First Time Nicotine-Based Pesticides Found in Tap Water While
A Colorado Honey Beekeeper Loses 100% of His Colonies
© 2017 by Linda Moulton Howe
— “Clothianidin (neonicotinoid pesticide) is highly toxic to honey bees.”
- Leaked EPA Document, November 2, 2010
[ See Websites below for 101-page leaked Memo.]
— “The neonicotinoids are five to ten thousand times more toxic than DDT.”
- Tom Theobald, Owner, Niwot Honey Farm, Niwot, Colorado
— “Annual federal gov't-reported total losses are the number of empty boxes.
But, in reality, every time you replace a queen, you’re replacing that beehive. So most
beekeepers are looking at 80% to 120% losses.”
- Dave Hackenberg, Owner, Hackenberg Apiaries, Lewisburg, PA
Apis Mellifera honey bee. Worker gathering pollen
and nectar to take back to colony hives.
Image © 2009 by Maciej Czyzewski.
Honey beekeeper showing the widespread death of typical Colony Collapse
Disorder (CCD) that has been killing billions of honey bees since the
winter of 2006 to 2007, attributed by many beekeepers around the world
to nicotine-based pesticides. Image by auntie-nanuuq.blogspot.com.
“- Neonicotinoid pesticides are nicotine-based chemicals that act on the nervous systems of insects and kill. In lab studies, honey bees were disoriented by tiny amounts of the neonicotinoid pesticide.
- Neonicotinoids are water soluble, which means they can be applied to the soil and taken up by the whole plant. That makes them called "systemic", meaning they turn the plant itself into a poison factory, with toxins coming from roots, leaves, stems and pollen.
- Neonicotinoids are often applied as coating on seeds before planting.”
The above definitions are from a May 19, 2015, the White House-issued Presidential Memorandum called “National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators.” But to date, nothing has been done to reduce honey bee and other pollinator exposures to nicotine-based pesticides that kill bees. In fact, neonic producer Bayer is acquiring Monsanto in 2017 to expand their monopoly on the nicotine-based chemicals and seed treatments that build up toxicity in soils over time.
April 28, 2017 Niwot, Colorado - Earlier this month on April 5, 2017, The Washington Post headlined, “First Evidence Found of Popular Farm Pesticides in Drinking Water.” Over the past decade since the beginning of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD see websites below) was first reported in Pennsylvania in the winter of 2006-2007, honey bee keepers have pointed to nicotine-based pesticides as the bee killer. But the chemical industry, led by Bayer and Syngenta that make neonicotinoid insecticides — are joined by Monsanto that now covers its seeds with neonics. So close is the bond of goals now for Bayer and Monsanto that in Fall 2016, Bayer announced it's going to acquire Monsanto with a “closing expected by the end of 2017.” Bayer, Syngenta and Monsanto have pushed the neonics to among the world's best-selling insecticides in which one of them — imidacloprid — now has sales of more than one billion dollars a year. But imidacloprid also can kill honey bees that forage on imidacloprid-treated soybeans.
Not only have scientists determined that nicotine-based pesticides have long half-lives in soils, which means neonics build up over time, new studies by the University of Iowa and the USGS of water in agricultural streams and tap water have discovered for the first time that neonicotinoid toxins are in more than half of the scientific samples, including treated drinking water. The measured concentrations range from .24 to 57.3 nanograms per liter, which is parts per trillion. But as Prof. Gregory LeFevre, the study author and University of Iowa environmental engineer told The Washington Post, “Having these types of compounds present in water does have the potential to be concerning, but we don't really know at this point, what the impacts of these low levels might be.”
The Environmental Protection Agency has never defined safe levels of neonics in drinking water either. The irony in all this is that when the nicotine-based insecticides were first developed in the 1990s, it was first thought they would be more environmentally friendly than most other pesticides. But when bee colonies began to collapse into deaths beginning in 2006 to 2007, eventually scientists discovered that the neonics attack the synapses of insect nervous systems and destroy the ability of honey bees to navigate.
