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Hey EPA, Bees Can't Wait 5 More Years! Protect Them NOW!

[Reprinted from Pesticide Action Network's Online Blog, courtesy of Paul Towers]

Inaction? Intransigence? Negligence? Whatever the right word, we’re reminded that the U.S. is behind the curve when it comes to protecting bees. Yesterday, Europe’s restrictions on bee-harming pesticides went into effect.

Today, in a full-page advertisement in the New York Times and six other major papers, PAN and over 60 food, farm, faith and investor groups are calling on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take action. Quickly.

While Thanksgiving has passed, there are still many things to be thankful for. Among them, let’s count the bees. They pollinate much of our food, including the cranberries and pumpkin on so many Thanksgiving tables last week. In fact, we rely on bees for about a third of our food.

But these noble pollinators continue to be in trouble. Beekeepers in the U.S. have been losing, on average, over 30% of their bees each year since 2006 — twice what is considered sustainable. And commercial beekeepers, whose bees pollinate California almonds, lost over 50% of their colonies last year. Some even reported historic losses of 70% or more.

This is unsustainable, not only for beekeepers but for our food system and the agricultural economy.

EPA, get in gear

EPA has stated that it’s at least five years away from doing anything to protect bees from pesticides known to be harmful. First, the agency needs to complete its review of neonicotinoids — a relatively new and widely used class of systemic pesticides. This review isn't due to conclude until 2018.

Scientists point to neonicotinoids as a catalyst driving bee declines. While acutely toxic to bees (meaning, it kills them), studies have shown neonics also compromise bee immune systems and make them more susceptible to a wide range of other impacts like poor nutrition, mites and diseases.

Still, until EPA completes its (very slow) review of neonic products, the agency will not take action to adequately protect bees from this known threat.

Beekeepers say they — and bees — can’t wait for the agency's glacial pace. Federal officials have tried to appease beekeeper concerns with aimless conferences and reports, along with changes to pesticide product labels that yield no additional protections for bees. But decisive action, not token action, is urgently needed.

As beekeeper Jim Doan of New York said:

“Beekeepers are losing colonies at an unprecedented rate — the losses are too extreme to keep up with, and our entire industry is at risk of collapse unless federal action is taken.  Convening conferences and changing pesticide labels is not nearly enough.”

The ad urging EPA action is in today's New York Times, and also in the Boston Globe, the Washington Post,PoliticoMinneapolis Star Tribune, the Des Moines Register and the Los Angeles Times.

States in action

Since EPA has failed to step up in a timely way, states across the country are taking up the issue of protecting bees. In New York and New Jersey, legislative leaders have already introduced bills that would ban or track neonicotinoid pesticides.

And last week we were offered another glimmer of hope as Oregon regulators announced they are planning to restrict the use of neonicotinoids used on trees — and linked to a recent massive bee kill in that state.

While state action is helpful, bees need more comprehensive and uniform protections across the country. EPA should see states in action as a signal that the agency needs to step up. And quickly.


 
 

The State of Affairs

We're poised for battle here! Two weeks ago Miami-Dade county knocked on my door with a warning that told us we had a five hive maximum for our zoning and needed to get rid of the balance of our bees. I was stunned! We're state registered beekeepers, and I knew that we were in compliance with the legal regulations. 

So here's the deal: State law supercedes county law. State law asserts that we can absolutely keep all of our bees. But the county doesn't seem to notice! (Or care!) And so, the past few days have been spent bouncing back and forth with the bureaucracy.

I've done my homework!! David Westervelt, Chief Apiary Inspector from the Florida Dept. of Agriculture, stepped up to the plate to inform the county and their attorneys that the county had no jurisdiction over this matter since the law was changed in 2012. But the county disagrees.

I've got the appropriate Florida Statutes nailed to my front door, awaiting the next knock.... I've emailed and called whoever I can. And now.....we wait......  

Our modest little apiary sits serenely in the farthest reaches of our acre, happily making honey for the masses....unaware of the bureaucratic threat to it's survival...

Keep your fingers crossed! 

 
 

A Bill to Protect Bees

(from "Ground Truth")

 Late Tuesday afternoon, Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced a long-awaited bill to place a moratorium on bee-harming pesticides. The "Save America's Pollinators Act" would require EPA to pull neonicotinoid pesticides off the market until fully reviewed by independent scientists and proven safe for pollinators.

