80,000+ beehives damaged or dead; Congressional Briefing; Bumble bees, and more

80,000+ beehives damaged or dead;

Beekeepers Meet With EPA

The last two weeks the Pollinator Stewardship Council has received reports of bee kills at the end of the almond bloom.  A meeting with EPA was held by Pollinator Stewardship Council, American Honey Producers Association, and the American Beekeeping Federation, Monday, March 24 in Los Banos, California to discuss the pollinator losses during almond pollination.  More than seventy beekeepers attended in person and on a conference call.

Bees were released from almond pollination, and beekeepers began to see the effects of a tank mix that caused dead adult bees, and dead, dying, and deformed brood.  A poll taken of the seventy-five beekeepers at the meeting showed 80,000 colonies damaged: 75% of them severely damaged.  Additional reports place an average loss of 60% of hives in almonds were impacted.  Of that 60%, 40% lost adult bees and had dying brood, 20% of the hives were dead completely.  These losses were experienced by beekeepers who wintered in California, as well as those who brought their bees into almonds from southern states.

The meeting addressed the bee kills in almonds, and the new label language for foliar applications of clothianidin, dinotefuran, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, and the two new products tolfenpyrad and cyantraniliprole.   The majority of the meeting addressed the damages beekeepers suffered from a tank mix that included an insect growth regulator (IGR) and a fungicide.  The tank mix was applied “per the label.”  However, the IGR has decimated the ability of beekeepers to make splits for the next crop pollination, to breed queens, or to make packages of bees.  Many beekeepers expressed grave concern that the tank mix was applied in one area, but honey bees from other orchards, under another grower’s pollination contract received damaged due to drift, and foraging range.  Some of the bee damage was not evident until truckloads of bees returned to their southern homes.  The effects of fungicides and IGRs were delayed just enough beekeepers did not realize the impact until their hives were released from pollinating almonds.  Research has shown fungicides are detrimental to pollinators.  (Fungicides can reduce, hinder pollination potential of honey bees http://westernfarmpress.com/fungicides-can-reduce-hinder-pollination-potential-honey-bees)

Research and experience has shown night applications of pesticides in almonds causes less damage to pollinators.  Beekeepers at the Los Banos meeting stated they have been experiencing damage to their bees in almonds for six years.  The damages decreased when growers applied products at night, or did not apply any products during the bloom; but this year some practices changed, and bees were heavily impacted.  The impact was so great a few beekeepers said they would not return to almonds, as they cannot take these losses to their bees and their business.

The bee kills in almonds at the end of this season were due to products used “per the label.”  The fungicides, the IGRs were all used per the label. The tank mixing of products were all used per the label.  Directions on pesticide labels generally state the herbicide, fungicide, insecticide “is physically and biologically compatible with many registered pesticides, fertilizers or micronutrients . . . If you have no experience with the combination you are considering, you should conduct a test to determine physical compatibility. To determine physical compatibility, add the recommended proportions of each chemical with the same proportion of water as will be present in the chemical supply tank into a suitable container, mix thoroughly, and allow to stand for five minutes.  If the combination remains mixed, or can be readily re-mixed, the mixture is considered physically compatible.”   One beekeeper described tank mixing this way, “The pesticide label basically instructs you to take a quart jar and mix the products you want to use into the jar.  If it does not ‘blow-up’ go ahead and mix the full chemicals and apply to the crop.”   (Pesticide Mixtures Have Damaging Effects on Bees  http://extension.psu.edu/pests/ipm/news/2013/pesticide-mixtures-have-damaging-affects-on-bees)

Last week we reported the EPA stated the new pesticide label language will now only be required for foliar applications of clothianidin, dinotefuran, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, and the two new products tolfenpyrad and cyantraniliprole.   At the Los Banos meeting the representatives from EPA stated they had not seen the letter from Mr. Jim Jones to the bee industry, and they were not aware of the issues the bee industry had concerning the new label language. (Jim Jones’ letter was posted on our Newslist and is available here again).  EPA listened politely, but made no promise to do anything, stating that changing label wording is a long and drawn out process, and one that cannot be done quickly.  Beekeepers on the other hand did make promises: promises to add a pesticide surcharge to pollination contracts next year; promises that if no enforceable change to labels is made before next years’ pollination to stay in Georgia or Florida and make honey in a safe environment rather than risk another season of severe hive damage. Beekeepers at the meeting asked EPA for two things: adding a statement on the label instructing applicators when and how to apply pesticides to not damage pollinators; and curtail the use of tank mixing.

