If you are a member and have anything that you feel is important to chemical free beekeeping, please email it to me. I will post it in this section in a future issue. Thank you. Dennis

May is the time when we see swarming activity. Make sure that you have enough equipment on hand to accommodate any swarms you may get. Check your hives for good brood patterns and food supply. In some areas there will be a Tallow flow towards the end of the month. Make sure that you have your honey supers ready.

Here in Texas, we are getting desperate for some rain. The wild fires have burned millions of acreas of land and the winds have contibuted to the speed at which these fires are moving. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed so far. Let's pray for some relief and for all those families who have lost everything.  Dennis


Top level laboratory research showing that low levels of systemic pesticides are impacting honey bee health are not being repeated in the field.

By Alan Harman 

Dr. Jeff Pettis, research leader at the USDA-ARS Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, MD., tells British Members of Parliament his research doesn't explain bee losses seen in the U.S. Pettis was the first researcher to suggest a possible link between insecticides called neonicotinoids and bee deaths.

 “The lab study certainly seemed very clear that low levels of pesticides were impacting on honey bee health,” Pettis told the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Science and Technology in Agriculture at the House of Parliament in London.

“But when we look in the field we don't see the same results. Even in those colonies that were exposed to low levels in the field, we're not seeing outbreaks of the gut parasite pathogen that we saw in the lab.”

All-party groups are informal cross-party gatherings of MPs with similar interests and have no official status within Parliament.

The MPs were looking at the continuing controversy into the systemic pesticides called neonicotinoids that can enter every part of the plant, including the pollen and nectar.  

Pettis said he has found bees are more vulnerable to infections by the nosema parasite when they are in contact with microscopic doses of imidacloprid, the most popular neonicotinoid, manufactured by the German agribusiness giant Bayer. 

   “Pesticide is an issue, but it is not the sole driving issue,” he said.

   Poor nutrition and pathogens are also a problem.

“We can't just point to any one single factor as being the dominant thing in the decline in honey bee health. Of late, it seems that this has been the dominant issue, that pesticides are driving everything in bee health. 

   “I think there's more of what I call the 3-P principle – poor nutrition, pesticides and pathogens. Those three things are interacting greatly. Nutrition is the foundation of good bee health, and certainly there's some pesticide exposure going on, but it varies widely over time and space. And the pathogens in my opinion are often acting secondarily. But it's the interaction of these three. You get three of them lined up then surely you'll have bees in poor health. Even the combination of any two could be problematic. 

   “My own view is that pesticides are one of the major issues confronting pollinators, but not the driving issue in honey bee health.

 “The reason I am conducting research on the neonicotinoid group is that they have a new route of exposure to bees, through pollen and nectar, and I continue to be concerned about their potential negative impacts on pollinators.”

Pettis said his research also found that bees in areas of intensive agriculture are suffering from poor nutrition compared with bees with a diverse diet, and this then compounded other problems, such as infection with the gut parasite nosema.

“It is about the interaction of different factors, and we need to study these interactions more closely,” he said.

Pettis tells the MPs that he and Penn State University researcher Dennis van Engelsdorp had discovered the bees have the capability to detect pesticide residues in the pollen.

   Once they bring the pollen back to the hive and detect pesticide residues, they isolate it from the other pollen in the colony.

    They use propolis to seal up wax cells full of pollen to put it out of use and protect the rest of the hive from their contents. The pollen stored in the sealed-up cells was found to contain dramatically higher levels of pesticides and other potentially harmful chemicals than the pollen stored in neighboring cells, which is used to feed growing young bees.

 “This is a novel finding, and very striking,” Pettis said. “The implication is that the bees are sensing the pesticide and actually sealing it off. They are recognizing that something is wrong with the pollen and encapsulating it. Bees would not normally seal off pollen.”

But he said the bees’ attempt to save themselves appears to be unsuccessful because the sealed off pollen is found in many hives that subsequently die off.  

“The presence of entombing was the biggest single predictor of colony loss in one of our studies,” Pettis said. “It's a defense mechanism that has failed.”

He said these colonies were likely to already be in trouble and their death could be attributed to a mix of factors in addition to pesticides.

The bees that entomb the cells are not the bees collect pollen from plants, but are rather likely the housekeeping bees.

Pettis said it appears the pollen-collecting bees can not detect high levels of pesticides, but the pollen underwent subtle changes when stored.

A lack of microbial activity compared with pollen that has fewer pesticide residues may be involved in triggering the entombing effect.

Pettis said the bees are also sealing off pollen that contains substances used by beekeepers to control pests such as the Varroa mite, a sign these substances may also be harmful to bees.

