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Article posted May 10 2007, 1:18 PM Category: Science/Technology Source: Print

No Organic Bee Losses

"Sharon Labchuk is a longtime environmental activist and part-time organic beekeeper from Prince Edward Island. She has twice run for a seat in Ottawa's House of Commons, making strong showings around 5% for Canada's fledgling Green Party. She is also leader of the provincial wing of her party. In a widely circulated email, she wrote:

I'm on an organic beekeeping list of about 1,000 people, mostly Americans, and no one in the organic beekeeping world, including commercial beekeepers, is reporting colony collapse on this list. The problem with the big commercial guys is that they put pesticides in their hives to fumigate for varroa mites, and they feed antibiotics to the bees. They also haul the hives by truck all over the place to make more money with pollination services, which stresses the colonies.

Her email recommends a visit to the Bush Bees Web site at Here, Michael Bush felt compelled to put a message to the beekeeping world right on the top page:

Most of us beekeepers are fighting with the Varroa mites. I'm happy to say my biggest problems are things like trying to get nucs through the winter and coming up with hives that won't hurt my back from lifting or better ways to feed the bees.

This change from fighting the mites is mostly because I've gone to natural sized cells. In case you weren't aware, and I wasn't for a long time, the foundation in common usage results in much larger bees than what you would find in a natural hive. I've measured sections of natural worker brood comb that are 4.6mm in diameter. What most people use for worker brood is foundation that is 5.4mm in diameter. If you translate that into three dimensions instead of one, it produces a bee that is about half as large again as is natural. By letting the bees build natural sized cells, I have virtually eliminated my Varroa and Tracheal mite problems. One cause of this is shorter capping times by one day, and shorter post-capping times by one day. This means less Varroa get into the cells, and less Varroa reproduce in the cells.

Who should be surprised that the major media reports forget to tell us that the dying bees are actually hyper-bred varieties that we coax into a larger than normal body size? It sounds just like the beef industry. And, have we here a solution to the vanishing bee problem? Is it one that the CCD Working Group, or indeed, the scientific world at large, will support? Will media coverage affect government action in dealing with this issue?

These are important questions to ask. It is not an uncommonly held opinion that, although this new pattern of bee colony collapse seems to have struck from out of the blue (which suggests a triggering agent), it is likely that some biological limit in the bees has been crossed. There is no shortage of evidence that we have been fast approaching this limit for some time.

We've been pushing them too hard, Dr. Peter Kevan, an associate professor of environmental biology at the University of Guelph in Ontario, told the CBC. And we're starving them out by feeding them artificially and moving them great distances. Given the stress commercial bees are under, Kevan suggests CCD might be caused by parasitic mites, or long cold winters, or long wet springs, or pesticides, or genetically modified crops. Maybe it's all of the above...

Article Received from Lancifer

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Comments 1 - 20 of 45 Add Comment Page of 3 >

Posted: May 11 2007, 3:40 PM

6734 You are completely correct actually. Natural things make both our bodies and the bodies of animals and bacteria around us better. Our world is finally rebelling against the man made chemicals we've pumped into ourselves and our surroundings. We must realize we can augment the outside of our world with our inventions, but that we have survived in almost perfect order for 1000s of years off of what the earth mother has given us. Holistic medicine, natural foods, medicinal marijuana, smokable opium painkillers, topical anesthetics. Spread the good word of NATURAL THINGS WITHIN, BOTH WITHOUT THE SELF.

Posted: May 11 2007, 4:08 PM

76168 Hi.

I recently witnessed a hive self-destructing. I saw 200 to 2000 bees circling next to the intake of a new industrial-sized air conditioner in Burbank, CA, USA. The sun had become hidden by late-afternoon clouds. To me it looked as if the bees were lost: They thought they were near their hive, but they were far from the hive.

The next day, the janitors were sweeping up thousands of dead bees. I got down on my hands and knees with a paper cup afterward, and still managed to pick up about 50 of the 200 bees that were left. Less than 5 still showed any signs of life. They appeared to have starved from flyng around in circles until they dropped.

I'm thinking of sending the dead bees to the USDA for analysis. Poison, a pheremone-like chemical from the air conditioner or the plant, or disorientattion due to clouds could explain what I saw. I hope you are right and this can be cured by organic beekeeping, but I'm not sure, from what I just saw.

Posted: May 11 2007, 5:41 PM

14268 One of the earlier reports attributed the loss of bee colonies on cellular phones. I'm not that familiar with all the technical aspects of beekeeping, but why do bees need cell phones? Could we solve the problem by taking their phones away?

