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Why the fuss over bees? Is the U.S. in the midst of a bee-pocalypse? The science says no. Bee populations in the U.S. and Europe remain at healthy levels for reproduction and the critical pollination of food crops and trees. But during much of the past decade we have seen higher-than-average overwinter bee-colony losses in the Northern Hemisphere, as well as cases of bees abruptly abandoning their hives, a phenomenon known as "colony collapse disorder." (WSJ)
http://online.wsj.com/articles/henr...ut-a-bee-pocalypse-is-a-honey-trap-1406071612
 

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Why the Buzz About a Bee-Pocalypse Is a Honey Trap
by Henry I. Miller
Tuesday, July 22, 2014

On June 20 the White House issued a presidential memorandum creating a Pollinator Health Task Force and ordering the Environmental Protection Agency to "assess the effect of pesticides, including neonicotinoids, on bee and other pollinator health and take action, as appropriate."

Why the fuss over bees? Is the U.S. in the midst of a bee-pocalypse? The science says no. Bee populations in the U.S. and Europe remain at healthy levels for reproduction and the critical pollination of food crops and trees. But during much of the past decade we have seen higher-than-average overwinter bee-colony losses in the Northern Hemisphere, as well as cases of bees abruptly abandoning their hives, a phenomenon known as "colony collapse disorder."

Citing this disorder, antipesticide activists and some voluble beekeepers want to ban the most widely used pesticides in modern agriculture—neonicotinoids ("neonics" for short)—that account for 20% of pesticide sales world-wide. This would have disastrous effects on modern farming and food prices.

What are neonics? Crafted to target pests that destroy crops, while minimizing toxicity to other species, neonics are much safer for humans and other vertebrates than previous pesticides. But citing supposed threats to honeybee populations, the European Union imposed a two-year ban in December 2013, and activists are trying to convince regulators in Canada and the U.S. to follow suit.

Yet there is only circumstantial or flawed experimental evidence of harm to bees by neonics. Often-cited experiments include one conducted by Chensheng Lu of the Harvard School of Public Health that exposed the insects to 30-100 times their usual exposure in the field. That does poison bees, but it doesn't replicate real-world colony collapse disorder, which in any case seems now to be declining. According to University of Maryland entomologist Dennis vanEngelsdorp, no cases have been reported from the field in three years.

The reality is that honeybee populations are not declining. According to U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization statistics, the world's honeybee population rose to 80 million colonies in 2011 from 50 million in 1960. In the U.S. and Europe, honeybee populations have been stable—or slightly rising in the last couple of years—during the two decades since neonics were introduced, U.N. and USDA data show. Statistics Canada reports an increase to 672,000 honeybee colonies in Canada, up from 501,000, over the same two decades.

In February, the Australian government issued a report on bee health from the only continent unaffected by the Varroa destructor mite, a pathogen of bees. It found that, "Australian honeybee populations are not in decline, despite the increased use of [neonicotinoids] in agriculture and horticulture since the mid-1990s."

In April the EU released the first Continent-wide epidemiological study of bee health in Europe, covering 2012-13 (before the EU's neonic ban went into effect). Seventy-five percent of the EU's bee population (located in 11 of the countries surveyed) experienced overwinter losses of 15% a year or less—levels considered normal in the U.S. Only 5% of the EU's bee population (located in six northern countries) experienced losses over 20%, after a long, severe winter.

A ban on neonics would not benefit bees, because they are not the chief source of bee health problems today. Varroa mites are, along with the lethal viruses they vector into bee colonies. If neonics were dangerous, how to explain that in Canada, Saskatchewan's $19 billion canola industry depends on neonics to prevent predation by the ravenous flea beetle—and those neonic-treated canola fields support such thriving honeybee populations that they've been dubbed the "pastures for pollinators."

A neonic ban would, however, devastate North American agriculture and the communities that depend on it. Neonics are the last line of defense for Florida's citrus industry against the Asian citrus psyllid, an insect that spreads a devastating disease of citrus trees called huanglongbing, or HLB. They're also the first line of defense in Texas and California, where HLB is beginning. Without neonic protection, tomatoes in Florida and vegetable crops in Arizona, California and the Pacific Northwest would be imperiled. If whitefly infestations weren't kept in check with neonics, much of the U.S. winter vegetable production would be lost.

Grape-growing in California and the Pacific Northwest could be devastated by the viral scourges of leaf-roll and red blotch without neonic pesticides to control the leafhoppers that spread them. Without neonic protection against thrips in cotton, water weevil in rice and grape colaspis in soybeans, yields in the mid-South could be so damaged that farmers would either go out of business or turn to already abundant crops like corn.

The knock-on effect wouldn't stop there. The production of citrus and tomatoes in Florida and rice and cotton in the mid-South and elsewhere is tied to processing plants, refrigerated warehouses, packing houses, cotton gins, rice mills, and a transportation and shipping infrastructure that supports agriculture. If the crops processed by these support industries were to become economically nonviable without crop protection, rural counties across the southeastern U.S. would be decimated.