EPA's current review of these pesticides is due to conclude in 2018, with an action plan to be implemented sometime thereafter. Meanwhile, bees continue to die off in droves — and scientific evidence highlighting neonics as a key factor continues to mount. Bees need help now, and the Conyers-Blumenauer bill provides them an immediate reprieve from neonic exposures.

Introduced in the 1990s, neonicotinoids are a class of systemic, neurotoxic pesticides known to beparticularly toxic to honey bees — and they have rapidly taken over the global insecticide market.

Neonics are widely used on more than 140 crops (including significant use on corn), as well as on termites, in flea treatments and in lawns and gardens. They are taken up through the plant’s vascular system to be expressed in pollen, nectar and guttation droplets (like dew) — from which bees then forage and drink.

Time for action

As we've reported, bees continue dying off at alarming rates — with beekeepers reporting losses this past season of 40-70%. And two weeks ago, 50,000 bumblebees dropped dead in a parking lot in Oregon from exposure to a neonicotinoid.

EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have largely failed to address concerns about neonicotinoid pesticides, and have collectively indicated that agencies are at least five years away from any steps to protect bees.

Last year, four members of Congress, including Representative Markey (MA), and Senators Gillibrand (NY), Leahy (VT) and Whitehouse (RI) penned letters to EPA urging the agency to expedite its review of bee-harming pesticides.

The Save America's Pollinators Act (H.R. 2692) seeks to do precisely that. This bill would suspend the use of neonics until a full review of scientific evidence — plus field studies — demonstrate no harmful impacts topollinators. Until then, these chemicals would be off the shelf. 

Protecting bees across the pond

Policymakers in Europe pulled three commonly used neonics off the market earlier this year, citing the growing body science showing their harms to pollinators. Just this week, the EU added another bee-harming pesticide, fipronil, to their restricted list.

While the ban is only in place for two years, it will allow time for scientists to more fully investigate the role neonics are playing in bee declines.

Here in the U.S., it's high time for similarly decisive action. The Save America's Pollinators Act is a strong step in the right direction.

As Paul Towers, PAN's media director, said in a statement this week:

"Congress is now moving to take action to protect bees, where EPA has failed. Following the worst year for bee losses in U.S. history, agency officials have focused attention on a series of endless meetings rather than coordinated action. The Save American Pollinators Act would address these regulatory failures and take bee-harming pesticides off the market."

Join the call for decisive action to help bees! Urge your Representative to support the Save America's Pollinators Act, and help get this critical bill passed.

 
 

Buzz Off, Monsanto

This was posted last week by PAN, the Pesticide Action Network:

Buzz off, Monsanto

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Paul Towers
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Last week, the term “bee-washing” emerged in public conversation. It doesn’t refer to some new bee cleaning service, but to theinsidious efforts of Monsanto and other pesticide corporations to discredit science about the impacts of pesticides on bees — especially neonicotinoids — by creating public relations tours, new research centers and new marketing strategies.

This week, pesticide makers are showcasing these tactics during National Pollinator Week with offers of free seed packets to people who take their poorly named “pollinator pledge.” The “bee-washing” term has gained traction as scientists and groups like PAN continue to cut through the misinformation and point to the emerging body of science that points to pesticides as a critical factor in bee declines.

Monsanto hosted their first so-called Honey Bee Health Summit last week, a gathering at the company’s headquarters in Missouri. Without question, some truly smart, dedicated scientists attended Monsanto's bee summit and are participating in these efforts.

And a similarly committed group of beekeepers who care about bees, beekeeping and our food system have also participated. What’s increasingly clear, though, is that the credibility of these individuals is being used to shield the agenda of a handful of pesticide corporations and their bee-harming insecticide products. The corporate PR gymnastics on display are truly impressive.

Unfortunately, Monsanto is not alone in its efforts.  Just this spring, Bayer sponsored a tour of its “specially-wrapped beehicle” and hosted a talk at Ohio State University in March, over loud objections from local beekeepers. 

Not here. Look over there!

Industry has largely set its sights on one issue to blame for bee declines. While lack of sufficient forage and diseases are a challenge to bee health and beekeeping, challenges exacerbated by the weakening effect of pesticides on bees, the pesticide industry has focused a large proportion of its attention on the varroa mite. And it’s an easy distraction that places the burden of unprecedented bee losses on beekeepers — while subverting any blame for the widespread pesticide products.

