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By Richie Gerber

© Richie Gerber

© Richie Gerber

Can you guess the connection between Bees and Headaches? Most people can’t. Here is my first hint: aspirin. Can you now guess the connection? Probably not so here my second hint: Bayer. Still don’t know? Then here is the final giveaway hint which will make the connection obvious, neonicotinoids? Clothianidin aka Poncho® ? Imidacloprid aka Gaucho®? Humm…not as easy as I thought.

Give up? Here is what Bees and headaches have in common. Bayer, you heard me correctly. Bayer, the aspirin people with global sales of $45 billion, owns a subsidiary call Bayer CropScience AG that manufactures herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides (mentioned above) as well as treated seeds. CropScience alone does $8.8 billion in global sales that is about 20% of Bayer’s business. The EPA in a fact sheet issued 5/31/2003 has described Bayer’s Clothiantin, one of who’s trade names is Poncho® a pesticide from Bayer’s CropScience division, as follows: “ Poncho® is highly toxic to honey bees on an acute contact basis (LD50 > 0.0439 µg/bee). It has the potential for toxic chronic exposure to honey bees, as well as other nontarget pollinators, through the translocation of Poncho® residues in nectar and pollen. In honeybees, the effects of this toxic chronic exposure may include lethal and/or sub-lethal effects in the larvae and reproductive effects in the queen.” Is this starting to give YOU a headache? It sure is for me. It’s even worse for the bees.

In May 2008 Germany banned the use of Poncho® when German beekeepers reported loosing over 50% of their hives after a Poncho® application was linked to the deaths of millions of bees in the Baden-Württemberg region. Bayer responded that the toxic effect was an isolated incident caused by an “extremely rare” application error. So Poncho® is banned in Germany where Bayer was founded in 1863 and has its global headquarters. After the “extremely rare” application error people started to link Poncho®with Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). CCD has been ravaging bee populations and nobody knows its cause. Beekeepers thought they had the smoking gun.

So why does the EPA still allow the use of this insecticide in the US even though they described it in 2003 as “highly toxic to honeybees”? And why does the EPA still allow the use of this insecticide when its use has been banned in Germany where Bayer was founded 146 years ago, and has its global headquarters? Sure beats me. The EPA issued a Press Release on 7/1/08 stating its position on the subject. They state, “EPA believes this incident in Baden-Württemberg is not related to CCD. Although pesticide exposure is one of four theoretical factors associated with CCD that the United States Department of Agriculture is researching, the facts in this case are not consistent with what is known about CCD.” So for this specific incident the EPA does not see a connection between Poncho® and CCD. I am fine with their position that for this specific incident Poncho®, a “highly toxic” pesticide to bees, caused widespread bee deaths and that the Baden-Württemberg incident was not consistent with CCD. OK, I’ll buy that.

Then in August 2008 the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a lawsuit in federal court to force the EPA to disclose studies of the effect of  Poncho®  on honey bees. They believe that the EPA has evidence of the link between CCD and pesticides, which it has not made public. So far the EPA has not responded to the NRDC’s request for information. This is quite strange indeed. It appears to me that “everybody’s got something to hide except for me and my monkey”.

Numerous theories have been floating around regarding the cause of CCD but none has been proven. Some of the challenges facing bee populations are: parasites such as Varroa mites, bacterial or fungal disease, commercialization and industrialization of beekeeping, pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, climate and more. I believe that it may be a combination of several or all of these factors as well as others we do not even know about at this time.

I always told my Maine neighbors as well as my Bread of Life customers, I try not to eat food that has been treated with stuff whose instructions are: wear a long sleeve shirt and long pants, gloves, hat and respirator. Do not inhale or get in contact with skin or eyes. Then they dump this stuff on their food and EAT it. No way Jose!!! But those are pretty much the instructions for the application of Poncho®.

Epp-BEE-Log: I think the name Poncho® for an insecticide is cool. That is why I used it so much in this article. Great marketing! The EPA needs to redouble its efforts to analyze many of the substances on the market to see if they are part of the CCD problem. Maybe it might be a combination of chemicals. Maybe one farmer is applying chemicals while a nearby field is being pollinated. The EPA must also release any and all information on chemicals that are being applied to our food so we can see what is going on. All I can say to the EPA is, take two aspirin and call me in the morning!

By Richie Gerber

News Flash: 10 Billion Bees descend on California’s Central Valley!

