News and Blogs

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Updates: Nov 2

There have been a couple of excellent and objective reviews of our state of knowledge on the effects of neonicotinoids on bees.  Both are open access.  The lay reader may wish to simply read the summaries in the second link.

A restatement of the natural science evidence base concerning neonicotinoid insecticides and insect pollinators

A restatement of recent advances in the natural science evidence base concerning neonicotinoid insecticides and insect pollinators

I’ve updated my analysis of the recent paper Neonicotinoid pesticides severely affect honey bee queens.

I also suggest the reading of an excellent Master’s Thesis by Julia Goss of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences: Neonicotinoids and Honeybee Health.  Julia tracked varroa, nosema, and virus levels in 96 colonies, equally divided between 16 fields of oilseed rape, half seed treated with clothianidin, half as untreated controls.  She measured parasite levels before (June) and after flowering of the crop (late July-early August).  Results: despite the confirmed exposure of the Test colonies to clothianidin at much higher rates than we ever see in North America, there were no differences in any of the parasite levels following exposure to the insecticide.

Update: August 23: I was asked to comment on Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Lu’s recent paper on neonics in Massachusetts.  This may be of interest to those re a general discussion of the issue of good science vs. poor science.  Read it at A Review of Dr. Lu’s Latest.

Update June 26: I added a post that I made to Bee-L on monitoring varroa at Monitoring Varroa.

Update May 9: I’ve updated First Year Beekeeping, an added  Oxalic acid dribble tips.

April 29: I’ve been derelict in updating the website, and have about 12 articles to post.  A number of ABJ readers have asked me to post the following graphic from one of my recent articles.

Age smallYou can view a full-sized version at Colony Demography.

I occasionally comment on bee issues or the news, or link to interesting blogs by others on beekeeping, bee biology, or the environment.

The “Flow Hive”

In recent months there has been a great deal of buzz about the “Flow Hive,” developed by a father/son team of Australian beekeepers.  The device consists of an arrangement of molded plastic parts that act as foundation upon which the bees build honey combs, but which can then be shifted by the turn of a handle to break open the cells of ripe honey and allow it to drain out of the hive through  tubes.  Although innovative, it is similar to a patent from 1939 (

The Flow Hive is likely the most well-funded beekeeping device ever brought to market, due to its inventors incredible media-savvy marketing via crowd sourcing on the internet.  By means of producing brilliant and compelling fundraising videos, they have raised enough money to bring their product to market.  Kudos to them!

I suspect that much of their funding has come from non beekeepers, who have always been fascinated by the promise of hive from which liquid honey could be directly taken without the need for actually handling bees.

The question regarding the Flow Hive is whether it will turn out to be practical, especially with regard to cost and whether it will stand up to repeated use.  Longtime beekeepers tend to be skeptical, since we’ve seen so many beekeeping inventions come and go over the years.

But who knows?  I’m as eager as anyone to see whether the Flow Hive proves to be a revolution in beekeeping.  We’ll see once the completed hives get delivered to buyers.  I wish the developers the best of luck.  Only time will tell whether the device actually flies or flops.

Neonics in Ontario

A recent hotbed of anti-neonic activism is Ontario, Canada, in which an unlikely coalition of a few beekeepers and some media-savvy NGO’s is pushing the government to ban these insecticides.  Let me state very clearly that I myself support organic and sustainable farming, use of Integrated Pest Management, and greatly reduced use of pesticides.  That said, I feel that any pesticide regulations, and agricultural recommendations, should be based upon sound science.

An exemplar of this philosophy is Dr. Terry Daynard, formerly a professor and Assistant Dean of the Ontario Agricultural College, and currently a farmer himself.  Daynard recently received the “2014 Farm & Food Care Champion” award from Farm and Food, with the introduction that “Daynard is a champion of agriculture in many ways. He is respected as a farmer, scientist, innovator and agricultural advocate, speaking up and advocating sound science even in the presence of criticism by those that don’t agree with him.”

Dr. Daynard applies a sound and scientific assessment of how misinformation can taint well-intentioned environmental regulation in his blog “Critique of “A Proposal for Enhancing Pollinator Health.””

We all want to minimize agriculture’s negative effects on the environment.  This includes greatly reducing our reliance upon pesticides.  But such reduction needs to evolve as we learn (or re learn) alternate and more sustainable strategies for growing food.  This is best done by rational and sober scientific assessment of current and alternative practices.  I commend Dr. Daynard pointing this out.

I’m also  impressed by a recent blog by Dr. David Zaruk, who is a Risk Governance Analyst at Risk Perception Management and an Assistant Professor Adjunct in Communications at Vesalius College, VUB, and Facultés universitaires St-Louis in Brussels.  He blogs under the name of the “Risk Monger.”  He recently posted about the real-life agricultural and ecological consequences of the politically- (as opposed to scientifically-) motivated suspension of neonic seed treatments in the EU.

Read previous blogs here:

Dec 2, 2013 If you have interest in the recent petitions to ban the neonics, I recommend reading a letter to the respected journal Nature by a British bee researcher, Lynn Dicks, in which she points out the problems with hurried setting of policy based upon political pressure rather than upon careful scientific evaluation of the evidence

Such a careful evaluation of all evidence is what I’m all about, even if that is unpopular with those who don’t want to be confused by the facts.  I currently feel that the problem with planting dust from corn seeding has finally reached the point where the manufacturers either have to take responsibility for compensating beekeepers who suffer losses due to the application of their products, or EPA and PMRA need to restrict the use of neonic seed treatments to only planters that pass dust emission certification.  However, I feel that to date there is not enough evidence to call for a complete ban on the neonics–there are simply too many beekeepers successfully keeping healthy hives in areas of seed-treated crops.  Clearly this is a hot issue, and the neonics, along with all pesticides need to be closely watched and regulated.  It appears to me that our regulatory agencies are doing a good job at this, even if progress seems to be excruciatingly slow.


The most recent blog of interest is on the real people involved in biotechnology (GMO’s).  Steve Savage writes:

“As with any new technology, the development and commercialization of biotech crops is a story about people.  Its a story about people with ideas and vision; people who did hard and creative work; people who took career or business risks, and people who integrated this new technology into the complex business of farming…  Their story is important, but it tends to get lost in much of the conversation about biotech crops.

Many narratives about “GMOs” leave out the people side, presenting it instead as some faceless, monolithic phenomenon devoid of human inspiration, intention and influence. Thats not how it happened.  Other narratives about “GMOs” demonize those who made biotech crops a reality. Such portrayals are neither fair or accurate.  The real stories of these people matter, because trust in a technology is greatly influenced by what people believe about those behind it.”

Read the rest at: