40% loss of bees this year

This story was in Science Daily but also on many other news sources.

“Beekeepers across the United States lost more than 40 percent of their honey bee colonies during the year spanning April 2014 to April 2015”

Among hobbyists, it looks like varroa mite is a big factor. There is significant speculation about a variety of causes, but so far there is not a clear consensus. Pesticides are thought to play a role, but not every study agrees.

I have 2 active hives now, one with Italian honeybees and a second with a new colony of Russian:Carniolan hybrids. The Italians split and I was not able to catch the swarm, but the mother colony is flourishing. I have had 2 other hives with colonies that disappeared. I don’t know if those were colony collapse disorder, or other cause.

As a rank amateur, I still believe there is a role for resource and environmental stewardship. Without proof of benefit, but doing research in books and internet, these are the things I am doing to support pollinating insects.

:bee: I don’t use insecticides.
:bee: I plant pollen and nectar bearing shade trees. Over the past 3 years, I’ve planted 4 European Lindens, 1 American Linden, 1 Sourwood, and 3 Red Maples. I also planted a willow hedge for early pollen.
:bee: I did away with about 1/2 acre of my 2 are property’s grass, replacing with a wildflower meadow. The wildflower seeds were obtained from outsidepride.com, designated for my area. I am also in the process of adding patches of borage, clover, meadowfoam, phacelia (bee friend), and other pollen and nectar bearing plants.
:bee: My hives are organic. The honeycomb is not reused. The reason is, there is thought that reusing honeycomb concentrates insecticides in the bee colony.
:bee: I had my property registered with the state of Washington as a wildlife habitat. The reason for doing so was, in part, to avoid neighbors’ complaining about having a wildlife meadow. That may be excessive - two properties over is a pasture with donkeys, and 2 more properties over is a pasture with horses.

Honeybees forage an area with diameter of 3 to 5 miles. I can’t control what other property owners might do. I have neighbors who live very comfortably with chemistry. I hope that giving my honeybees, and other beneficial insects, a good environment on my property, I can at least dilute out the effects of what people further aflight might be doing.

I know there is a wide range of comfort on this site with insecticides and herbicides. I do not argue with pesticide users - nor will I - but I do think there is a place for organic orcharding and environmental stewardship.

As for how my orchard does without insecticides, it is early to say. I don’t have a commercial orchard with vast numbers of trees. I aim for disease resistant varieties when I can. I am experimenting with bagging. I get a lot of great plums, and we’ll see if I get a lot of apples this year. Peaches… we’ll see. Figs - usually get a lot, we’ll see this year. Cherries - usually quite a lot.


In other news, the incidence of residential bee hive removals in San Diego County is up three-fold and the vocational demand for bee stewards is up 2 fold in the western U.S.

Commercial bee colony abandonment has been positively linked to the use of insecticides in seed coatings, primarily Imidacloprid. For this same chemical, there is no correlation to bee disorders in other agriculture activities. In response the EU has banned use of nicotinoids as a seed coating and so have several U.S. states. The main problem was linked to sowing 1,000’s of acres of seed coated with Imidacloprid and having the dust rise to destroy nearby commercial bee colonies.

Personally, I prefer Acetamiprid over Imidacloprid for control of noxious insect pest such as leaf miners and ACP. Overall though, nicotinoids are a much better class of insect control than previous generations of pesticides. Certainly I would hate to revert to the use of organo-phosphates.

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If you don’t use pesticides in your colonies for AFB or mites you will get only very minimal dirty wax. I don’t use pesticides either but the wax combs save the bees alot of work making the comb. I’m on a 5 yr rotation of my wax replacement where I replace the two outside frames every year and put frames with new foundation in the middle squeezing all the frames to the outside every year. An inside out rotation. The am. lindens or basswood is the BEST honey, great tree too.
Imidacloprid and the other neonicts are systemic and they make the whole plant poisonous to insects, especially the reproductive areas like pollen which the bees feed to their offspring killing them in the process. I also would hate any return to o-ps.

40% loss of NON-NATIVE HONEY bees this year. How are your native bee populations doing?

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Honey bees differ from other livestock in that they must be free ranging. Their keepers have less control over their diets and what they are exposed to than owners of animals like chickens or cattle. We don’t really own bees, even when we stock their hives. The best we can do is to manage the colonies, attempt to provide optimal space, nutrition, and management of pests and diseases. Then hope they choose to stay and are not overcome by outside factors beyond our control. Most backyard hive losses that I’ve seen have been management issues, with keepers claiming CCD or wax moths or something else that was not the actual cause. A seemingly growing number do no active pest and disease management under the thought that the weak will succumb and the most appropriate will live to pass their genes.

Clint, the imported mites and accompanying diseases and their spread, as well as the susceptibility to insecticides, affect the native bees and wasps, as well. Those pressures are not unique to honeybees, but the studies and polls are done on the honey bees because they have commercial monetary value.

Are the imported honey bees disease vectors for native bees and other pollinators?

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I have a CA state applicators license and several entomologists are my good colleagues. I’ll repeat that there is no correlation to bee colony abandonment with nicotinoids when used other than seed coatings. There are many independent studies with this result. Using Acetamiprid as a systemic is an important control for ACP and there is not a single bee death reported with this use.