Paramount Farms, the largest almond grower in the world, testified at the meeting they use no crop protection products during almond pollination season, and have found their yields improved when they made the decision to better time their pesticide use.

At the Los Banos meeting March 24 the beekeepers did a rough tally of total estimated losses.  1.7M colonies supplied by 1300 commercial beekeepers were needed to pollinate almonds.  Even with the drought, all available honey bees were utilized for almond pollination. Of the 1.7M total colonies, it is estimated fifteen to twenty-five percent were damaged (dead, loss of brood, loss of adult foragers in full or in part) which equals 255,000 to 425,000 colonies of honey bees severely impacted in almonds.  The conservative value of these losses is $63,750,000 to $106,250,000; however beekeepers are still assessing their damages.  This figure does not include the loss of viable colonies to satisfy subsequent pollination contracts.  This figure does not take into account the losses in selling bulk packages of honey bees, queens, or frames of brood to establish new hives.  With severely damaged hives some beekeepers have been forced to cancel orders.

Almonds are the beginning of the crop pollination season.  Almonds are the first crop honey bees pollinate.  What happens to honey bees in almonds affects the ability of crop pollination services to apples, cranberries, canola, tangelos, blueberries, squash, watermelon, kiwi, plums, apricots, cherries, seed crops, and so much of our vegetables and fruit.  One beekeeper who pollinates Washington apples after almonds was short 1200 hives due to his losses during almond pollination.  What happens to honey bees in almonds does not stay in almonds; it affects how many bees are available to pollinate other crops, the cost of pollinating those crops, and the cost of the food you buy to feed your family.

The Pollinator Stewardship Council works with beekeepers to collect reports of bee kills across the U.S. in rural, suburban, and urban areas.  Please contact the Pollinator Stewardship Council to file your bee kill report at 832-727-9492 or info@pollinatorstewardship.org .


Photos of hives at the end of almond pollination affected by the tank mix of a

fungicide and IGR

Hackenburg- dead bees and larvae on bottom board

Dead bees under hive.


Bob 4

Dead bees near hive entrance.


Tina Opp2

Partially hatched, deformed, or dead baby bees. 


Congressional Briefing: Save America’s Pollinators Act

March 25 and 26 the Pollinator Stewardship Council accompanied beekeeper, Jim Doan to meet with Congressional legislators concerning the Saving America’s Pollinator Act”  HR 2692.  We worked the Halls of Congress seeking additional co-sponsors of the HR 2692.  By the end of the two days another four legislators had joined as co-sponsors: Reps. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) and Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.). 

Pollinator Stewardship Council worked with a coalition to bring Dr. Dave Goulson  from the University of Sussex and Dr. Christian Krupke from Purdue University to Washington D.C. to present their research concerning neonics and pollinators.  Besides the Pollinator Stewardship Council, the coalition included the Center for Food Safety, American Bird Conservancy, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Environmental Health, Friends of the Earth, Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, Pesticide Action Network North America, and the Xerces Society.

Tuesday featured meetings with USDA, Fish and Wildlife Services, and individual Congressional meetings.  Wednesday a well-attended Senate briefing sponsored by Senator Gillibrand was held featuring Drs. Goulson and Krupke.  Jim Doan spoke at the briefing as well, sharing his personal story as a commercial beekeeper, and his concerns for pollinators, and the beekeeping industry.  A reception was held at the end of the day to thank the current sponsors of HR 2692, and to continue to seek additional sponsors.  Congressman Conyers and Congressman Nolan stopped by to talk with attendees. 

