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Why Andrew Cuomo’s Pollinator Task Force Won’t Save New York’s Bees

November 2, 2015 (Un)Sustainable Farming, Commentaries, Environment 15 Comments

By Tracy Frisch
As in other parts of North America, beekeepers in New York have been experiencing unsustainable losses of honeybee colonies. In 2014-15, annual colony losses in New York reached 54 per cent, according to the Bee Informed Partnership survey. And though losses were lower in preceding years, they consistently exceeded the economic threshold of 15 percent loss. At great expense, beekeepers have been able to recoup their winter and summer losses, but for declining native bee species the prospects are even less rosy. For example, the rusty-patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis), once common in New York and the Northeastern US, is now a candidate for the endangered species act.

An impressive worldwide body of scientific evidence implicates neonicotinoids as a major contributor to the decline of honeybee and wild bee populations (e.g. Lu et al., 2014). This is due to a combination of their acute toxicity, sub-lethal, intergenerational, neurotoxic, and immune system effects, their systemic behavior in plants and their persistence in soil and water [See the IUCN’s Worldwide Integrated Assessment of the Impacts of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystems, 2015 (1)]. This relatively new family of insecticides is now believed to be the most commonly used global pesticide.

Bombus affinis, the Rusty-Patched Bumblebee

Bombus affinis, the Rusty-Patched Bumblebee

Unlike Europe and Ontario, Canada, the US has not acted to restrict the use of neonicotinoids. However, the federal government has specifically urged states to create pollinator protection plans. Some states are working on them and a few have completed them (2).

But at the first meeting of the New York State’s Pollinator Task Force (Aug 6 2015), commercial beekeeper Jim Doan was flabbergasted to learn that state officials had appointed two representatives of the national pesticide industry to the 12-member panel. “It’s very difficult for a beekeeper to think he can get a fair shake,” he commented.

Consequently, I decided to see for myself. I attended the September 11 and October 1 Task Force meetings and listened to the recording of the August 6 meeting.

The New York State Pollinator Task Force

The NY state Task Force was set in motion by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Pollinators are crucial to the health of New York’s environment, as well as the strength of our agricultural economy,” Cuomo said in his announcement. “By developing a statewide action plan, we are expanding our efforts to protect these species and our unparalleled natural resources, and making an important step forward in our commitment to New York’s ecological and economic future.

Thus, on April 23, 2015 Cuomo directed the state departments of agriculture and markets (NYSDAM) and environmental conservation (NYSDEC) to develop a state pollinator protection plan, involving stakeholders and research institutions in the process.

By July stakeholders were receiving invitations to serve on the state Pollinator Task Force, which was constituted with 12 “advisors” from the private and NGO sectors. Officials from NYSDAM and DEC serve as co-chairs. In addition, Cornell IPM program director Jennifer Grant sat with Task Force members and played an advisory role, though not as a Task Force member.

Task Force membership

In terms of its personnel, three groups represent pesticide interests on the Task Force: CropLife America and Responsible Industry Supporting the Environment (RISE) are the pesticide industry’s agricultural and non-agricultural trade groups respectively. Both are headquartered at the same Washington DC office. The NYS Agribusiness Association is the third agrochemical group. Dan Digiacomandrea, a technical sales specialist at Bayer CropScience, one of two makers of neonicotinoids, attended one Task Force meeting as that group’s alternate.

Agriculture also got three seats, with appointees from the state farm bureau, state vegetable growers association and the fruit sector. The state vegetable growers consistently sent an alternate, Rick Zimmerman. His resume includes many years as a Farm Bureau lobbyist followed by a career as NYSDAM deputy commissioner. Today he heads up the Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance. The state turf and landscape association has a seat, too.

Three NGOs were appointed to the Task Force: The Nature Conservancy, Audubon New York and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Member Erin Crotty, who is executive director at Audubon NY, previously served as DEC commissioner under Republican Governor Pataki. NRDC, which has sued EPA on neonicotinoids, was represented by one of two alternating attorneys at each meeting. Like the aforementioned industry representatives, no one from these organizations appeared to have any specific expertise on pollinators. The first two NGOs proposed ways to increase pollinator habitat but did not indicate concerns about pesticides.