Posted: May 11 2007, 6:11 PM

Einstien said, "If all the bees were to disappear off the planet, mankind would have four years left before we disappeared."
I don't think we have a lot of time for debate on CCD. Serious action needs to take place immediately. Lets not toss this issue around for decades(I doubt we would be able to for half a decade) as we have global warming.

Posted: May 11 2007, 6:42 PM

7229 The reason that beekeepers insert foundation wax with imprint of a cell is to have the bees build the cells in an orderly fashion so that the frame can easily be removed when it comes time to extract the honey. In the wild bees will build cells that result in waves of cells. Not conducive to economical honey extraction for the beekeeper. Smaller cells may indeed help.

Posted: May 11 2007, 7:12 PM

6849 Isn't it a good thing that the inorganic bees are dying?
The thought of artificial robo-bees terrifies me.

Posted: May 11 2007, 7:27 PM

127 I don't know who made that statement about bees, but it probably wasn't Einstein. No one's been able to find an original work in which he said it.

Also, natural and artificial things both make our lives worse and better. The trick is always to choose something with some data to back it up. Thus colloidal silver, for example, is questionable, since there is no data that proves its effectiveness. At the same time, corporate interests promote artificial substances more from profit motive than proof of effectiveness. The best way to proceed is always to abandon preconceptions, investigate, and test. This is the foundation of science.

Posted: May 12 2007, 12:24 AM

199126 Interesting. But I keep bees, and I don't truck them around of feed them antibiotics. Two years ago we were allowing beekeepers to come and see what was billed as the healthiest hive in the city. Then we had Varroa mites, and that was the end of the colony.
This year we put in the mite killing strip for two weeks - surely not a terrible overreaction, given that the hive, organic or not, would die without it - even the areas where the bees abandoned the combs and made their own cells died. And they died again. No trucks, no antibiotics, we thought good thoughts and gave money to Greenpeace, but they still died.
It is quite often the case that there is a simple solution to our problems, and one that people who seek authority would rather not see used, but I don't think that in this case it is a refusal to use modern beekeeping methods.
Our commercial beekeeper who sold us the hive says that the colony collapse disorder rate in Canada is essentially zero, and it was just a bad year for a variety of reasons, and the beekeepers in Europe say that CCD is just a case of mites and fungus together.
We have ordered more bees and are proceeding with an open mind and will see what happens. If radical political ideologies and rash statements are required to keep bees we may have to consider them, but for now we are giving common sense a try.

Posted: May 12 2007, 12:34 AM

199126 Honeybees aren't native to North America and if you are a green you shouldn't be raising them here. Bumblebees don't make much honey but they belong here. Non-indigenous species are a plague and if you claim to care about the environment you shouldn't be raising them here. Don't be green just when it suits your wallet.

Posted: May 12 2007, 1:03 AM

1) Einstein didn't say that
2) Einstein wasn't a biologist, nor a ecologist
3) No one is talking about *all* the bees disappearing
4) No one knows specifically why this is happening yet, yelling for a solution won't help
5) The "media's" job is not to compel the "government" to "do something"
6) The government's job is not to "do something" (I hope)

Everyone, remain calm. Diligently collect facts; create hypotheses; test them.
Rinse-wash-repeat. Then we can talk about creating incentives for the
actors to engage in behaviors that may "solve" the "problem".

Nation of Gandhis

Posted: May 13 2007, 10:47 AM

65141 Can you plant herbs near the hive (thyme, rosemary?) to prevent Varroa mites infestation? No one has eveer heard of this?

Posted: May 13 2007, 1:45 PM

205188 I guess there is no way to spread the word about this discovery to other Beekeepers? I guess we must pay higher food prices for this ignorance as we must pay higher gas prices to pay for the war chest of our politicians and the greed of big oil even though new oil fields are being found all the time! Its only money. PS I have gigantic bees here in NJ is it legal for me to protect myself from them or just let them sting me! Shalom.

Posted: May 13 2007, 9:40 PM

757 BG,

I have been following the use of silver over the last 15 years.* Not only did doctors of the 1800's know about its usefulness, but there have been numerous scientific studies showing antibacterial properties for over 600 bacteria.

*The Body Electric, Becker, 1985. This interesting book has been right on a number of scientific "discoveries" since I originally read it with skepticism: Silver, Bone growth, cell de-differentiation, Mammalian regeneration.

Posted: May 14 2007, 3:13 AM

64142 Michael,

I notice you don't provide any references to clinical studies that back up your claims about silver except for a pseudoscience book about the body's electric fields and psychic phenomena.