Bee on Richie's Mango Tree ©Richie Gerber
Bee on Richie’s Mango Tree ©Richie Gerber

This might sound like an alarm or call to action but in fact it is a yearly occurrence. It is the largest migration of “workers” in the US, actually in the world. Every February over 2,200 18-wheelers carrying more than 1.2 million hives from all parts of the US descend on California with their 10 billion bees. No, it is not Woodstock for the bees! The 10 billion bees descend on California in order to pollinate the almond crop.  It’s nuts, literally. That is equal to lining up 2,200 trucks end to end from Midtown Manhattan to Greenwich, Connecticut 30 miles away.

California’s Agricultural Industrial Almond Complex yields over 80% of the world’s almonds. This makes almonds the number one horticultural export crop in the US and generates over 2 billion dollars in income. It is also California’s #1 agricultural export. Over 1,100 square miles in central California are devoted to almonds. 700,000 acres with about two hives per acre dot this area every February.

For about three weeks in February ¾ of all the nations commercial honeybees are working in the almond groves of California. Just to put things into perspective next year the almond growers will need to increase the number of hives from 1.2 million to 2 million because of new trees maturing as well as increased acreage. This means that the need for honeybees to pollinate the almond crop will increase from 10 billion bees to over 16 billion bees in just one season for just one crop, for just three weeks. Astounding!!! Bee-yond Bee-lief.

After the three week almond bloom is over and the trees have passed flowering the beekeepers pack up the hives with their special forklifts and load them back onto their flatbed tractor-trailers. Than they deliver the hives to the next crop to bloom. After that, the next crop bloom and on and on; apples in Washington State, cranberry bogs in Cape Cod, blueberries in Maine, citrus in Florida, watermelons, cantaloupes, melons, cucumbers, squash, mangos, avocado, cherries, pears etc.… This is the life of the migrant bee, over worked, under paid and underappreciated. 

Bees have always been primarily prized for their honey, which has been a food staple since prehistoric times. Since the advent of modern agricultural industrial methods the relationship of bees and food production has changed dramatically. The role of the bee has grown from a producer of food to a pollinator service provider.

The commercial beekeeper harvests his honey but that has become a smaller percentage of his income compared to renting out his bees. The almond farmers pay about $165 per box (hive) for the three-week bloom. If a beekeeper ships his 30,000 hives for the almond bloom he or she can expect to receive $500,000. Yes, you heard me right, a half a million dollars for THREE WEEKS. Don’t get me wrong; I am not criticizing the beekeeper for making money. I think that is wonderful. It is hard work and with hive loss etc. it is a very risky business. The same goes for the farmer. It is a tough and risky business. 2008’s bumper crop produced 1.5 billion pounds of almonds. 2009 will probably be about 1/3 less because of weather conditions as well as weak pollination. So both the farmer and beekeeper must deal with the age-old feast or famine dilemma. I respect them both immensely.

Bees, you can live with them but you can’t live without them.

Bees have been around over 25 million years. In today’s world they have become an essential part of our agricultural food production industry. While they pollinate one third of the food we eat we have been oblivious to their buzz for help. They are exposed to all sorts of toxic herbicides, pesticides, insecticides and other toxic substances. Each different agricultural area and crop requires it’s own unique chemical cocktail. Although the crops are never sprayed during the pollination season they are certainly treated before the bees arrive. There must be some residue remaining on the plants, which may be toxic to the bees.

Epp-BEE-Log: Since modern woman/man has changed the job description of the noble bee from food producer and added on pollinator service provider we must be more conscious of how bees are treated. Trucking them tens of thousands of miles a year to various agricultural areas with diverse climates and crops must take some toll on them. They also are exposed to more toxic substances living this nomadic life.

Let’s heed their buzz. All we are saying is,” GIVE BEES A CHANCE’.

There is much more to this story that I will cover in future articles. 

* California Almond Board

organic-gardening

  1. First and foremost: Don’t use pesticides! Pesticides aren’t selective and you will end up killing beneficial bugs. Most are also toxic for your family and pets.Try to practice integrative pest management.
  2. Use local native plants. Research suggests native plants are four times more attractive to native bees than exotic flowers. They are also usually well adapted to your growing conditions and can thrive with minimum attention. In gardens, heirloom varieties of herbs and perennials can also provide good foraging.
  3. Chose several colors of flowers. Bees have good color vision to help them find flowers and the nectar and pollen they offer. Flower colors that particularly attract bees are blue, purple, violet, white, and yellow.
  4. Plant flowers in clumps. Flowers clustered into clumps of one species will attract more pollinators than individual plants scattered through the habitat patch. Where space allows, make the clumps four feet or more in diameter.
  5. Include flowers of different shapes. There are four thousand different species of bees in North America, and they are all different sizes, have different tongue lengths, and will feed on different shaped flowers. Consequently, providing a range of flower shapes means more bees can benefit.
  6. Have a diversity of plants flowering all season. Most bee species are generalists, feeding on a range of plants through their life cycle. By having several plant species flowering at once, and a sequence of plants flowering through spring, summer, and fall, you can support a range of bee species that fly at different times of the season.  Plant where bees will visit. Bees favor sunny spots over shade and need some shelter from strong winds.