Finally, beekeepers were apportioned two seats. With 12 hives, hobby beekeeper Stephen Wilson has chaired the Apiary Industry Advisory Committee for over 15 years. The other representative is Empire State Honey Producers Association president Mark Berninghausen, a small commercial migratory beekeeper from St. Lawrence County. This group has about 100 members out of the 3,000 or 4,000 beekeepers in the state.

The state has also been accepting public comments (though this was apparently not publicized and no deadline has been announced). These comments must be submitted to the governor’s office, not to the Task Force directly (initially NYSDAM was accepting them). As of this writing, these comments have not been shared with task force members.

Given the make-up of New York’s Pollinator Task Force — one-quarter pesticide industry plus one-third agriculture and turf care industries – and the allegiances of the two convening agencies, the complex issue of pesticides was therefore always likely to be handled with kid gloves.

The timeline and the content

At the kickoff meeting task force advisors had a chance to lay out their positions on what the state should do to protect bees. The second meeting focused on research needs and the third dealt with habitat enhancement and best management practices (BMPs).

Presentations took up much of the second and third meetings. For example, a series of managers from six state agencies described their land management practices and initiatives to provide habitat in respect to bees.

A highpoint was the talk by Cornell’s new honeybee extension entomologist Emma Mullen. A Canadian who just moved to the US, she had been part of the team of scientists that worked on Ontario’s Pollinator Health Protection Plan. Particularly illuminating was her explanation of the province’s new program to decrease the corn and soybean acreage planted with neonicotinoid-treated seeds by 80% by 2017. She also outlined current Cornell research on bees.

NYSDAM commissioner Richard Ball, a vegetable grower, chaired the meetings and NYSDEC deputy commissioner Eugene Leff played a supporting role. Leff, whose portfolio includes pesticide regulation, previously presided over another stakeholder task force charged with dealing with an equally polarizing issue: preventing pesticide pollution of Long Island’s groundwater. As with the pollinator task force, pesticide and agricultural interests were well represented on Long Island. (The 126-page strategy document that came out of that task force’s work indicates that these interest groups succeeded in delaying any restrictions on suspect pesticides.)

To frame the initial Pollinator Task Force discussion, Commissioner Ball reiterated what has come to seem like the official US dogma on bee decline — there is no single cause and we must consider multiple areas of concern. While the list of pollinator threats varies, USDA, EPA and institutions like Cornell cite factors such as habitat loss, pests and pathogens, pesticides, genetics and/or climate change when they state that view.

Indeed, the most notable feature of the meetings was the overall reluctance to delve into the problem of pesticides except in so far as they induce immediate bee kills. Only two members of the 12-member task force (beekeeper Stephen Wilson and a Natural Resources Defense Council attorney) urged any limitations on the use of neonicotinoids.

Meetings without minutes or structure

A number of additional aspects of these meetings support the idea that the Task Force exists primarily for appearance’s sake. First, no one appeared to be taking official notes and no minutes were made available, despite advisor Stephen Wilson’s request for minutes at the second meeting. (Recordings are posted on NYSDAM’s website.) Second, no one wrote down ideas on a whiteboard or easel to capture them as they came up. Third, Task Force discussions were freewheeling, unstructured and all over the map.

The state’s short timeline also challenges the notion of a deliberative process informed by science. The whole process, from the first of three Task Force meetings to the submission of priority recommendations to the governor, is scheduled to take only three months (3).

Yet the meeting agendas presume that in an hour or two of meetings these advisors will contribute content to the pollinator plan, generate a meaningful research agenda, and cobble together BMPs to protect bees. For all this to happen fails to pass the laugh test.