Please show your support of HR 2692 “Saving America’s Pollinators Act,” by contacting your Representative, and encourage them to support this bill to help protect your bees, to help protect beekeeping, to help maintain a sustainable and affordable food supply.

Below is the list of current co-sponsors.  If your Representative is not on this list, please encourage their support with this letter you can complete and email to them.

Rep Huffman, Jared (D-CA02)

Rep Lee, Barbara (D-CA13)

Rep Lofgren, Zoe (D-CA19)

Rep Negrete McLeod, Gloria (D-CA35)

Rep Roybal-Allard, Lucille (D-CA40)

Rep Speier, Jackie (D-CA14)

Rep Honda, Michael M. (D-CA17)

Rep Chu, Judy (D-CA27)

Rep Davis, Susan A. (D-CA53)

Rep Polis, Jared (D-CO02)

Rep Esty, Elizabeth H. (D-CT05)

Rep Johnson, Henry C. “Hank,” Jr. (D-GA04)

Rep Bordallo, Madeleine Z. (D-GU01) (Guam)

Rep Hanabusa, Colleen W. (D-HI01)

Rep Quigley, Mike (D-IL05)

Rep Schakowsky, Janice D. (D-IL09)

Rep Carson, Andre (D-IN07)

Rep Keating, William R. (D-MA09)

Rep McGovern, James P. (D-MA02)

Rep Tierney, John F. (D-MA06)

Rep. Conyers, Jr., John (D-MI13)

Rep McCollum, Betty (D-MN04)

Rep Nolan, Richard M. (D-MN08)

Rep Ellison, Keith (D-MN05)

Rep Clay, Wm. Lacy (D-MO01)

Rep Holt, Rush (D-NJ12)

Rep Horsford, Steven A. (D-NV04)

Rep Kuster, Ann M. (D-NH02)

Rep Shea-Porter, Carol (D-NH01)

Rep Lujan Grisham, Michelle (D-NM01)

Rep Lujan, Ben Ray (D-NM03)

Rep Meeks, Gregory W. (D-NY05)

Rep Nadler, Jerrold (D-NY10)

Rep Rangel, Charles B. (D-NY13)

Rep Slaughter, Louise McIntosh (D-NY25)

Rep Velazquez, Nydia M. (D-NY07)

Rep Israel, Steve (D-NY03)

Rep Clarke, Yvette D. (D-NY09)

Rep Price, David E. (D-NC04)

Rep. Blumenauer, Earl (D -OR-13)

Rep DeFazio, Peter A. (D-OR04)

Rep Schwartz, Allyson Y. (D-PA13)

Rep Fattah, Chaka (D-PA02)

Rep Cohen, Steve (D-TN09)

Rep Duncan, John J., Jr. (R-TN02)

Rep O’Rourke, Beto (D-TX16)

Rep Johnson, Eddie Bernice (D-TX30)

Rep Doggett, Lloyd (D-TX35)

Rep Moran, James P. (D-VA08)

Rep Connolly, Gerald E. (D-VA11)

Rep Larsen, Rick (D-WA02)

Rep McDermott, Jim (D-WA07)

Rep DelBene, Suzan K. (D-WA01)

Rep Norton, Eleanor Holmes (D-DC01)

Rep Petri, Thomas E. (R-WI06)

Rep Pocan, Mark (D-WI02)

FIND YOUR REPRESENTATIVE HERE  http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/



Beekeepers Are Proactive

Under our Resources tab on our website you will find links to State Laws for Beekeeping.  We list the link to the full text of the Saving America’s Pollinators Act.  We have added new legislation that is pending in Minnesota and Ohio.  This page also links you to the text of the recent laws/ordinances passed in Hawaii and Eugene, Oregon. Learn what beekeepers in other states are doing to protect managed and native pollinators: you can do it for your state as well.