Unfortunately for Monsanto & Co, and as most beekeepers and academics will say, the varroa mite has been around a long time, predating dramatic bee declines in U.S. that started in 2006. While mites no doubt affect bee colonies, they are unlikely the primary driver of population declines.

There is a correlation, however, between the introduction of neonicotinoid pesticides (or neonics) on the market and bee die-offs. Independent studies show — and beekeepers corroborate from hands-on experience — that these pesticides weaken bees' immune systems, likely damaging their resistance to common challenges like the varroa mite.

Neonics are one of the largest growth sectors for the pesticide industry. And industry has a vested interest in keeping the neonic market growing. But we know that spin efforts to refocus attention on varroa mites were already attempted in Europe, and the approach has been largely unsuccessful. The EU just put continent-wide restrictions on the use of neonics in place.

Bees are still dying

Pesticide corporations don’t show any sign of letting up. If this spring and summer are any indication, then the “bee-washing” campaign will continue. Beekeepers will remain the victims of this targeted PR campaign.

And the costs of are very real. Earlier this month, Jim Doan — a third generation commercial beekeeper from upstate New York — literally sold his farm due to bee losses. For years, he produced over half a million pounds of honey annually and eventually grew his business to 5,300 hives. But when neonicotinoid pesticides started being commonly used in the U.S., around 2006, Jim's bees started dying.

He’s experienced serious losses to bees he brought to citrus groves in Florida and the cornfields of New York. And now, he only has 300 hives left. In an email he circulated last week, he wrote:

“I am done. I cannot continue. Sold my farm 2 weeks ago, I am giving up, there is no hope here."

Bees are continuing to die off at unprecedented rates and beekeepers are going out of business. There is clearly something amiss — and the pesticide industry would have us believe that their products play no part in this alarming trend. PAN, beekeepers and our partners will continue to shine a light on corporate "bee-washing" and spin efforts to subdue or obfuscate the growing body of science pointing to this clear message: pesticides are playing a key role in bee deaths.

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The Flowers Make The Difference!

One of the things that I so love about beekeeping is the awareness that it gives you about various flowers and how they influence....everything!  For instance, right now I have two kinds of Tropical Wildflower honey on hand and they're both totally different. One was created when the lychees and avocados were blooming, and is entirely influenced in flavor by those floral nectars. And we just harvested wildflower that is much lighter than that with a wholly different flavor profile. Both, of course, are great for those with allergies to local pollens. I love tasting them side by side and then deciding which one is best for my tea or a dressing or baking......it's fun to have a little of a lot of different types so you can really mix and match!!
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How Honey is Made Part 1

From Bee

ALL-NATURAL PRODUCTION

Honey gets its start as flower nectar, which is collected by bees, naturally broken down into simple sugars and stored in honeycombs. The unique design of the honeycomb, coupled with constant fanning by the bees’ wings, causes evaporation to take place, creating the thick, sweet liquid we know as honey.

The color and flavor of honey varies from hive to hive based on the type of flower nectar collected by the bees. For example, honey made from Orange Blossom nectar might be light in color, whereas honey from Avocado or Wildflowers might have a dark amber color.


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Kids Home for the Summer? For a Sweet Activity Make HONEY PLAY DOUGH!


Peanut Butter Honey Play Dough 
  • 1 cup - peanut butter
  • 3 cups - powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup - honey
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons - vanilla extract 
  • Food coloring, optional

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl; mix thoroughly until "dough" begins to come together. Do not over mix. If desired, add a few drops of food coloring to dough and mix. Store dough in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

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Stealing Beehives to Protect Monsanto? For Shame!

An Illinois beekeeper who spent the last 15 years researching the effects of Monsanto’s Roundup on bees, and compiling extensive evidence documenting that Roundup kills bees, came home one afternoon to find that someone had stolen the queen bee and hive he’d been using to conduct his research.


Turns out the thief was none other than the Illinois Department of Agriculture. The state claims the bees were confiscated and destroyed because they were infected with a disease called foulbrood. But they did so without any notice, without a search warrant, based on a visual examination of bees in a dormant state due to 3° F outdoor temperatures, and while Ingram was away from his farm.