Thus, in the final portion of the third meeting, Task Force advisors were asked to consider a series of BMPs listed on a handout prepared in advance (presumably by NYSDAM or DEC) but not distributed until the actual meeting. Task Force members had not gotten through the first item on the list when time ran out (4).

Perhaps there was no real need to carefully craft a plan because the conclusions appeared to have been pre-ordained. In his closing comments at the third meeting, DEC deputy commissioner Leff referred back to the governor’s blueprint for the state pollinator plan. In particular, Leff highlighted the BMPs designed to reduce pesticide exposure to managed pollinators through better communication among beekeepers and farmers. Leff stressed the need for landowners and pesticide applicators to know where hives are located and how to contact beekeepers before they spray. Beekeepers would have to be ready to move their hive, he said (5).

If his recommendations go into effect the onus of protecting bees from pesticides would fall on beekeepers. This is at odds with the historical assignment of such responsibility to pesticide applicators. In fact, pesticide labels carry legal weight in prohibiting pesticides considered acutely toxic to bees from being applied when flowers are in bloom or bees are present.

Leff’s proposal to shift responsibility is radical, but it is not new; the essential elements of Leff’s proposal are contained in the Guidance for State Pollinator Protection Plans, a June 2015 document produced by the State FIFRA Issues Research and Evaluation Group (6). (SFIREG is a committee of the Association of American Pesticide Control Officials. SFIREG used to have the document on its website, but has since removed it.) Among the six “critical elements” it identified for pollinator plans are methods for growers to know if managed pollinators are located near where pesticides are used and for contacting beekeepers prior to applying pesticides.

Thus it seems that pesticides are sometimes acknowledged to be causing at least part of the decline in pollinators, but the approach proposed by Leff and SFIREG ignores much of what is known–that systemic insecticides like neonicotinoids can harm bees months after application, for example via the planting of treated seeds (Lu et al., 2014), and that insecticides are not the only agrichemicals that harm bees. For example, a new study has found that exposure to low levels of glyphosate impairs honeybee navigation (Balbuena et al., 2015). And of course, warning beekeepers of impending pesticide applications does nothing to protect native pollinators, though ostensibly these plans are intended to protect them, too.

As the meeting was ending, I was able to pose a practical question. How easy is it for beekeepers to move their hives when they get a call that pesticides will be applied? Roberta Glatz, an older woman who serves on the state Apiary Industry Advisory Committee, replied from the audience.
She said that beekeepers aren’t necessarily where their bees are. “They may be in North Carolina raising queens.” She outlined other concerns as well. There are limited places where you can put your bees, and it takes a lot of negotiation to put in a bee yard. Logistics also come into play. Mud can impede access. Hives are heavy and usually have to be moved in the middle of the night when the bees are home. (And beekeepers often have day jobs, another beekeeper told me once the meeting ended.)

So while even the beekeepers of New York are having a hard time getting a fair shake in a protection plan for their own bees, in terms of pesticides it seems that Bombus affinis and other native bees should expect even less of one.

Footnotes
(1) Worldwide Integrated Assessment of the Impacts of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystems 2015 (IUCN’s Task Force on Systemic Pesticides)
(2) The Pollinator Stewardship Council is the best clearinghouse of state government pollinator protection activities around the country. Another resource is a May 2015 white paper from the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. It claims to provide links to the MP3s (“managed pollinator protection plans”) of North Dakota, California, Mississippi, Florida and Colorado, but of these states only North Dakota seems to have developed an actual plan.
(3) The timeline called for the state to circulate the NYS Pollinator Protection Action Plan Recommendations to task force members on October 19. In turn, they would have 7 days to comment. As of October 28, a beekeeper on the Task Force reported that he hadn’t received anything from the state yet.
(4) Discussion of specific BMPs was overshadowed by the contentious issue of whether beekeepers should be required to register all honeybee hives with the state and disclose their locations. BMPs listed on the handout pertained to such things as beekeepers’ care for their colonies and control of mites and other parasites/diseases, landowners and state agencies enhancing pollinator habitat and forage, the correct and judicious use of pesticides and of Integrated Pest Management, and the roles of beekeepers, landowners and pesticide applicators in protecting honeybees from pesticides.
(5) Some beekeepers fear that New York’s plan will follow North Dakota’s template, thus transferring the burden of protecting honeybee colonies from pesticides onto the beekeepers.
(6) FIFRA, which stands for the Federal Insecticide Fungicide Rodenticide Act, provides the nation’s regulatory framework for pesticides.