Hawaii Bill 2491 now ordinance 960–A bill for an ordinance to amend the Kaua’I County code relating to pesticides and genetically modified organisms


HF 2908–Beekeeper Compensation–Bee death caused by pesticide poisoning compensation provided, pollinator emergency response team established, and money appropriated

SF 2695 (Dziedic) / HF 2798 (Hansen): Defines “pollinator lethal insecticides,” and says that nurseries cannot label plants as pollinator-friendly if they’ve been pretreated with these pesticides.   

SF 2723 (Dziedzic) /HF 2799 (Davnie): Would amend state preemption law so that the 4 largest cities in MN can regulate non-agricultural pesticides.    

Ohio House Bill 474 to create the “Ohio State Beekeepers Association” license plate which will fund research and education for bees.


Mosquito Abatements and Pollinators

The Pollinator Stewardship Council had the pleasure of speaking with the Massachusetts Beekeepers March 22 at their Spring Meeting.  An issue for many beekeepers, not just in Massachusetts is mosquito abatement.  Massachusetts has been experiencing bee kills due to a product tank mix of two pesticides and a synergistic.  The mix and the synergistic are very toxic to bees.  Applications such as this are best made after dark, not twilight, dark, in order to make sure managed and native pollinators have “retired” for the day.  To protect pollinators applications such as this should be completed by 2:00 a.m.  If the application is made earlier than “dark,” children and pets will still be outside playing.  Contrary to some pesticide labels, native pollinators are still foraging at twilight.   In order to protect human health, and the environment, mosquito abatements must protect children, their pets, as well as the environment, including managed honey bees and native pollinators.

While many pesticide labels and State Environmental Agencies cite a “48 hour notification to spray” to protect pollinators, in this case, honey bees that notification process is defined differently everywhere.  Some communities allow a homeowner to “opt out” of their property being sprayed.  However, if your neighbors on either side of you allow for spraying, it is drifting onto your property anyway.  Additionally, if you are a beekeeper you know your bees have a three to five mile forage range.  If the pesticide application lands on a water source (fish pond, puddle, stream, garden waterfall) your bees will get a full drink of the mosquito pesticide the next day, killing them.  There are no easy solutions to mosquito abatement issues.  Beekeepers need to be proactive, and educate their Board of Health/Mosquito Control Agency about pollinator concerns.  Mosquito abatements must be done per the label to protect human health and the environment: which means applications are best made after dark.  Mosquito abatement applications should be made per the label due to a verifiable health concern.  Boards of Health/Mosquito Control Agencies need to work with area beekeepers to protect their property, their managed honey bees from the harm of bee toxic mosquito pesticides.  Additionally, Boards of Health/Mosquito Control Agencies should learn about managed and native pollinators from local beekeepers.  A quick perusal of literature on the internet found incorrect information about bee kills due to mosquito sprays.  Key points to remember to protect pollinators from mosquito spray applications:

    1. apply the pesticide after dark
    2. ground applications are safer than aerial applications
    3. pollinators are still pollinating & seeking food (nectar & pollen) at temperatures as low as 42 degrees F.
    4. Notify beekeepers directly prior to any application; allow homeowners to “opt out” of a spray program.
    5. Moving bee hives is NOT practical, nor a solution for the beekeeper. Why should a beekeeper have to move his/her bees off their own property?
    6. Covering a bee hive is not a practical solution either, as the bees could overheat. 


Bees are exposed to the pesticide when they visit the flowers or a water source that was affected.  The time of day (dark), and the use of a short residual toxicity product will help protect pollinators. But remember, the native pollinators (bumblebees, butterflies, etc.) and our 4,000 native species of pollinators need our protection as well.  The Pollinator Stewardship Council encourages beekeepers to talk with their Board of Health/ Mosquito Control Agency, attend meetings, or become a member of your Board of Health, and educate your community about the value of pollinators.  “Be involved, be proactive, protect your bees.”