Three weeks later, when Ingram had his hearing, the state’s “evidence” had disappeared. As for Ingram's evidence, he never had the ability to present it, since it was confiscated and destroyed.


Is this the American justice system? Find a citizen guilty, steal his personal property, have a hearing with no physical evidence, and then add insult to injury by fining the defendant $500? 


Watch an interview with Terrence here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqXCboEL-7k


Read a great overview article here:

http://nhne-pulse.org/illinois-department-of-agriculture-vs-beekeeper-terrence-ingram/


Read a series of articles from the local paper:

http://www.pacc-news.com/5-2-12/heart_ingram5_2_12.html

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EU Flags Another Pesticide That's Harming Bees

EU flags another bee-harming pesticide

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Regulators across the pond are keeping up the momentum to protect pollinators, with a new report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) adding fipronil to the list of bee-harming pesticides the agency is concerned about.

Earlier this year, EFSA raised the alarm about three other insecticides that pose a threat to bees. And the EU responded with a two-year ban on the use of those chemicals. We have yet to see if fipronil will be added to the list of restricted pesticides, but EFSA's conclusion signals that protections for bees are more likely.

While European regulators are taking proactive steps, EPA is still dragging its feet. And it’s not because the issue is any less dire here in the U.S. Beekeepers continue to report record-breaking losses this year. As PAN's Director of Organizing and Media Director Paul Towers notes:

If the cycle of EPA inaction and pesticide proliferation keeps up, bees may not be able to recover. And that’s everyone’s problem, since bees pollinate one-third of the food we eat. We rely on the pollination services bees provide every day.

Fipronil is an insect nerve agent from German-based pesticide giant BASF; it is used both as a seed treatment and to protect pets from fleas and ticks.

Although not a neonicotinoid like Bayer's clothianidin, fipronil is a threat to bee health. EFSA concludes that it poses an "acute risk to honey bees when used as a seed treatment for maize.” Fipronil-based products have been on the market since 1993 and, according to BASF, are used in more than 70 countries.

Different pesticide, same industry line

EFSA's report this week has the pesticide industry scrambling to defend its products once again. Employing a familiar tactic, BASF's spokesperson responded to the new report by saying that bee die-offs should be blamed on “other causes,” and the problems facing bees are so complex that there’s no point regulating any single factor.

While there are indeed multiple factors at play — including pathogens, nutrition and habitat loss — the body of emerging science shows pesticides are clearly a key catalyst. And a factor policymakers have the power to do something about.

While it's too soon to tell if EFSA's fipronil findings will lead to additional protections for bees as was the case with the neonicotinoid ban, the EU continues to take concrete steps to protect these vital pollinators. It’s past time for EPA to do the same.

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Honey Harvest

Finally! After a cool and rainy Spring, we finally harvested our honey this week.  There was a lot of it, too.....Tropical Wildflower this time. It's robust but not too strong, yummy but not too sweet. Just sweet enough.

During the harvest, one of the girls decided I was not her friend and chased me through the yard. I was doing my usual cool and casual move-real-slow dance, trying to convince her that I wasn't very interesting, but to no avail. I ended up sort of hopping and lurching trying to escape but she got me anyway. I'm sure it was none-too-graceful and very humorous for everyone except for she and me. 

However, the 2 five gallon buckets of deliciousness made it all worthwhile. I've been bottling ever since. 

 

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Pesticide Soup scrambles bee brain function

New science: "Pesticide soup" scrambles bee brain function

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Two new studies confirm that common pesticides are scrambling the circuits of bees’ brains. Researchers report that certain neonicotinoids and an organophosphate pesticide — particularly in combination — interfere with the insects' ability to learn, smell or remember, all critical capacities for foraging honey bees.

The new studies add to a growing body of evidencepointing to pesticides as a key driver to the dramatic losses in bee colonies reported by beekeepers.

The research, reported in the journals Nature Communications and the Journal of Experimental Biology, observed an immediate "epileptic-type activity" when bees were exposed to neonicotinoids, followed by neural inactivation "where the brain goes quiet and cannot communicate any more," as Dr. Christopher Connelly of the University of Dundee in Scotland described to BBC News.

The effects were more pronounced when the bees were exposed to both neonicotinoids and the organophosphate insecticide, coumaphos.