References
Balbuena, M. S., Tison, L., Hahn, M. L., Greggers, U., Menzel, R., & Farina, W. M. (2015). Effects of sub-lethal doses of glyphosate on honeybee navigation. The Journal of Experimental Biology, 10 July 2015. doi: 10.1242/ dev.117291
Lu C, Warchol KM, Callahan RA (2014) Sub-lethal exposure to neonicotinoids impaired honey bees winterization before proceeding to colony collapse disorder. Bull Insectol 67:125–130.

Currently there are "15 comments" on this Article:

  1. Peter Borst says:

    RE: Beekeepers across North America, including in New York state, have been experiencing unsustainable losses of honeybee colonies from Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). These problems of managed bees are probably connected to a general decline in pollinator species being experienced all over the globe.

    These statements are false. The losses experienced by beekeepers, while discouraging, are hardly unprecedented. This has been fully documented in my article “The Fall and RIse of the Honey Bee”, published in the American Bee Journal (2015).

    The current losses are NOT caused by CCD. CCD was a name given to something seen in 2006, which was not widespread at the time and has never developed into a major factor. The term CCD is no longer used by researchers, as it doesn’t identify anything, other than unexplained bee losses, which are rare.

    Globally, populations of honey bees have bee climbing steadily for decades. The chief factor which causes the rise and fall of honey bee populations is economic. When the price of honey is high, beekeepers thrive.

    Large scale beekeepers have benefitted from high rental fees for pollination, which has taken them away from honey production, which in turn has helped push honey prices up. If the almond industry were to drastically lower the fees they pay, large scale pollinators would go back to producing honey and drive the price back down.

    That neonics are not the primary driver of bee decline is readily apparent when you map the areas where losses were the greatest and the areas where neonics are widely used. In the canola region, beekeepers are thriving despite neonics (or perhaps because of them, the crops are healthier when pests are controlled). Meanwhile, severe losses cluster around the Great Lakes, and appeared to be linked to extreme cold and the freezing of the lakes, which prolongs the winter cold.

    Peter Loring Borst
    Ithaca NY

    • Graham White says:

      Peter Loring Borst is an industry shill – and I have no respect for anyone who can ignore 800 peer reviewed papers world wide, all of which confirm that neonics are the number one, primary cause of mass bee deaths across the United States and in the 27 countries of Europe. People need to understand that neonics are unimaginably toxic to bees. Clothianidin – used on around 100 Million acres of American corn annually – is almost 11,000 times more poisonous to bees than was DDT (Dr Jean Marc Bonmatin, Univ. Montpelier, France 2009).

      America lost over 10 million bee colonies to neonics since 2003 and the apparent ‘increase’ is due to beekeepers ‘splitting’ hives in two every single season, in a desperate attempt to recoup their losses. They have also imported millions of nucleus colonies and queens from New Zealand and Hawaii, where bee breeding is a major industry.

      The tragedy is that the French were the first to suffer mass bee deaths, in 1994, when Bayer unleashed Imidacloprid as a seed coating on Sunflowers in France. They lost a million colonies that year; Bayer denied all responsibility and the French govt sided with corporate lobbyists – did nothing. Fortunately the French did not take it sitting down, they commissioned their own independent research, which revealed that Bayer and lied about the presence of Imidacloprid in the nectar and pollen of the sunflowers. Bayer then ‘retreated’ and said “oh, we were mistaken; the poison IS present in the flowers, but not remotely at any level that could harm bees”. Bayer claimed that the LD50 for Imidacloprid was 10,000 parts per billion; independent research proved that the LD50 was less than 10 parts per billion.
      Later research at the National Scientific Institute in France proved that just THREE parts per billion affected bees. That is equivalent to ONE teaspoon in 1000 metric tonnes of water (an Olympic sized pool). That makes neonics the most poisonous substances every created by science.

