[permaculture] MEDIA RELEASE: Beekeepers get the facts straight on honey bees

Lawrence London lfljvenaura at gmail.com
Fri Feb 6 11:32:21 EST 2015

OBA responds to misleading media campaign by a coalition of Ag groups &
AGChem supporters
 February 2, 2015


MEDIA RELEASE: Beekeepers get the facts straight on honey bees

MILTON, ON. A coalition of Ontario Farm organizations, along with pesticide
and seed industries, has launched a major advertising campaign touting
their concern for honey bees. This expensive campaign is an attempt to
defend a highly profitable monopoly that promotes the overuse of the
pesticides that are killing Ontario’s bees and poisoning our soil and
water. The ads purport to “get the facts straight” on honey bees.
Unfortunately their presentation of isolated ‘facts’ are designed to
mislead the public into false conclusions about pesticides and honey bee

The Ontario Beekeepers’ Association has represented the interests of
Ontario beekeepers since 1881. No one knows more about honey bees in
Ontario than Ontario beekeepers. That’s why we need to set the record
straight. Let’s compare what the ad claims to what beekeepers know to be

The ad claims: “Honey bee colonies are up almost 60% since 2003, when the
use of neonicotinoid seed treatments were introduced.”

Last winter Ontario beekeepers lost 58% of their hives. The number of honey
bee colonies (measured in mid summer) does not reflect the large number of
colonies lost each winter, nor does it reflect the 30,000 queens or nearly
20,000 bee packages that beekeepers had to purchase to replace the
unusually high number of colonies that failed in the winter and spring. We
also want to stress that although honey bee colonies can be managed by
beekeepers to sustain their numbers, reports indicate serious declines
among wild bees and other pollinators.

The ad claims:” Honey production has increased by 29% in the past year and
Ontario has a successful honey beekeeping industry which earned $30 million
in 2014.”

Fact: Honey production on a per colony basis is actually down by 40% since
2003. We’d also like to point out that ‘earnings’ are not the same as
‘profits’. Every spring Ontario beekeepers work diligently, and at great
cost, to recover their winter losses and respond to the high demand for
bees for blueberry pollination. Ontario’s beekeepers are producing less
honey while incurring significant costs to restore their colony numbers. As
well, although Canada is a net exporter of honey, Ontario experiences a
honey trade deficit of nearly $15 million due to the lack of safe bee
pasture and the inability of pesticide weakened colonies to meet current

Perhaps an even more significant figure is the contribution Ontario’s
beekeepers make to agriculture which OMAFRA estimates to be $897 million in
Ontario and another $71 million in eastern Canada.

The ad claims: “Health Canada recently released a report that the number of
honey bee incidents reported during planting was down 70 per cent.”

Another misleading statement. The Health Canada report cited was an interim
report. In fact, Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture, Farming and Rural
Affairs (OMAFRA) reported (see link to PA report below) that pesticide
poisoning incidents were actually higher in 2014 (345) compared to 2013
(320) and 2012 (240). It’s also important to note that with 58% of colonies
dying over the winter there were fewer colonies exposed to pesticides and,
as well, due to the late planting

season, many colonies had already left the province for pollination
services when neonic treated corn and soy were being planted.

The ad claims: “Bee experts agree that the top health issues for honey bees
are parasites, diseases, inadequate nutrition, adverse weather and hive
management practices”.

Another misleading statement. Beekeepers have been able to manage mites,
disease and pests for decades. Unfortunately, however, we are unable to
avoid pesticide exposure. In Ontario, neonics are used to treat over 5
million acres of soy and corn, when even our own provincial crop
specialists say that they are only needed on 10% – 20% of these acres. In
addition to killing bees outright, neonicotinoids compromise bees’ immune
systems, making them more vulnerable to viruses and making it more
difficult to fight off varroa. It reduces their navigation skills,
affecting the bees’ capacity to forage and communicate forage
opportunities; and it compromise nutrition by reducing the availability of
a diversity of uncontaminated plants.

The ad claims: “..real-world level field research consistently demonstrates
that response of neonicotinoid seed treatments does not result in honey bee
colony health issues.”

In 2013 the E.U. put in place a moratorium on the use of neonicotinoids on
field crops based on an extensive review of existing research. More
recently additional research has been published that overwhelmingly points
to neonicotinoids as the cause of the worldwide decline of bee populations
and other organisms. This year after reviewing 600 studies of
neonicotinoids in the single, most comprehensive study ever undertaken,
scientists concluded:

The body of evidence reviewed in this Worldwide Integrated Assessment
indicates that overall, a compelling body of evidence has accumulated that
clearly demonstrates that the wide-scale use of these persistent,
water-soluble chemicals is having widespread, chronic impacts upon global
biodiversity and is likely to be having major negative effects on ecosystem
services such as pollination that are vital to food security and
sustainable development.

The ad claims: “The fact is these regulations will not benefit honey bees”

We disagree. Ontario has taken a bold step to protect honey bees by setting
targets to reduce the use of neonicotinoid pesticides by 80% by 2017. This
step, alone, will help honey bees. In the past three years we have seen
excessive colony losses and an increase in the number of Ontario beekeepers
reporting incidents of pesticide poisoning, leading to Health Canada to
conclude in their 2013 report: “the current use of neonicotinoid pesticides
on corn and soy is not sustainable”.

Ontario’s policy will disrupt the highly profitable monopoly that the
global AgChem industry enjoys by promoting and selling pre-treated seeds as
cheap insurance. So it’s no surprise that the industry would spend hundreds
of thousands of dollars to deceive the people of Ontario to protect their

As beekeepers, we do not pretend to be crop farming experts. We will not
place ads or sponsor websites on crop farming or give advice to growers
about how to increase yield. But as farmers, we know about the health of
our livestock. We object strongly to any insinuation that current systemic
pesticide management practices on Ontario field crops are not killing our
bees, ruining our ability to make a living keeping bees and putting vital
pollinators and our food security at risk.