In the past ten years, many honey beekeepers in North America have lost 80% to 100% of their colonies and have had to give up the business altogether or try to start over with all new insects. But what no beekeeper has been able to do is protect honey bees from the now-widespread assaults of nicotine-based insecticides that are everywhere in the corn, alfalfa, soybeans and other crop fields of the world. One of those honey beekeepers who has now lost 100% of his colony is Tom Theobald, Owner of the Niwot Honey Farm in Niwot, Colorado, between Boulder and Longmont — who began honey beekeeping in 1975. He joins us now from his Niwot Honey Farm.
Tom Theobald, Owner, Niwot Honey Farm, Niwot, Colorado, began honey
beekeeping in 1975. He is convinced the nicotine-based pesticides that first emerged
in the 1990s and took hold in the 21st Century are what is devastating honey bees
and other pollinators in North America and around the world. Image © 2016
by Nathan W. Armes, The Denver Post.
Tom Theobald, Owner, Niwot Honey Farm, Niwot, Colorado: “I've been a beekeeper for 42 years. This is the first time in 42 years that I don't have a single live colony of bees under my management. I've lost them all. And I have to say, it's embarrassing to have to say that. I'm an experienced beekeeper. I'm a good beekeeper. I can't keep them alive.
AND WHAT DO YOU THINK IS GOING ON?
The pesticide cavalcade is just increasing. And for the beekeepers, the pollinating insects, the honeybees and many other lifeforms at the lower level of the food chain, there's a family of chemicals called neonicotinoids that we've talked about and most of the listeners have heard about because it's in the press. Neonicotinoids have quite rapidly become the most widely used pesticides in the United States, and perhaps, in the world. They're billion dollar products, and they've grown rapidly.
They're water-soluble, migrate readily with the groundwater, and they have half-lives of years, which means they can persist for many years in the environment. The effect of these chemicals is directed toward certain synapses of which insects have a lot and mammals have relatively few. So it was presented as a very safe way to do things because it targeted, primarily, the insects. But what we found is that the effect on the synapses is cumulative and irreversible. And I use the example of cigarettes. A single cigarette didn't kill a person. But repeated smoking did. And that's what we're seeing with these neonicotinoids over time is we're seeing slow deterioration of the insects. And in fact, it takes a much smaller fraction of the killing dose if it's done over time. If you use a reference point of a hundred to be an acute level to kill bees, then a fraction of that administered over time would lead to the same endpoint (of death).
THE IMPACT OF THE NICOTINE-BASED PESTICIDES HAS BEEN STACKING UP DATA AGAINST THEM NOW FOR A DECADE OR MORE. DO HONEYBEE GROWERS NOW IN THE UNITED STATES, CANADA, AND AROUND THE WORLD, DO THEY SEE THAT THE NICOTINE-BASED PESTICIDES ARE THE MAJOR PROBLEM IN HONEYBEE DESTRUCTION?
The ones that are paying close attention can't turn away from the evidence. In the case of the neonicotinoids, it's really Bayer. Bayer is the primary producer of neonicotinoids along with Syngenta. Monsanto is also involved because these chemicals are used primarily as seed treatments for genetically modified crops, and that's how they entered the scene. Monsanto came up with the first genetically modified crop — Bt corn. They found that it had low seedling vigor.
Well, Bayer was standing in the wings, and they said, 'Let's coat this with the neonicotinoids to protect the seedling.' And then their story was that once that occurred, then that product was going to dissipate and would be no problem. What we found is quite the opposite. Let me use DDT as a reference point of one. The neonicotinoids are five to ten thousand times more toxic than DDT. Five to ten thousand times more toxic. You don't hear much about that because they don't want you to know that. But five to ten thousand times more toxic!
I laugh as I cry, but 90 percent of the usage of the neonicotinoids is as a seed coating. If you're a corn farmer, you buy the seed, it's already coated with these neonicotinoids. 90 percent of the usage is in that form. The EPA has determined that that isn't a pesticide use. So that huge quantity comes in under the radar. It isn't even reported as a pesticide use because it's been excluded under what's called the Treated Articles Provision, which says that if you treat a fence post with a chemical to protect from insects, the only purpose is to protect the fencepost, and it's excluded.