   “Beekeepers – and I am one – need to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask what we are doing when we use chemicals to control parasitic mites,” he said. “It's a balancing act. If you do not control the parasite, bees die. If you control the parasite, bees will live but there are side-effects. This has to be managed.”

All Party Parliamentary Group chairman George Freeman MP said where complex issues such as those surrounding bee health and agriculture are being legislated for it is very important that Parliamentarians are able to hear scientific analysis.

Crop Protection Association chief executive Dominic Dyer told the committee there are a number of stresses for bee health and he is disappointed pesticides are so demonized, including by some journalists who appear to be following the environmentalists’ line rather doing their own research.

   National Farmers Union (NFU) entomologist and horticulture specialist Chris Hartfield said the NFU took its advice based on sound science and the consensus on bee health was that there was not a single cause of poor bee health, although Varroa continues to be the common problem.

   Hartfield said it’s right that systemic insecticides are carefully studied, but felt this should not distract or divert attention from the real problems of bee health.

British Beekeepers Association president Tim Lovett told the committee pesticides are an emotive subject for its more than 20,000 members.

Lovett said there are six issues recognized within the association on bee health with pests and diseases always the biggest issue.

The others are the weather; habitat – getting enough food throughout the active season; bad beekeeping; regulatory control of treatments for Varroa and other diseases because bees are “food-producing animals” under EU law and any treatments are governed by the veterinary medicine regulations; and pesticides.

Lovett said the association takes a pragmatic approach to pesticides, recognizing that insecticides have to be used, but the stewardship of their use was of critical importance.

In principle, systemic insecticides such as the neonicotinoids should be a step-forward in reducing bee exposure, since they are not sprayed but applied to the seed.

   He said there was some lab evidence of a potential issue and that need to be investigated, but did not see a need to ban the products in the meantime.

A question and answer session focused on the use of neonicotinoid and other systemic insecticides compared with the older chemistry.

Pettis said these products represent a newer class of insecticide that could be described as replacements for previous “dirtier” chemistry.

Lovett said that there were concerns about more subtle effects of this chemistry, but “heaven forbid” if farmers had to go back to extensive spraying to control the insects that they needed to control.

   Hartfield said in the absence of neonicotinoids, it would be difficult to control pests in some crops such as sugar beet and such crops might become unviable as a result.

Pettis concluded that not only was there little evidence for any direct affects of the introduction of GM crops on bee health, the reduction of insecticides used on insect-tolerant crops, especially GM cotton, had undoubtedly had a positive impact on bee health.

Pettis said his research is in the process of peer-review with a scientific journal and will be published shortly.

“Despite the disparity between clear negative effects in the lab and no observable effects in the field, pesticides are not off the hook and we must continue to look at the level of exposure and the effects of exposure on pollinators.”


Dear Amy, 

Honeybees are dying off at an alarming rate. And, if Americans don’t act now to deal with what is being called “Colony Collapse Disorder,” we risk devastating our domestic food supply.

Yes, it’s that serious. According to American beekeepers, around one-third of the existing population of honeybees has died off every year since 2006 -- and scientists believe this year could be even worse.

As more than 30% of our domestic food production depends on honey bee pollination, this crisis can’t be ignored.

What is causing Colony Collapse Disorder? There are a number of reasons, but mounting evidence points to pesticides -- and three “neonicotinoid” pesticides in particular: clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiomethoxam.

That’s why a coalition of nonprofits, beekeepers, and concerned citizens are asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban these three pesticides. More than 1.2 million people have already signed onto the coalition’s campaign. Will you?

We don’t have much time. Please click here now to tell the EPA to ban these pesticides and save American honeybees. On May 5, more than 1.2 million signatures -- including yours -- will be hand-delivered to the EPA.

The EPA approved clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiomethoxam years ago, and since then, these neonicotinoid pesticides have been sprayed on millions of acres of corn, soy, and wheat fields.

Shocking documents recently revealed that EPA scientists questioned the scientific studies that led to clothianidin’s approval. Other research links imidacloprid to the increased susceptibility of honeybees to fatal diseases. But top officials allowed these chemicals to stay on the market anyway.

That’s why American beekeepers, Pesticide Action Network, Pesticide Watch, Slow Food USA, and other interested parties are petitioning the EPA to immediately pull them from the market or seriously restrict their use. 

While the EPA has already said that it will reevaluate the safety of neonicotinoids, experts agree that this action will take place too far down the road in order to adequately protect honeybees. Honeybees are dying now -- conserving the species requires immediate and drastic measures.

Click the link below to add your name to the petition asking the EPA to take these pesticides off the market -- and save the bees and our food supply. Please sign here now:


Thanks for taking action today to save the honey bees. This won't happen without you.