Saturday, January 2, 2010

Chemicals in the Environment

Researchers looking for the causes of honey bee Colony Collapse Disorder have found dozens of chemical agents in the beeswax honeycomb of affected bee hives. Beeswax readily absorbs and holds chemicals. The chemicals found include miticides used by the beekeepers to combat the parasitic mites that have devastated honey bee populations since they were discovered in the United States in the 1980s. The mites changed beekeeping from a craft in which chemicals were rarely used to one in which chemicals were used routinely. As could be expected, the chemicals found in the greatest concentrations are the common miticides, Fluvalinate and Coumaphos, both considered to be “harsh” pesticides. Other chemicals found in honeycomb included dozens of insecticides and pesticides. One insecticide being found in honeycomb is Imidacloprid, suspected by many beekeepers as affecting honey bee health. Imidacloprid, a member of a class of insecticides designed to be more environmentally safe than earlier products is often used to kill gnawing and chewing insects in lawns and crops. These insecticides are widely used in crop seed treatments, flea collars for pets, and home termite controls. In crops, Imidacloprid has a systemic action; it is carried through the vascular system of the plant, poisoning insects that chew the foliage. It is also brought back to the bee hive by bees foraging for nectar and pollen. Researchers are questioning the sub-lethal effects of this insecticide on honey bees.

There is considerable dependence today upon chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides for producing crops, growing lawns, and controlling termites. Genetically modified crops use herbicides to control weed growth, resulting in high-yield crop production at lower cost from reduced soil tillage. Concerned beekeepers, like us at Peace Bee Farm, are moving toward reduced chemical usage, avoiding “harsh” miticides in favor of “softer” agents, like those based on essential oils. In today’s photo, an agricultural applicator passes low over one of my bee yards then negotiates power lines and a passing chemical tanker to spray an adjacent field.


  1. Wow, thanks for the posting and the picture. Great timing..but sad story. We have gone overboard in North America with fungicides, insecticides and pesticides and .....cides and others. LOL

    But not really laughing...I believe it is indeed the chemicals utilized in farming practice that have created this colony collapse disorder. The ungodly thing about it is the biologists know this. They have to..but these state and federal agencies they work for continue to cover up these so called phenomenas that continually occur.

    The quail population in North Carolina has dropped to the point of near extinction throughout our state due to the defoliants used on the cotton crop here.

    The quail population has dropped to such record lows one never even sees a quail throughtout the farmlands as one did 15 years ago and they were everywhere.

    Sad, but even worst than that is these state wildlife and agricultural based agencies LIE and claim it is habitat depletion and blame it on the urban sprawl and residential developments.

    It seems to be a fight that they are willing to battle against for the repercussions that would follow from the agri community. WOW...

    But if us beekeepers would collectively consolidate our efforts and fight together we may be able to place a nice hearty dent in this common quasi business practice being wrought out in this nation.

    Fight and fight we must...

    Eastern NC

  2. A friend taking care of my geese while I was vacationing accidentally fed them chicken scratch. I returned home to find a pile of dead bees in the dishes! Is this a known phenom?