All this would be painful for consumers, who would see their food costs rise significantly. And by making farm exports more expensive and less competitive, it would damage the U.S. economy. All reasons to worry about unleashing the EPA in a fight in which activists who have the ear of regulators constantly misrepresent the science.

Dr. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, is a fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. He was the founding director of the FDA's Office of Biotechnology.
 

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Don't ban the pesticides that are partially to blame for the demise of the Honeybee so that agriculture is not affeccted?? At what point do the pollinators STAY AWAY from those crops due to the pesticides, to protect their inventory of bees? I'm a hobbist so I dont have to deal with the numbers but at some point with all the rebuilding every year, thats gotta get real old and disheartening. I know it's income and still has to be chased but I'd think demands could be made and contracts set to peanalize and pay for harm done. Stuff like this is why I'm ready to retire and to quit chasing the almighty dollar and relax.
 

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The questions these studies pose always circumvent the issue.
It shouldn't be what would happen if we stopped using Neonic's, but why have we created an agricultural system that relies on chemical additives to even survive. Depleted soil, monoculture farms, chemical dependency, superbugs and superweeds. All causes from the system of agriculture we use today.
 

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The science does not "say no". The science is actually quite clear on the negative impacts of neonics.

That article is ridiculous. It cites no credible study. Just a bunch of strawman fallacies and non sequiturs. "Honey bees are not in decline because their numbers are growing" is misleading in so many ways, because colony numbers is not representative of honey bee health, is not representative of beekeeping profitability, and has absolutely nothing to do with pollinator populations overall.

So many fallacious arguments. Bee colonies "thrive" on neonic canola just as they would "thrive" if you put out huge quantities of neonic-tainted sugar syrup and pollen sub in a desert. In-season weight gain is a poor indicator of colony health. A very poor one.
 

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The questions these studies pose always circumvent the issue.
It shouldn't be what would happen if we stopped using Neonic's, but why have we created an agricultural system that relies on chemical additives to even survive. Depleted soil, monoculture farms, chemical dependency, superbugs and superweeds. All causes from the system of agriculture we use today.
You forgot to mention Honeybee Dependency.
 

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The science does not "say no". The science is actually quite clear on the negative impacts of neonics.

That article is ridiculous. It cites no credible study. Just a bunch of strawman fallacies and non sequiturs. "Honey bees are not in decline because their numbers are growing" is misleading in so many ways, because colony numbers is not representative of honey bee health, is not representative of beekeeping profitability, and has absolutely nothing to do with pollinator populations overall.
Nail on the head on this one. Lets not confuse numbers with health, and sustainability of this species at a very vulnerable time.

You forgot to mention Honeybee Dependency.
You're actually quite right. To expand on that, the destruction of native pollinator habitat, the ones proven to be the most effective pollinators.
 

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You're actually quite right. To expand on that, the destruction of native pollinator habitat, the ones proven to be the most effective pollinators.
I'm confused. Are you saying that in today's agriculture, that native pollinators are more effective than colonies of managed honeybees? Which is more effective at getting modern agricultural pollination done effectively and timely?
 

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I'm confused. Are you saying that in today's agriculture, that native pollinators are more effective than colonies of managed honeybees? Which is more effective at getting modern agricultural pollination done effectively and timely?
Yes thats exactly what im saying. " Studies done in netted orchards show that 250 female orchard mason bees can pollinate apples as effectively as 50,000 honey bees"
From: http://www.knoxcellars.com/about_orchard_mason.php
Granted each type of plant is different for each bees pollinating capability. IE: Almonds can only be pollinated in today's agricultural structure with Honeybees.

Honey bees are not the only bee affected today. More accurately it should be pollinator dependency in today's agriculture.
 

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I'm confused. Are you saying that in today's agriculture, that native pollinators are more effective than colonies of managed honeybees? Which is more effective at getting modern agricultural pollination done effectively and timely?

That actually is correct......well, partially.
Native pollinators are more effective, however, that is "per individual". Native pollinators have a greater amount of hair, which produces a higher static charge, and thus are able to carry more pollen. They are also larger in size typically. The downside to native pollinators when it comes to pollination for agriculture is their small colony size, which is usually only a few hundred individuals. Honeybees, as we all know are tens of thousands per colony.
You would need around 100-200 colonies of native pollinators to equal the individuals in just one honeybee colony. This is why honeybees are the best choice for "today's agriculture".

I'm not knocking the native pollinators. They should be encouraged no differently than honeybees. They are just more difficult to manage and don't produce the other things we like such as honey, etc.
 

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If only they made honey! I'm a conservationist. That's why I got into beekeeping in the first place. I'm not trying to hijack this thread, only trying to bring this full circle, as our native pollinators face many the same problems as our honeybees.
 

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Yes thats exactly what im saying. " Studies done in netted orchards show that 250 female orchard mason bees can pollinate apples as effectively as 50,000 honey bees"
From: http://www.knoxcellars.com/about_orchard_mason.php
Granted each type of plant is different for each bees pollinating capability. IE: Almonds can only be pollinated in today's agricultural structure with Honeybees.

Honey bees are not the only bee affected today. More accurately it should be pollinator dependency in today's agriculture.
Never saw a 300 acre netted orchard, have you? So, how big an area was this netted orchard. Am I to assume that both plots were of the same size?