Texas Honey Queen to Visit GR

Dino Bee Club welcomes Hayden Wolf, informative presentation

Hayden Wolf Texas Honey Queen

Hayden Wolf

As reported by AMANDA KIMBLE news@theglenrosereporter.com

“While the end of a drought might be outside of man’s control, studies suggest there are other things threatening bee populations that could be controlled, including neonicotinoids. The neuro-active insecticides will be the center of discussion at the Dino Bee Club’s Tuesday, April 8 meeting.

Texas Honey Queen Hayden Wolf will present a program on the “bee-harming pesticides,” some of which have been banned in Europe, according to David Lyons, Dino Bee secretary. Wolf, crowned Texas Honey Queen by the Texas Beekeepers Association in January, resides in East Texas, where she recently reported her five hives “are still growing strong and have been quite active.”  . . . ” In her article, Wolf explained there are nicotine-based insecticides, with Imidacloprid being the most widely used. The chemical is used on corn and food crops, lawns, gardens and in some pet care products.  Lyons said the chemical is used on plants that can be bought at major retail outlets and marketed as “pest resistant.”

“Unlike some pesticides, which are only toxic at application, the nicotine-based insect killers can last for more than a month in sunlight, and much longer in other conditions. According to Wolf’s research, it could take more than three years for the compound to degrade, and when plants absorb the chemical through their roots, it spreads to the entire plant, including the pollen nectar. Research suggests neonicotinoids are toxic to honeybees and other beneficial insects. A report in the April 2012 edition of “Science” magazine, “Neonicotinoid Pesticide Reduces Bumble Bee Colony Growth and Queen Production,” said there was likely a direct correlation in the decreasing bee population.”

“Treated colonies had a significantly reduced growth rate and suffered an 85% reduction in production of new queens compared with control colonies,” the report stated. “Given the scale of use of neonicotinoids, we suggest that they may be having a considerable negative impact on wild bumble bee populations across the developed world.” . . . “To learn more, attend the club’s April 8 meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. at the Somervell County Citizens Center. The public is invited to attend.”   For the full article by Amanda Kimble go to http://m.yourglenrosetx.com/news/lifestyles/article_644454f5-a367-5636-a3f2-f201f68635ca.html?mode=jqm


Social Learning in Bumblebees (Bombus impatiens): Worker Bumblebees Learn to Manipulate and Forage at Artificial Flowers by Observation and Communication within the Colony by

Hamida B. Mirwan and Peter G. Kevan

“Social learning occurs when one individual learns from another, mainly conspecific, often by observation, imitation, or communication. Using artificial flowers, we studied social learning by allowing test bumblebees to (a) see dead bumblebees arranged in foraging positions or (b) watch live bumblebees actually foraging or (c) communicate with nestmates within their colony without having seen foraging. Artificial flowers made from 1.5 mL microcentrifuge tubes with closed caps were inserted through the centres of blue 7 cm plastic discs as optical signals through which the bees could not forage. The reinforcer reward syrup was accessible only through holes in the sides of the tubes beneath the blue discs. Two colonies (A and B) were used in tandem along with control (C and D) colonies. No bee that was not exposed (i.e., from the control colonies (C and D)) to social learning discovered the access holes. Inside colony B, we imprisoned a group of bees that were prevented from seeing or watching. Bees that saw dead bumblebees in foraging positions, those that watched nest-mates foraging, and those that had only in-hive communication with successful foragers all foraged successfully. The means of in-hive communication are not understood and warrant intense investigation.”  For the full article http://www.hindawi.com/journals/psyche/2013/768108/


Bumblebee Nest Boxes Do Not Work

Tamera Jones of Planet Earth online, Natural Environment Research Council reviewed research examining Bumble bee houses.   Conclusion: they don’t work.  “Researchers from the University of Stirling and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust tried out six different nest boxes. Some are available on the internet and from garden centres, while another one the researchers designed themselves.  Over their four-year study, they found that not a single commercial nest box ‘became occupied or showed any sign of inhabitation’ by bumblebees. The only box that showed some success at attracting bumblebees was an underground Heath Robinson-style box designed by the researchers. But even this box was unreliable – at best the homemade box attracted nesting bees seven per cent of the time, but at other times the insects shunned this design entirely. Instead, mice, ants or wasps often took up residence. “

  ‘If you bought a car and it didn’t go, you’d certainly have a right to complain.’
– Professor Dave Goulson, University of Stirling  ‘We had an inkling that bees don’t tend to use the boxes available in garden centres and the like, but we wondered if – with a bit of tweaking – we could get them to work,’ says bee expert Professor Dave Goulson from the University of Stirling.’