      The upshot was that the French government BANNED neonics in the year 2000 and they have never revoked the ban. it took another 13 years before all 27 countries in Europe enacted the ban; but with the corruption endemic in the American EPA, in these fake ‘Pollinator Task Forces’ and in all the fake university science that is pumped out in the USA, they will defend these bee killing poisons to the very last ditch.

      Please watch the French documentary film (English subtitles) which covers this issue in a very convincing and moving way:

      The French bee-deaths documentary ‘Temoin Genant’ (Embarassing Witness) is now on Youtube; it deals with the disaster which struck the French beekeeping industry from -1994 – 1999, when over 400,000 bee colonies a year died, following the introduction of Bayer’s systemic neurotoxin Imidacloprid/ ‘Gaucho’ for use on sunflowers and maize.

      CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEOS

      Part One:
      http://youtu.be/9boueJGtLPY

      Part Two

      http://youtu.be/XM2Agj68uCk

      Part three
      http://youtu.be/CC9fWFE8ExM

      Part Four
      http://youtu.be/okA8pxkoXX4

  2. Tom Theobald says:

    Nearly every step the EPA has taken in the last 10 years has been designed to give the illusion of concern and action when in fact they subvert the very laws the EPA is charged with upholding. This agency is either grossly incompetent, deeply corrupted at the management level or is a well orchestrated criminal enterprise captured by the very corporations they are supposed to regulate. The proposal for state pollinator protection programs is simply one more attempt to do an end run around the law. The 48 hour notice is an outrageous violation of the EPA’s responsibilities, which puts the burden of staying out of harm’s way on the victims and clears the way for violation of Federal Law, so that uses which are clearly illegal can proceed unimpeded. Managed colonies may be moved, but bumblebees and native pollinators will still be damaged. The EPA’s responsibility is to protect all pollinators, not just honey bees.

  3. Peter Borst says:

    Dear moderator.

    > Peter Loring Borst is an industry shill.

    That statement is false, insulting and potentially libelous. I suggest you remove it immediately. It adds nothing to intelligent discussion of the issues. I have no connections with any industry, as can easily be verified.

    PLB

    • Graham White says:

      Well, we can argue about the definition of what is meant by the word ‘shill’, but what I am saying is that everything you say and write appears to serve the interests of the neonicotinoids manufacturers.
      Whether you are paid to do provide this service (which I have never suggested) – or whether you serve as a ‘pesticide defense volunteer’ – (which – de-facto – you do) , , is largely irrelevant.

      You serve as a “pesticide apologist’ in the pages of the American Bee Journal, in conferences and in a wide variety of forums for many, many years. Your message is always the same:
      “it’s not the neonicotinoids!”
      “the evidence on neonicotinoids is questionable”
      “bee dates are multifactorial and they have always occurred”
      “it would be wrong to focus on just one factor – like pesticides”
      “beekeeping is not declining, its thriving”
      “the number of bee colonies in the USA is going up and up and up”

      These statements are straight from the pesticide industry playbook.

      So, whether you ‘work’ for Bayer, Syngenta, Monsanto, BASF, DOW or any other poison company is irrelevant. I am fairly sure that you are not a paid employee, nor even a consultant.

      However, you PERFORM THE SAME FUNCTION as a paid-pesticide defense advocate – so the issue is really moot.

      if you are NOT being paid by the pesticide industry to act as a lobbyist on their behalf then you are missing a trick; because you are already doing the work . . why not ask them to pay you?