Momentum builds for pollinator protection

Earlier this month, PAN joined partners and beekeepers to take EPA to court demanding better protections for pollinators. And today, the New York Times featured beekeepers expressing concern about neonicotinoids and the "soup of pesticides" contributing to the dramatic decline in healthy hives.

EPA regulators have indicated that they may accelerate the review process for neonicotinoids, which are currently scheduled for evaluation in 2018. Given current rates of honeybee losses, it's becoming clear that taking action on this timeline could be much too late.


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Peppermint Honey Feet Treat

Peppermint Honey Feet Treat

Peppermint Honey Feet Treat

Rinse mint leaves and place on a paper towel to dry. Grind mint using coffee grinder (or by hand using mortar and pestle). Set aside. Melt beeswax using a small double boiler. In a microwave safe glass bowl combine aloe vera and honey, mix well. Stir in beeswax. Let cool. Add mint and oils stirring until completely mixed. Apply after bath or shower to entire feet and toes. Store remaining ... [read full recipe below]

YIELD: 2 TREATMENTS

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbsp. - aloe vera gel
  • 4 tsp. - grated beeswax
  • 2 tsp. - honey
  • 2 tsp. - fresh mint, optional
  • 6 drops - peppermint essential oil
  • 2 drops - arnica oil
  • 2 drops - camphor oil
  • 2 drops - eucalyptus oil

Directions

Rinse mint leaves and place on a paper towel to dry. Grind mint using coffee grinder (or by hand using mortar and pestle). Set aside. Melt beeswax using a small double boiler. In a microwave safe glass bowl combine aloe vera and honey, mix well. Stir in beeswax. Let cool. Add mint and oils stirring until completely mixed. Apply after bath or shower to entire feet and toes. Store remaining feet treat in covered in cool place away from sun or heat.

TIP

Benefits: Aids in circulation of overworked feet. Moisturizes and softens while it soothes and restores tired aching feet.

Note: We'd like to thank the National Honey Board for this recipe. 

 
 

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

They always say necessity is the mother of invention. (Who's the father?) 

This rang true this weekend when we were at a harvest fair in Miami and ran out of our Key Lime Sublime honey. We're really big into all natural honeys....unfiltered, raw, just out of the hive and into the bottle.

However, when a shop asked us several months ago to develop a flavored honey for them with a Key Lime twist, we complied, and the results were so splendid that we allowed it into our product line. Still raw pure honey, of course, with just a smidgeon of an all natural flavor combo to give it a perky zip. Our usual base honey for this is Orange Blossom. Which we had sold out of.

Anyway, so here we are in the midst of madness, the crowd buying like crazy, and sold out we are, by lunchtime.

What to do?

Well, Rolf was bottling up extras for us at home, Tropical Wildflower and the like, and we also had some Butterbee Pancake Honey he was going to bottle up. When he arrived with a grin on his face, he had something new to share....

...He had taken the Butterbee Pancake Honey and Key Lime-d that!! Ohmygosh, it was delicious, and I've been sipping it ever since. The pancake honey is my name for a runny honey fresh from Key Largo. The hives are right off of Card Sound Road, not far from Alabama Jack's. Anyway, the Dogwood and Black Mangrove nectars make a very thin, runny honey with a specific unique flavor. Paired with the Key Lime...well, now we have Key Lime Pancake Honey, and so.....I can't wait for breakfast....

 
 

It's Snowing Pollen!

As I was standing beneath my Brazilian Pepper, admiring the flowers that had burst into bloom, I noticed what looked like snow flurries. Highly unlikely, here in Miami! I continued to observe, and what I found was this....

My honeybees were so busy sipping nectar from the blossoms, that each time they moved to another flower, some pollen would be dislodged and float gently down, like so many snowflakes.

A beautiful sight! 

 
 

Honey E-Cards! Sweet

I go to the National Honey Board's website whenever I can. There's always something tasty going on there! Meanwhile, I just saw a new feature: Honey e-Cards. How cool is that!? Sent a honey bear birthday greeting to my best friend in New York. It was easy and quick....way faster, in fact, than the usual e-greetings. Not only that.....it came with a link to a honey birthday cake recipe. That's good to be the greatest thing ever! So check it out at: http://www.honey.com/nhb/features/ecard/

 
 
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