“During their study, the scientists deployed 736 nest boxes in gardens, on university grounds and on farms in southern England and central Scotland. On average only 23 were actively used by bumblebees – that’s a paltry 3.1 per cent. ‘If you bought a car and it didn’t go, you’d certainly have a right to complain,’ says Goulson.”  ‘ If people buy these nest boxes and they don’t work, we don’t want them to become disillusioned. It might be better for people to spend their money on planting a lavender bush or buying and sowing wildflower seeds. If they did, they’d soon see bees foraging on them and know they have done their bit to help.’

For the full news story and the research article select the following links:




Bumblebee nests

Visit http://bumblebeeconservation.org/about-bees/habitats/bumblebee-nests to learn what bumblebees look for in a nest site, how to provide a nesting site, the inside of a bumblebee nest, and what to do if you find a bumblebee nest, and more.


Idiopathic brood disease syndrome and queen events as precursors of colony mortality in migratory beekeeping operations in the eastern United States

byDennis van Engelsdorp, David R. Tarpy, Eugene J. Lengerichc, Jeffery S. Pettis

“Using standard epidemiological methods, this study set out to quantify the risk associated with exposure to easily diagnosed factors on colony mortality and morbidity in three migratory beekeeping operations. Fifty-six percent of all colonies monitored during the 10-month period died. The relative risk (RR) that a colony would die over the short term (50 days) was appreciably increased in colonies diagnosed with Idiopathic Brood Disease Syndrome (IBDS), a condition where brood of different ages appear molten on the bottom of cells (RR = 3.2), or with a “queen event” (e.g., evidence of queen replacement or failure; RR = 3.1). We also found that several risk factors—including the incidence of a poor brood pattern, chalkbood (CB), deformed wing virus (DWV), sacbrood virus (SBV), and exceeding the threshold of 5 Varroa mites per 100 bees—were differentially expressed in different beekeeping operations. Further, we found that a diagnosis of several factors were significantly more or less likely to be associated with a simultaneous diagnosis of another risk factor. These finding support the growing consensus that the causes of colony mortality are multiple and interrelated.”  For the full article go to http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167587712002656


Regulatory Permitting and Compliance Education Workshop to be held May 7, 2014

On May 7, 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Biotechnology Regulatory Services (BRS) will hold a Regulatory Permitting and Compliance Education Workshop at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The workshop will assist the biotechnology industry in complying with U.S. regulations for genetically engineered organisms (GE) by:

  • increasing participants’ knowledge of the USDA BRS regulatory application process and compliance inspection and enforcement processes;
  • learning how to navigate ePermits, the APHIS online electronic permitting tool;
  • understanding the regulatory differences between permits and notifications; and
  • introducing available compliance assistance opportunities.

The workshop will also provide an opportunity for participants to have their Level 2 eAuthentication accounts validated so they can fully utilize ePermits as a USDA customer.

Who Should Attend: Academia and public researchers who conduct, or anticipate conducting, agricultural research with regulated GE organisms, and graduate students and post-doctoral researchers, field managers, and institutional biosafety officers.

Registration Fee is $50 – Please register online by May 2, 2014, at http://ardc.unl.edu/APHISWorkshop Registration questions should be directed to Lisa Moravec lmoravec2@unl.edu 402-624-8020. Please refer to “USDA workshop” in the subject line.

For information about additional workshops, please visit Compliance Assistance on the BRS website or send an email to BRS.BQMS@aphis.usda.gov.