      Your role, along with other well known pesticide defense advocates is to:

      Sow doubt about the scientific facts – that neonics are the primary cause of bee deaths in the USA and Europe

      The strategies that you use, on plain view in in all your writings are:

      1. DENY that pesticides are the primary cause of mass bee deaths
      2. DENY that mass bee deaths have even taken place – despite 10 million colonies having died since 2003 (USDA figures)
      3. DISTRACT attention from the central issues by waffling on about honey prices and vague economic analyses
      4. DISINFORM people, by telling them that 800 peer reviewed science papers ‘don’t amount to proof’

      WHY you do all this I have no idea; if you were paid by the poison industry to help protect their profits I could understand it. But you say you are NOT paid by the pesticide industry to do their dirty work.

      Which, as Sherlock Holmes would say, raises one central question.
      WHY are you doing this, when ALL the scientific evidence from around the world says that you are 100% wrong?
      WHY are you doing this when all 27 countries of the European Union
      BANNED neonics in 2013 – and France even banned them in 2000.

      WHY are you spreading this disinformation when the elite scientists from the 27 counties who make up the Expert Science Cttee of the European Food Safety Agency ( France, Germany, UK, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Portugal etc) ALL of them agree that neonics ARE the cause of mass bee deaths; which is why they recommended a total ban on all crops which attract bees.

      I have no idea why you maintain this stance. You are not a bee scientist – but you claim to know more than the elite bee scientists of 27 separate countries. You are not a professor of toxicology, but you claim to know more than all the toxicologists of France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Netherlands and the UK put together. You are not an agronomist, but you claim to be an expert on crop pesticides and pollinator deaths.

      Please explain.
      The floor is yours Mr Borst.

  4. Peter says:

    > Well, we can argue about the definition of what is meant by the word ‘shill’, but what I am saying is that everything you say and write appears to serve the interests of the neonicotinoids manufacturers.

    shill • a person who pretends to give an impartial endorsement of something in which they themselves have an interest.

    Unless you withdraw your accusations I feel no need to respond to your ad hominem attacks. I have been involved in the beekeeping industry for 40 years, have published 30 articles in the American Bee Journal and have been paid to present my expertise for beekeeping organizations all over the US, including the American Beekeeping Federation and the Western Apicultural Society this year.

    PLB

  5. Charles Linder says:

    Mr White is once again using a tactic of the left, Peter is a fine man, and very concerned with bees and history. While Mr white sites all the losses, he total refuses to accept the gains.
    He then claims all the research that says neonics are bad for bees. Hes right, no one ever said neonics don’t kill bees. What is missing here are two points, one real world exposure. If they were the case of CCD then the Midwest where I live and raise a lot of bees would be a wasteland. But alas thats not the case. In fact controlled use of a very effective pesticide reduces my losses.

    The second point is a simple comparison to the alternatives, one alternative is zero pesticides. were that the case you will immediately see food prices triple and a food shortage will ensure. As a result more acreage will need to be farmed, again reducing habitat.
    The second option is to return to blanket spraying of pesticides, typically done 3 times a season. this blanket spraying is much more harmful than Mr white will ever admit.

    As for Neonics the blanket cause of bee deaths, Mr white is so wrong on that topic as to look a total fool. the real cause of most of the hive losses in the last 20 years is a pest called Varro Destructor. Get the facts, check the Bee informed website, talk to a real beekeeper. And quit listening to environmental wackos.

  6. jrlatham says:

    As editor I propose it would be best for readers if participants did not question the motivations of others but rather concentrated on providing evidence to support their views. Thank you all. Jonathan

  7. Peter says:

    > who can ignore 800 peer reviewed papers world wide, all of which confirm that neonics are the number one, primary cause of mass bee deaths across the United States and in the 27 countries of Europe.

    This is an interesting statement, for several reasons. You see this number often and yet nobody who uses it bothers to cite the number of publications which reach the opposite conclusion. Not that sheer numbers mean much, because any number of false statements will not invalidate a true one.

