magazine came out. I start flipping through, lo and behold, guess who's promoting the virtues of the honeybee:
I read the article.
I thought, wait a minute!... read it again.
In this article Kim Flottum outlined the many projects Bayer was undertaking to promote bee health.
Why is Bayer doing this? Hmmm. Because they care? It is an expense after all. $2.4 million for the building alone. I started to really wonder... read the article again!
Not a mention of even one project involving neonics!
This is absurd! Why is the (informed) public mad? - Neonics! What are beekeepers screaming about? - Neonics! What has been banned in Europe due to pollinator kills? - Neonics!
What's going on Bayer?
It fact, you go to the Bayer website, it's hard to find much at all on the subject. A few denials. A few goose chases. Many redirections to, according to them, the real cause of bee troubles-- varroa and nosema. What a laugh!
Bayer has a hugh PR campaign with beekeeping. But it's LIP SERVICE! (As you might have guessed from the #1 maker and seller of neonic insecticides.)
How much did that Bayer Bee Care Center cost again? $2.4 million
How much did Bayer make last year in neonic pesticide sales? $3.5 billion
Reading the PR and looking into a few of the Bayer products, I did come across several mentions of the neonicotinoid ability to target "non agricultural" insects. As in... this systemic insecticide kills nematodes but not honeybees.
Now that's some extraordinary science.
If you're simply befuddled about how this is accomplished, let me, a former science teacher, try and clear things up:
See, a honeybee comes flying along and...
HONEYBEE: "la la la la... Hi ho, hi ho... la la la la... Oh yummy! Soybean nectar! This will certainly make some mild, bland summer honey for Master Isaac..... la la la la... Ew, yuk! Corn pollen. Gross! Well... maybe just a little...
NEONIC: "Stop right there, little bug! Agriculture or non agriculture? Papers?
HONEYBEE: "Um... what?"
NEONIC: "You heard me. I'm gonna need to see some ID. Pronto"
HONEYBEE: "Um, ok, let me see here... um... I must've left it back at the hive. Sorry. I'm just so busy, you know... ha ha... busy as a bee.. get it?"
NEONIC: "Must kill."
HONEYBEE: "Hey! Whoa! Lay off, man! We're cool..."
NEONIC: "Must kill babies."
You get the picture.
It's a systemic insecticide! It kills insects! No questions asked.
Here's a five minute review on neonics.
Where is corn planted? Everywhere mid-west. Soybeans? Everywhere mid-west. When did neonic chemicals become used widespread? About 2005. When did colony collapse happen widespread? About 2006. This is not a coincidence! Commercial beekeepers have been pointing at and screaming about neonics for years.
In Europe they did something about it. Here, we're still trying to "pin point" the reasons for pollinator decline.
I mentioned Jim Doan in a previous blog. If you have the time (45 minutes), listen to this very disturbing interview.
On second thought... don't... it will ruin your day.
I got so steamed up I actually called the man himself. (He's not so famous that little ol' me can't talk to him...) We had a good conversation. One thing that stuck: He repeatedly said, "You have to get your bees out! Leave!" (Montana, here we come!)
"Listen, you cannot survive as a beekeeper when the entire landscape is poison. Simple as that. Corn pollen is poison."
He mentioned encapsulated pollen:
Side note for our customers: (We collect our pollen that we sell for consumption in the fall, not mid-summer when corn is in pollen)
I didn't feel great about our talk. I felt sunk.
"Commercial guys are actually pulling frames of pollen out."
This is just wrong. Pollen... the very thing bees desperately need to make more bees and survive the winter.
Here's something from the Bayer "fact sheet". You'll be reassured to know that: NEONICOTINOIDS NOT LINKED TO BEE HEALTH ISSUES
If fact, Bayer points to the continued bee problems in Europe as proof that restriction on the neonics was the wrong thing to do.
Ok, clothianidin on corn seed has a half life of around 1100 days! It was used in Europe before being outlawed. I can't imagine why bees (or beekeepers) would still be having problems.
BEEKEEPER: "Got brain damage."
BAYER CROPSCIENCE: "Sir, your claims and wild allegations of this "head trauma" are completely unfounded. The alleged 'beat down' you speak of happened a full three years ago. And besides, I only took two or three swings."
BEEKEEPER: "Still got brain damage."
BAYER CROPSCIENCE: "You look fine to me. The doctors on our payroll say you're just fine, and even those other doctors, those independent ones, say you've still got full function of at least 30% of your brain."
BAYER CROPSCIENCE: "Everyone knows that baseball bats are for baseballs. See, it says right here on the label, 'Hard on Balls, Easy on Skulls' We all know THE LABEL IS THE LAW."
BAYER CROPSCIENCE: "In your interest, and because We Care, we have generously donated toward your unfounded claims. Haven't you heard about the new Beekeeper Mental Health and Insane Asylums we've been building? Sure! It comes from .001% of the revenue from our sale of Beat Down Bats... I mean (cough cough) Baseball Bats.
BEEKEEPER: "Um... ok"
Alright, I'm tired of this. All this hating. It's June. It's lovely out. I've learned too much. The rant has run its course and I'm done.
Next I'll fill you in on what we've been doing in the meantime.