One thing we can all agree with, though, “Bees matter to agriculture. Bees
matter to us all.” ***

For background: Julie White, Director, enews at ontariobee.com 647-988-5942
For interviews: Tibor Szabo, President, president at ontariobee.com

Dennis Edell, Director, dennisnedell at gmail.com, 416-918-4448 For science
and resources on neonicotinoid pesticides: www.ontariobee.com/neonics

For OMAFRA Provincial Apiarist, Paul Kozak’s slide presentation to the OBA
AGM (source of data above)

The ag group and ag chem article in question (repost):

Canada farmers ad supporting use of Neonicotinoids (

Canada farmers ad supporting use of Neonicotinoids
Bee "Ex-Spurts" Dismantle Touted 'Harvard' Neonics-Colony Collapse Disorder
Study As 'Activist Science' (sorry but no cigar)
Chensheng Lu was in his element last month at a speech before a green group
at Harvard Law School. The School of Public Health professor was lecturing
on his favorite topic--his only subject these days, as it has become his
obsession: why he believes bees around the world are in crisis.
Lu is convinced, unequivocally, that a popular pesticide hailed by many
scientists as a less toxic replacement for farm chemicals proven to be far
more dangerous to humans and the environment is actually a killer in its
own right.
"We demonstrated that neonicotinoids are highly likely to be responsible
for triggering Colony Collapse Disorder in bee hives," claimed Lu. The
future of our food system and public health, he said, hangs in the balance.
Lu is the Dr. Doom of bees. According to the nutritionist -- but not clear
to most other experts in the field -- colony collapse disorder (CCD), which
first emerged in 2006, can be directly linked to "neonics," as the now
controversial class of pesticides is often called, and also to genetically
modified crops. Phased in during the 1990s, neonics are most often used by
farmers to control unwanted crop pests. They are coated on seeds, which
then produce plants that systemically fight pests.
To many environmental activists, the pesticide does more harm than good,
and they've found their champion in Chensheng Lu. It's been a busy fall for
the professor, jetting back and forth between Boston and Washington, with
forays around the United States to talk to adoring audiences. He presents
himself as the defender of bees, and this fiery message has transformed a
once obscure academic into a global "green" rock star, feted at events like
last month's lunch talk at Harvard.
The sudden abandoning of hives by honey bees known as Colony Collapse
Disorder has emerged as one of the hottest science mysteries in recent
years. Lu has authored two extremely controversial papers on CCD: one in
2012 and a second published this past spring. He and his two beekeeper
colleagues - there were no entomologists on his tiny research team -
contend that neonicotinoids present a mortal threat to bees. Not only that,
Lu claims, neonics endanger humans as well, accelerating Parkinson's
Lu reached folk hero status among environmentalists last May when the
Harvard School of Public Health launched a promotional campaign touting his
latest, controversial research: "Study strengthens link between
neonicotinoids and collapse of honey bee colonies," the press release
claimed. Before the study was even circulated, stories in some mainstream
publications including Forbes ran the release with only a pretense of a
The story exploded on the Internet. Many environmental and tabloid
journalists painted an alarmist picture based on Lu's research: "New
Harvard Study Proves Why The Bees Are All Disappearing," "Harvard
University scientists have proved that two widely used neonicotinoids harm
honeybee colonies," and "Neonicotinoid Insecticide Impairs Winterization
Leading to Bee Colony Collapse: Harvard Study" are three of hundreds of
blog posts and articles
Comments from professional beekeepers in Reddit on this article:


Canada farmers ad supporting use of Neonicotinoids
<http://i.imgur.com/2UPeIrK.jpg> (i.imgur.com
submitted 1 day ago by MianBao <http://www.reddit.com/user/MianBao>

[–]melonhayes <http://www.reddit.com/user/melonhayes> 1 point 1 day ago

As a complete novice I almost believed that article. It's a shame that a
lot of redditors who are too lazy to come to the comments are going to
believe this bs because on the surface it could be construed that the
beekeepers of reddit agree with it :(
 ]am_i_human <http://www.reddit.com/user/am_i_human> 2 points 1 day ago

I attend an agriculture college with a bunch of farmers in southern
Ontario. All I can say is that they think the whole neonic speculation is
bullshit. They get seriously mad when it's mentioned. You can't even have a
normal conversation with them about it because they refuse to hear anything
but what they know.
 [–]JustAPoorBoy42 <http://www.reddit.com/user/JustAPoorBoy42> 2 points 1
day ago

Isn't corn wind pollinated?

[–]shawn-caza <http://www.reddit.com/user/shawn-caza> 2 points 22 hours ago

The pesticide coats the seed, dust from planting has resulted in many
incidents of acute poisoning in recent years. Here's the map from 2012

There is also evidence the pesticide can accumulate in soil and water and
it's possible it can be taken up by other wild flowers. I know of a
beekeeper who experienced acute poisoning
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Z9PQRLqC2s> on the goldenrod flow.

]MianBao <http://www.reddit.com/user/MianBao>[S
] 22 points 1 day ago

And the position of the Ontario Bee keepers:


[–]shawn-caza <http://www.reddit.com/user/shawn-caza> 3 points 1 day ago*

I'd like to do more beekeeping on a larger scale, but until things change
in Ontario, it feels like it would be economic suicide.

Hopefully the proposed regulations go through, and no new harmful
replacement products get approved.

Edit: should also note that the act is actually interested in protecting
native bees as well. The rusty patch bumble bee is now virtually extinct.


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