Adapted from the Pollinator Conservation Program, Xerces Society www.xerces.org

For Bees:  Yellow, blue, purple flowers. There are hundreds of types of bees that come in a variety of sizes and have a range of flower preferences. They can’t see red, but are attracted to some red flowers, such as bee balm, that reflect ultraviolet light. Small bees, which have short tongues, prefer packed clusters of tiny flowers (e.g., marigold, daisy, butterfly weed, aromatic herbs).

For Butterflies: Red, orange, yellow, pink, blue flowers. They need to land before feeding, so like flat-topped clusters (e.g., zinnia, calendula, butterfly weed, yarrow, daisy) in a sunny location. They also need food sources for larvae and places to lay eggs. These include milk-weed, aster, lupine, thistle, fennel, violets, hollyhock, black-eyed Susan.

Native and Garden Plants for Bees

Aster Aster

Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia 2877374670_1f4809a5cc

Caltrop Kallstroemia

Creosote bush Larrea

Currant Ribes

Elder Sambucus

Goldenrod Solidago

Huckleberry Vaccinium

Joe-pye weed Eupatorium

Lupine Lupinus

Oregon grape Berberis

Penstemon Penstemon

Purple coneflower Echinacea

Rabbit-brush Chrysothamnus

Rhododendron Rhododendron

Sage Salvia

Wild-lilac Ceanothus

Willow Salix

Basil Ocimum

Cotoneaster Cotoneaster

English lavender Lavandula

Giant hyssop Agastache

Globe thistle Echinops

Hyssop Hyssopus

Marjoram Origanum

Rosemary Rosmarinus

Wallflower Erysimum

Zinnia Zinnia

Scorpion-weed Phacelia

Snowberry Symphoricarpos

Stonecrop Sedum

Sunflower Helianthus

Wild buckwheat Eriogonum

 

Even this dog wants to help plant a pollinator garden...

Even this dog wants to help plant a pollinator garden...

 

Maybe don't try this...

Maybe don't try this...

Only about 1,300 plants are grown for foods, spices, textiles, beverages and medicine. Of these, over 1,000 or almost 75% are pollinator dependent. Without pollinators, these items would be hard to come by. If you think you can do without them, guess again! Things like blueberries, chocolate, coffee, almonds, apples, bananas and potatoes all rely on the hard work of pollinators.

 

Over $40 billion of the US economy is created by pollinating insects such as bees. We are in for some serious food shortages and economic hardships if we don’t help the bees.

 

Aside from the economic impact, consider that almost 90% of all flowering plants rely on pollinators. Our world would not be as beautiful without the work of bees and other pollinators.

 

Pollinator conservation is at the core of sustainable agriculture. Each and every one of us is profoundly impacted by the work of pollinators. However, this is often overlooked. Reading this and taking the few small steps outlined below are a great start in helping the bees and all of our pollinating friends!

 

1)      Create a pollinator friendly garden: This doesn’t need to be too fancy, just a few native plants that provide nectar for pollinators is a good start. If possible, create nest boxes for solitary bees. Supply water make sure you don’t treat your flowers with anything that will harm pollinators. For more information on creating a pollinator garden, click here.

2)      Stop Pesticide Use: One of the main hardships pollinators are facing is the widespread use of pesticides that are toxic to them. Integrated Pest Management is a great way to curb pesticide usage. Whenever possible, plant flowers instead of grass.

3)      Support Organic: Supporting your local, organic farms is a great way to help the bees. Organic farms are a great place for bees and pollinators to forage for nectar without being exposed to toxic pesticides.

4)      Educate: Let everyone know how important bees and pollinators are. Teach your children to respect pollinators and explain to them the important role they play in our fragile ecosystem.

5)      Hive Relocation: If there is a hive in your area that someone is going to destroy, contact a local beekeeper first to see if they will safely relocate the hive.

6)      Get Active: Join one of the many great organizations working to help SAVE THE BEES™!

·         Xerces Society

·         NAPPC

·         Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium

·         Heifer International

 

 

Organic Beekeeping

1302261672_87e91630a6Lots of people ask us, “How can honey be organic?” Well, first and foremost, the bees that create the honey are never exposed to any pesticides, insecticides or herbicides. In order for a hive to be certified organic there are three main rules to which the beekeeper must adhere.