So their story is that the seed coating is only there to protect the seed, which isn't the case at all. You can find in the publicity for the chemical companies, they claim just the opposite — that it protects the plant through its life against any chewing and sucking insects. Now, if that isn't bad enough, only five to ten percent of that chemical actually goes into the plant. The other 90 percent goes into the soil and the groundwater where it has a disastrous effect on the soil organisms and the freshwater invertebrates. The only reason these are billion dollar products is because the billions of dollars in environmental damages that we're seeing are going unaccounted for.
Honey Bee Future Under New Administration?
HOW, TOM, CAN THIS KEEP GOING ON YEAR AFTER YEAR WHEN POLLINATORS ARE NEEDED? NOW WE HAVE A NEW EPA DIRECTOR UNDER THE NEW ADMINISTRATION WHO BASICALLY THINKS THAT WE SHOULD HAVE FREE FOR ALL IN THE ENVIRONMENT.
I've talked with a lot of my commercial beekeeper friends, and we're all of the general agreement that it really couldn't get much worse. That the portion of the EPA that we deal with, the Office of Pesticide Programs, was almost completely captured by the chemical industry. I said that they've subverted federal law through administrative fiat, and I think that's exactly what's happened.
They have pushed something called the Manage Pollinator Protection Programs—MP3s, they call them—that pushes the decision-making down to the state level. This department is under complete control of the chemical industry, so what they want to do is they want to push the decision-making down to the state level because even though they're in control of the EPA, they have even more control at the state level. So the MP3 programs have been pushed as the answer to the bee problem, but what is it? It has no enforcement capability. It has no budget. And the person who's overseeing it is one Barbara Glenn. She's the CEO of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. That seems harmless enough until you look at what her prior position was as senior vice-president of Science and Regulatory Affairs for CropLife America, the leading lobbying organization for the chemical industry.
So it can't get much worse for the beekeepers.
Neonics Half-Lifes Build Up Over Time
COULD YOU EXPLAIN THE HALF-LIFE OF THE NEONICS IN TERMS OF IF THEY HAVE A HALF-LIFE THAT'S IN YEARS, AND YOU'VE GOT FARMERS THAT ARE PUTTING THE NEONICOTINOIDS ON EVERY YEAR OR EVERY OTHER YEAR, ISN'T IT TRUE THAT THERE HAVE BEEN SCIENTIFIC STUDIES THAT HAVE FOUND THAT THE INTENSITY OF THE NEONICOTINES ON THE SOIL TENDS TO COMPOUND OVER TIME?
Yes. The half-life of these neonicotinoids is anywhere from a year, year and a half, up to several years. The longest they've found was in the prairie land of Saskatchewan where the half-life was 19 years.
That means that 19 years later, there's still half of that compound in the soil, and if you extrapolate that, it means that it would take the environment over a century to purge itself of that chemical. Now, understand, there's no safe dose for these chemicals. As I said earlier, the effect is cumulative and irreversible. You just have to add the element of time, and the endpoint is the same (honey bee death).
They refer to sub-lethal effects. They're not really sub-lethal; they're pre-lethal. It's going to lead to death. So if you put that on—and most of the farmers, or a good share of the farmers, don't even know that they're putting this into land because they're told otherwise by the chemical salesman. This isn't agronomy; this is marketing. And they're told that this is safer and they don't have to touch it. It's already on the seed. It just comes to them in the bag.
But if it has an average half-life of say five or six years, well, each time that goes into the soil every year, it's on top of what's been put into the soil for the previous several years, and it does build. We just saw a study from Iowa where they're finding these neonics in drinking water. And in the drinking water at levels that would kill insects. Parts per trillion, but remember, there's no safe dose.
What we're experiencing is probably the most massive poisoning of the environment in the history of humanity for those lower level lifeforms. The EPA wants to cover it up. The USDA wants to cover it up because they've been complicit in the decisions that have brought us to this disaster. The future is we cannot live with this chemical poisoning, nor can the rest of the people, for that matter. The bees are really just the smoke alarm.”