However, here I will present some interesting links. The first is to the wikipedia page on Montana Senatorial Candidate Stan Jones, who gave himself silver poisoning with colloidal silver:

The second is the FDA's report in which they determine that colloidal silver use has no substantiated benefit but real risks.

Finally, for fun, the page on colloidal silver.

Remember, real science isn't afraid to lay its cards on the table, because the goal is the furthering of knowledge and not any particular viewpoint or agenda. Pseudoscience relies on dazzle, misdirection, and emotional appeal in order to sway the reader to the writer's point of view, often to increase the writer's profits. Always be alert for those things.

Posted: May 14 2007, 1:49 PM

1240 I went out and measured comb that my bees made "naturally", not on foundation; it varies from 4.5 - 6 mm. But, such variation even occurs on foundation...

I find the article disingenuous and intentionally misleading by innuendo -- the notion is that "natural" is better. In some cases that may be true, but I don not agree with the authors accusations that bees are being hyper-sized and medicated like cattle. For 1 teaspoon of honey they visit over 1 million flowers. Now if they want to attribute medicated bees to pesticides that may be...

No one mentioned that like flowers, bees are OFTEN used for genetic breeding; like gentleness, ability to keep the comb clean, resistance to varroa mites (such Queens I bought for the last several years), and I suspect size of comb cells development... The new biologist hired by UC Davis in California to ramp up their bee department excels in artificial insemination of Queen bees for the very purpose of creating kinder/gentler bees that are resistant to newly evolving predatory insects.

"They also haul the hives by truck all over the place to make more money with pollination services, which stresses the colonies." -- There are historical references back 3,500 b.c. of bees moved during the seasons ("The Sacred Bee in Ancient Time and Folklore", by Hilda M. Ransome).

With this line of thought we should not exercise our bodies; not gather seeds, put them rows, and water them to grow vegetables; never use antibodies (I would have died at the age of 3 without antibodies); not wear glasses; have never made metals, plastics, electronics, cement, not drive cars, not use computers, etc., etc., etc. Ridiculous.

The ad on their article page, GloryBee Beekeeping, certainly sells "Commercial" foundation as well as the "fumigate" the article complains about. On subsequent visits to the webpage the ads are for Dadant (which is one of the leading suppliers of fumigants in the US), and "Eradicate the Varroa Mite" company which uses formic acid fumigant to stop varroa mites. This is just about as hypocritical as one can get.

What I find the most disturbing is the manipulation of information to purport facts when through innuendo espouse ones opinion. It would also be easy to attribute another of their other motives to just wanting ad sales revenue from their website via controversial articles

Posted: May 14 2007, 4:20 PM

128125 About the Einstein comment on the bees. Just so you guys know, bees dont pollinate even MOST of the biomass we eat. The pollinate the tasty stuff like citrus fruit and many others but all grains are wind pollinated and we would certainly be able to survive albeit maybe a bit less nutritively diverse. Also I would like to see a ref on the claim that there have been ABSOLUTELY no losses in organic bees. And to the NATURAL is best poster. Go ingest some natural arsenic and tell me how great all natural things are for the body.

Posted: May 17 2007, 12:58 AM

195189 I don't usually visit this site but was drawn by the subject and struck by the ignorant comments.
1.character assassination without chance of rebuttal.
2.implying organic ag not ecofriendly,as if that were not its reason for being.
3.dismissal of pesticides as a cause,though strong evidence points to imidacloprid,used worldwide.
I state these for the record only,realizing the proudly ignorant will only come around when they are ready,if ever.(see Bush approval ratings)

Posted: May 17 2007, 5:42 AM

212134 RE: imidacloprid

If there is strong evidence for this then please let us see some or at least link to where it is. I would hate to remain ignorant!

(and I resent the link to george bush, insults show that the argument has been lost already)

Posted: May 17 2007, 6:42 PM

205236 You are right that the link to George Bush was uncalled for. (I am as ignorant and prideful as the next guy.) Thank-you for showing the civility to move beyond that.

Here is a quick summary of imidacloprid-related CCD info:

Mysterious Bee Deaths Strike Central Valley:
Regent and Gaucho in fall: bees in rise!:
(Use google translator)
Is Imidacloprid Harmful to Bees?:
Effects of sub-lethal imidacloprid doses on the
homing rate and foraging activity of honey bees:
Environmental Fate of Imidacloprid:
Imidacloprid + fungus = CCD?:

Hope that helps, and keep up the positive attitude.

Posted: May 17 2007, 7:35 PM

205236 I'm sorry, the ignorant comments were actually on!

Hard to keep track of where I was on my tiny cellphone screen.

Apologies to all the people of this site.
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