    Further, most HB experts agree that there is no “number one, primary cause of mass bee deaths.” Experts uniformly agree that the main driver of honey bee deaths is the varroa mite and its associated viruses. To say that all of the 800 papers “confirm that neonics are the number one” is a wild exaggeration and destroys the credibility of your argument.

    PLB

  8. Tom Theobald says:

    Read the independent science, not just the psuedo-science of industry. The systemic pesticides may represent the most massive poisoning of the earth in human history and the evidence is clear as to the environmental damages, not only the honey bees, but to a wide range of other life forms at the lower end of the food chain. Just because there aren’t piles of dead bees in front of your colonies doesn’t mean that there isn’t significant damage being done. I lived through those years of the earlier chemicals they try to scare you with now, the organophosphates, encapsulated parathion, etc. I was instrumental in creating one of the first cooperative spray alert programs in the U.S., but in spite of that and in spite of efforts by beekeepers to protect their bees we still had huge kills every spring from furadan (carbofuran) on alfalfa. The bees recovered from those kills and still produced sizable crops, because we had 2 things then; an essentially healthy population of bees and an essentially healthy environment. We have neither today. You don’t have to rely on someone else’s opinion though. Take the time to do your homework, read the science and draw your own conclusions.

  9. Peter says:

    I would like to submit an assessment by Dr. Richard Fell. He graduated from Cornell’s Dyce Lab for Honey Bee Studies and went on to teach at Virginia Tech. Dr. Fell has been also responsible for beekeeping extension programs in Virginia and has given over 300 presentations to beekeeper associations and taught over 150 apiculture short courses and workshops. In addition, he has over 70 scientific and technical publications. On the subject of neonics, he states:

    While it is undeniable that overwintering losses of commercial honeybee colonies are higher than they were in the recent past, there is no clear indication that pesticides are the root cause of such losses. The USDA survey shed light on the pattern of honeybee losses across the United States and concluded that such losses were unrelated to the patterns of agricultural pesticide use, in general, or neonicotinoid use, in particular. While beekeepers may have difficulty diagnosing a new phenomenon such as colony collapse disorder, they are familiar with other causes of colony loss; and pesticides ranked 8th on the list of possible causes of colony loss in the USDA survey.

    Additionally, the epidemiological evidence from Europe shows no correlation of honeybee losses to pesticide use and indicates the presence of causal factors other than pesticides, although it is not yet possible to completely discount potential interactive effects of neonicotinoids with other stressors. Finally, the time of year when increased mortality of honeybees is the late fall and over the winter, whereas the highest pesticide use occurs in the spring and early summer.

    The life span of forager bees is very short (approximately 1 mo), so the bees that may be exposed to the insecticide in the spring and early summer are not the same bees that overwinter in the hive. Additionally, it has been shown that neonicotinoids do not accumulate over time in the environment, the colony, or the honeybees. Given these 2 attributes of neonicotinoids and bees, it is not possible for the chemicals to have latent effects that are expressed months after application.

    All of the neonicotinoid insecticides have been reviewed and approved in many jurisdictions around the world, including Europe, Australia, Japan, Canada, and the United States; and they have been used for more than 15 yr on a variety of crops. Therefore, a significant body of data from both laboratory and field studies is available to assess the risks to colonies of honeybees.

    The available data indicate that there may be effects to individual honeybees housed under laboratory conditions and exposed to unrealistically high concentrations of the insecticides. However, under field conditions and exposure levels, similar effects on honeybee colonies have not been documented. It is not reasonable, therefore, to conclude that crop-applied pesticides in general, or neonicotinoids in particular, are a major risk factor for honeybee colonies, given the current approved uses and beekeeping practices

    Assessing risks only under worst-case conditions with individual honeybees, divorced from properties provided by colony interactions, serves only to understand potential mechanisms of action of different chemicals but not their aggregate risks. Because both pesticides and pollinators are critical to the continuing success of worldwide agriculture, it is imperative that we learn to accurately and honestly assess the benefits and risks of their interactions on commercial honeybees and other pollinators.