Okay, pollinator dependency.

I have had blueberry growers and orchard owners tell me differently. Whereas tests show one thing, practical actual real world experience shows otherwise. While native pollinators may be better at pollinating blueberries, if that's all you depend on you aren't going to get as good a fruit set as you would if honeybees are also present. Just ask a blueberry grower who has tried doing w/out managed honey bee colonies.
 

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This may be more scientifically accurate, from a dependable source.

"Successful pollination with mason bees does not require a large population of bees. JOB(Japanese orchard bee) and the European O. cornuta are 80 times more effective in pollinating apple than the honey bee. Only 250 to 500 JOB are required per acre for pollination compared to 50,000 honey bees."

http://extension.psu.edu/plants/tree-fruit/news/2011/wild-bees-as-alternative-pollinators

Just food for thought!

I agree with your argument, but the correlation could be that you have more bees, which simply put, ensure more pollination as you have more insects to do the work. The same result MAY be accomplished if they were to attempt to manage orchard or mason bees.
I say may because I have absolutely no idea. Just playing devils advocate.
 

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I agree with your argument, but the correlation could be that you have more bees, which simply put, ensure more pollination as you have more insects to do the work. The same result MAY be accomplished if they were to attempt to manage orchard or mason bees.
I say may because I have absolutely no idea. Just playing devils advocate.
Being a beekeeper I don't claim to be an expert in how different flowers actually get pollinated, but, my blueberry grower showed me blueberry flowers that had been visited by, according to him, carpenter bees. He showed me slits in the sides of flowers. He also showed me that the shape of the blueberry flower is shaped in such a way that honeybees can't reach very far into the flower at all. He also told me that if he depended on native pollinators supplemented by purchased bumblebees, something he has tried, his blueberry crop would be severely less. I don't recall him saying what percentage.

He has also been part of a NC State University Study to try to determine what is actually going on and why having managed colonies of honeybees in blueberry fields increases yield. He says it does. He pays me to have them there when he wants them. He has even given me a raise. So something is clearly going on, just what it is isn't established yet. It could be that the honeybees attempts at getting to the pollen and nectar aggetates the flower so much that pollination becomes complete. But that doesn't explain pollen getting from one flower to another, nor the honey crop this year.
 

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Bee colonies "thrive" on neonic canola just as they would "thrive" if you put out huge quantities of neonic-tainted sugar syrup and pollen sub in a desert. In-season weight gain is a poor indicator of colony health. A very poor one.
Weight gain is the standard metric for health in season. You are wrong here, the colonies are thriving by any metric you use. Medhat Nasr stated:

Check Alberta Bee Statistics, we had 142,000 1989 and now we have 282,000 despite high losses in between 2007-2010 (averaging 35%). This is almost doubled the number. These losses were mainly caused by resistance of varroa to checkmite. Effective tools, effective management, fair honey and pollination prices yield healthy bees and sustainable industry.
 

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While native pollinators may be better at pollinating blueberries, if that's all you depend on you aren't going to get as good a fruit set as you would if honeybees are also present. Just ask a blueberry grower who has tried doing w/out managed honey bee colonies.
The most recent work shows that a combination of native bees and honey bees works best. The huge drawback with natives is that you never know if they will be there when you need them. The populations fluctuate widely from year to year, they are very cyclical. The beekeeper as a pollinator provider is far more dependable.
 

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Why have we created an agricultural system that relies on chemical additives to even survive. Depleted soil, monoculture farms, chemical dependency, superbugs and superweeds. All causes from the system of agriculture we use today.
Why? To produce more food, economically. That's why. Without modern agriculture only the wealthy would get decent meals.

Most of the ideas of organic farming have been incorporated into IPM (integrated pest management). Organic farming is a nice way to grow veggies, I do that at my place. But it isn't practical on a large scale.

You say "we created an agricultural system" and in a sense, you are right. The demand for economical fresh food created this system. But you don't have to participate in it. Buy organic food, grow organic food, that's your right.

But to ban pesticides is to take away from farmers an important tool they need to succeed. You might as well ban gasoline, electricity, all of these are just as harmful to the environment as pesticides.
 

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The questions these studies pose always circumvent the issue.
It shouldn't be what would happen if we stopped using Neonic's, but why have we created an agricultural system that relies on chemical additives to even survive. Depleted soil, monoculture farms, chemical dependency, superbugs and superweeds. All causes from the system of agriculture we use today.
Money
Money
Money
 

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Most of the ideas of organic farming have been incorporated into IPM (integrated pest management). Organic farming is a nice way to grow veggies, I do that at my place. But it isn't practical on a large scale.
I would actually have to disagree with you here. Both Will Allen with Growing Power and Joel Salatin with Polyface Farms show a sustainable model of large scale food production.

If Will Allen can grow 1 million pounds of food on only 3 acres over 3 years, I think we have a model we can expand exponentially.
 

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According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the United States had as many as 6 million honeybee colonies in 1947. That number dropped to roughly 4 million in 1970 and 3 million in 1990. Today’s number is approximately 2.5 million colonies.

Here's the statistics, decide for yourself.
 
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