 

Organic beekeeping must*:

1) Take place in an unpolluted area

2) Use natural materials, methods and feed

3) Avoid the use of conventional veterinary medicine and pesticides.

 

When you create skin care using bee ingredients you are bound to come across the question, “Isn’t that bad for the bees?” The truth of the matter is that there are a lot of problems with conventional beekeeping and large beekeeping outfits looking to maximize production. They will take measures such as artificial feeding, pesticide treatments or any number of measures that may stress the bees or harm them. Organic beekeeping, however, is an entirely different story. Organic beekeepers are held to a strict set of standards to ensure the health of the hive and to respect the bees.

 

HIVE LOCATION

The hive itself must be surrounded by at least 3 miles of natural vegetation and/or organic or low input farmland. This is due to the fact that bees can travel up to 3 miles to feed. It is also important for the surrounding area to have sufficient sources of pollen, nectar and clean water for the bees.

 

STRICT HIVE STANDARDS AND MATERIALS

The hives themselves must also adhere to strict standards. Hives must be built from natural materials such as unpainted timber. Any tools or containers used in managing the colony including the harvest must be appropriate for foodstuffs and not be a source of pollutants.

 

COMPASSIONATE AND SUSTAINABLE HARVEST

When the beekeepers do finally harvest products from the hive, the colonies must be left more than enough honey to feed even during cold or dry seasons.  Many conventional beekeepers supplement the diet with sugar water, which is not healthy for bees. Organic beekeepers leave as much as the bees would need to be happy and healthy. This goes for other bee products as well. Many conventional beekeepers would strip the hive of beeswax for the greatest yield but organic beekeepers keep the original comb intact so the bees are not stressed.

 

RECORDKEEPING AND MANAGEMENT

There are also a number of records to be kept in order to have certified organic hives. The beekeeper needs to have an organic management plan complete with a detailed map of the apiary site and its surroundings. This must also list all surrounding vegetation and possible sources of pollution. Each colony must have its own diary that details how it is handled and how it is thriving. Each of the products must be traceable to a certain hive to ensure that no more product is taken from the hive than is healthy for the bees. Who would go to such lengths if they didn’t care about their bees?

 

The organic beekeepers we deal with care greatly for their bees. This is why BeeCeuticals Organics is dedicated to supporting Organic Beekeeping and to ensuring that all of the bees that help us create such wonderful products are treated with the respect they deserve. Our “Cell of Approval   ” is on each of our products so you know that the honey inside is organic, raw, ethically harvested,medicinal and active

SAVE THE BEES

bees

Mr. Bee says, "Hey, a little help over here..."

The United States bee population is rapidly declining. Most beekeepers are losing 70% of their hives due to an unexplained disease referred to only as Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD. In 24 states there have been reports of hundreds of thousands of bees dying off suddenly. Nobody really knows what is causing this. The latest reports have linked the disappearance to a new virus.

 

The Environmental Impact

Bees are an essential part of our ecosystem. We need to realize that each of our lives is tied to the survival of the bee and that everyone benefits when we help the bees. Bees pollinate the vast majority of wild greenery throughout the world as well as provide us with wonderful healthy products!

 

The Economic Impact

Bees pollinate more than $14 billion worth of crops such as apples, soybeans, peaches, cucumbers, cranberries, blueberries and almonds to name only a few. We get 1/3 of our food from crops pollinated by honeybees.  If this calculation is expanded to include indirect products, such as the milk and beef from cattle fed on alfalfa, pollinators may be responsible for almost $40 billion worth of agricultural products each year. California supplies 70% of the almond crop to the world and suffered serious economic losses this past growing season due to a lack of pollinators.

 

What can you do?

You can help BeeCeuticals Organics in our efforts to help Save the Bees™! BeeCeuticals Organics actively seeks to conserve current bee populations by supporting research into solutions that will help the bees face the challenges imposed upon them. BeeCeuticals also supports land conservation efforts that provide wild bees with nesting and breeding ground.  We donate a portion of our profits to organizations working to save the bees. We host public educational events called Bee-In’s™ that enlighten the public on ways they can have a positive impact on bee populations such as how to plant pollinator friendly gardens. We also have a Trees for Bees™ Program that plants pollinator-friendly trees. When you purchase a BeeCeuticals Organics   product, you automatically become a part of the solution. 

 

The goal of our Trees for Bees™ program is to plant 1,000,000 pollinator friendly trees around the globe. The program not only provides forage for bees but also helps offset global carbon emissions, supports farming and beekeeping and prevents the soil erosion brought on by deforestation.

 

For each Hive Five™ Kit sold we plant a pollinator-friendly tree!