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It’s the imported varroa mite that carries diseases and acts as the vector between bees of all types. The bees aren’t the vectors. It’s the mite. Honey bees and how they are affected are the ones that are studied. Possibly because it’s easier, but most likely because that’s where the money is.

I have an Ia applicators licence, I was a state bee inspector, I taught the Ia state entomologist how to keep bees, I’ve sold and applied thousands of acres of the stuff. I work and teach with the entomology staff at Pioneer hybrid/Dupont, I’ve got bonafides too.

[quote=“Richard, post:8, topic:1311”]
is no correlation to bee colony abandonment with nicotinoids
[/quote]That’s what Bayer says too. Follow the money, France, Germany and other Euro states say neonicts do kill bees.
Mr Clint
Get rid of those imported non natives and we’d be some mighty hungry boys and girls.

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I’m not necessarily saying get rid of non-native bees in all or some cases, nor am I saying it would be a bad idea, I’m asking what is their impact on native pollinator populations? Are they disease vectors? Do they out-compete native bee populations for (in some cases) limited food sources? Randomly setting up a hive somewhere seems like a good way to see a 40% or greater loss. Doesn’t that skew the data to some degree?

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You’re misquoting me. I actually said

That’s simply not true. They have banned nicotinoids as seed coatings but recommended them for other uses. Further your use of “neonicts” is worrisome because it is a term spawned in lifestyle magazines and has zero use in independent academic publications.

Or else it’s just shorter and quicker to type. One does not have to be a reader of lifestyle mags to use shortened words in posts.


Sorry to offend. It’s easy for me and my keyboard skills suck. I’m 2 finger hunt and peck. This forum certainly is not an independent academic publication merely a welcomed tool for fruit growers and their opins.
Richard, I’ve been professionally active in the green industry for 38 yrs. I sold imidacloprid when Bayer first released the neonictinoids (better?), used it for grub treatments in lawns and sod fields, seen it used for corn and soybean seed treatment for millions of acres all across the midwest. I’ve seen the damage this product has caused the beekeeping industry and am witness to Bayer, to this day, attempting to mitigate the damage they have caused in Ia. to the bees, even the natives. Also am witness to Bayer refusing to even mention that the product is toxic to bees. This chemical group is an important tool in agriculture, but so are our pollinators as 40% of your food comes from insect pollinated plants. As much as I would hate to go back to the ops, we have to strike a happy place in the middle so all can live without the tension a 40% decrease in food quantities would cause.


Yes, among the nicitinoids I’m not a fan of Imidacloprid either but Acetamiprid has better properties (organic chemistry) and doing a great job controlling leaf miners and ACP on Citrus and related crops without a noticeable dent in bee foraging on any of my plants that bloom 24/7 year round.

Here’s some straight-up facts about Imidacloprid and agricultural dosages (listed on the label) of nicitinoids in general:

  1. foliar spray will kill numerous bugs and insects, including bees.
  2. soil drench as a systemic treatment for leafminers, aphids, etc. has zero effect on bees.

I was trying to find data on how Euro honey bees are doing. If neonics are the key culprit and the forms banned in Europe are crucial then their bees should arguable be thriving after 2 years of NN banishment, no?

I always thought it strange that amateur beekeepers in non agricultural areas were having the same difficulties as commercial beekeepers whose hives are parked in the vicinity of major NN use. Yesterday I read in the NY Times that is because amateur hives suffer more from mites while the commercial beekeepers hives suffer from an unproven combination of factors, which “probably” includes exposure to NN’s.

Where NN’s are banned should provide a reasonable evaluation of their role in declining bee health, I would think. I couldn’t find much when I searched for the data on this.

I have Assail in my quiver but never use it where I know honey bees are part of the pollinating mix, even though I believe it not to be one of the NN’s known to be problematic.

Of course, what I do has very little impact on this problem- it is all about the commercial production of food and its’ huge scale.

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Richard, this question is not meant to argue that class is either safe or detrimental to bee populations, I’m simply questioning your statement as worded, since you stated that these are “straight up facts” and “listed on label”. I do not have those insecticides in stock and have not read their labels since I don’t use them, but I do thoroughly read all labels on the insecticides before using. All of the ones I’ve ever read state the targeted pests for which they have been approved only. They do not mention the untargeted ones which are also affected, except for warnings about bees during flowering when that is required. I’ve never seen a label on anything that I’ve used that specifically stated it had no effect on bees when used in any directed manner. Do their labels actually outright state they have zero effect on bees when used as a systemic soil drench? I’d be surprised since label statements declaring safety are the type of thing that can increase liability if proven otherwise. Products that I have used specifically for controlling pests within the hive don’t even make that claim.

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Commercial bee keeping moved from a perennial crop to an annual crop.
Time will tell if commercial bee keepers can stay profitable replacing so many queens/hives each year.

The factory farming future might be a warehouse full of Flow Hives where they put corn syrup in the top and extract something they call Honey out the bottom.

I worry about native bees and other pollinators are they suffering 40% decline also.
My feeling is it may be worse.

Where I live we are surrounded by toxic wastelands of Cotton, Peanuts and Corn.
Plus acres of Forrest Gump style mowed lawn. (Forrest wasn’t armed with Weed & Feed.)
From a bees perspective it looks like the Sahara desert.

I am trying to help native bees and other pollinators that can live there life cycles within a few acre area.

The Honey bees advantage used to be that it foraged up to seven miles from the hive.
In our new world foraging miles from the hive will get you killed.