    Risks of Neonicotinoid Insecticides to Honeybees
    Anne Fairbrother, John Purdy, Troy Anderson and Richard Fell
    Environmental toxicology and chemistry 33.4 (2014)

  10. jrlatham says:

    I would encourage readers who want to follow up on the science to read the Lu paper cited (Lu C, Warchol KM, Callahan RA (2014) Sub-lethal exposure to neonicotinoids impaired honey bees winterization before proceeding to colony collapse disorder. Bull Insectol 67:125–130.(http://www.bulletinofinsectology.org/pdfarticles/vol67-2014-125-130lu.pdf)0.
    The paper is very simple, CCD can be mimicked by feeding bees imidacloprid or clothianidin. It’s a very important result.

  11. Peter says:

    In Dr. Lu’s study he states:
    > Honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) colony collapse disorder (CCD) that appeared in 2005/2006 still lingers in many parts of the world. Here we show that sub-lethal exposure of neonicotinoids, imidacloprid or clothianidin, affected the winterization of healthy colonies that subsequently leads to CCD.

    It is quite clear from this statement that Dr. Lu has no idea what CCD is or was. It does not “linger in many parts of the world.” Poisoned hives do not in any way resemble what was termed CCD in 2006, nor have many cases of so-called CCD been observed in the subsequent ten years. Dr. Lu never saw a case of it, and he really has no idea what a sick or healthy bee colony is.

    This study has been thoroughly discredited by reputable scientists, and it shows why non-bee scientists should stay out of the field. Dr. Lu’s chief objective was to make a name for himself, which he did, by poisoning health hives with insecticides. Anyone can do that, it proves nothing.

    PLB

  12. Jeff Anderson says:

    Most comments on this article miss the point completely. Rather than make personal attacks and refute others neo-nic or non-neo nic ‘religion’ lets stick to the point of this article which is the process of creating a New York State Managed Pollinator Protection Plan; Nationally referred to as State MP3s. Note the word MANAGED; logically this should mean that beekeepers who manage these pollinators should be a primary resource in determining the cause of problem and solution managed pollinator issues.
    While one can argue their personal belief that pollinators are or, are not in decline, the point is that New York is creating a plan based on a Presidential Directive being implemented by agencies including USDA. USDA tracks managed pollinator numbers, they have several programs to support bee populations, their ELAP program even pays for abnormal bee losses. If indeed there is no decline or problems with managed bees, USDA should have informed the President so that he does not look like an idiot. USDA however did not make any such proclamation but instead is moving full steam ahead with money, programs, and incentives to plant additional pollinator forage and created State Pollinator Protection Plans.
    In this article the author, Tracy Frisch, reported that in New York, there seems to be significant ‘irregularities’ in the choice of the committees membership, the lack of record keeping at meetings, the lack of transparency, etc. It is problematic that beekeepers are not front and center in this discussion while regulators, and those that manage or produce crop protection products which kill pollinators appear to be.
    While New York has not yet officially presented their plan, if it mirrors plans of other States which have 48 hour pesticide notification and bee removal guidelines it should be rejected. Removing pollinators from a landscape on which they feed is NOT a Pollinator Protection Plan; it is a Pesticide Applicator Protection Plan.
    Bee toxic pesticides already have labels with application restrictions which, if followed protect pollinators. The current one… (“This product is highly toxic to bees and other pollinating insects exposed to direct treatment on blooming crops or weeds. Do not apply this product or allow it to drift to blooming crops or weeds while bees or other pollinating insects are actively visiting the treatment area.”) … while restrictive, allows for night application of pesticides during bloom. Nearly all pollinators forage daylight hours which leaves nights open for crop protection activities during the short window of bloom; no bloom, no restriction of application.
    As to the neo nic comments; I’d love to weigh in but this is not the appropriate time or place for that debate. Lets stay on point… State Pollinator Plan, what should it be? Or none at all?
    Tracy, thanks for you timely article, I trust that you will have a followup article when New York decides their MP3.

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