European Commission Wants
to Ban Neonics Across Europe
A month ago on March 23, 2017, the U. K.'s Guardian was leaked draft regulations being considered by the European Commission to ban all nicotine-based insecticides across Europe. The leaker is the Pesticide Action Network Europe (PANE). There, Martin Demine told The Guardian, “The amount of scientific evidence on the toxicity of these insecticides is so high that there is no way these chemicals should remain on the market.”
The global web movement, Avaaz (“voice”), has gathered 4.4 million signatures to ban neonicotinoid insecticides from all of Europe.
Avaaz ("voice") is a global web movement that has gathered 4.4 million signatures
to ban neonicotinoid insecticides from all of Europe. See: Avaaz website below.
• 01/27/2011 — Updated: Leaked EPA Document Says Bayer's Nicotine-Based Clothianidin Kills Honey Bees
For further information about honey bee and other pollinator survival threats, please see reports in the Earthfiles Archive organized in chronological order from 1999 to 2017 ongoing of which a few are listed here.
• 06/26/2015 — USDA Reports 2014 - 2015 Honey Bee Colony Losses Hit 42% — Leaked November 2, 2010, EPA Memo
• 05/31/2013 — Honey Bee Deaths Higher Again in 2012-2013 Winter: One-Third of American Colonies Died Out
• 03/28/2013 — GMO Herbicides Threaten Monarch Butterfly Migration
• 04/27/2012 — Purdue Univ. Reports Clothianidin At “Unprecedented Levels” in U. S. Is “Highly Toxic to Honey Bees”
• 04/26/2012 — Legal Petition Asks EPA to Ban Nicotine-Based Pesticide Clothianidin
• 03/17/2012 — Airborne Nicotine-Based Insecticide Residues from Pneumatic Drilling/Seeding Machines Kill Honey Bees
• 06/09/2011 — Winter 2010 Honey Bee Colony Losses Averaged 30% in U. S. But beekeepers are suffering 50% to 60% losses over a year.
• 01/27/2011 — Updated: Leaked EPA Document Says Bayer's Nicotine-Based Clothianidin Kills Honey Bees
• 10/28/2010 — Honey Bee Disappearances Not “Solved” by Virus and Fungi
• 07/28/2010 — Bee Expert Says Cell Phones Are Not Cause of Honey Bee Collapse
• 05/05/2010 — Updated: U. S. Honey Bee Industry Struggles with 34% Colonies Loss
• 03/25/2010 — GMO Seed Prices Skyrocket and Justice Department Investigates Monsanto for Antitrust Violation
• 02/18/2010 — U. S. Honey Bee Deaths Increase Again
• 03/30/2009 — European Honey Bee Decline Continues While Aggressive Africanized Honey Bees Attack in Southern U. S.
• 09/26/2008 — NRDC Sues EPA for Honey Bee Lab Data and EPA Approves Another Bee-Killing Pesticide
• 08/31/2008 — Honey Bees Not Healthy in U. S. or U. K.
• 04/10/2008 — Honey Bee Collapse Now Worse on West Coast
• 10/13/2007 — Now Bumblebees Are Disappearing, Too.
• 09/26/2007 — North American Honey Bees Still Weak
• 09/07/2007 — Honey Bee DNA Study Finds Australian Virus in Colony Collapse Disorder
• 06/28/2007 — Hackenberg Apiary, Pennsylvania - 75-80% Honey Bee Loss in 2007. What Happens If Colony Collapse Disorder Returns?
• 04/06/2007 — Collapse of Honey Bees in U. S., Canada and 9 European Countries
• 03/17/2007 — Honey Bee Disappearances Continue: Could Pesticides Play A Role?
• 02/23/2007 — Part 1: Earth Life Threats - Alarming Disappearance of Honey Bees
"Neonicotinoids Detected in Drinking Water in Agricultural Area," April 19, 2017, American Chemical Society: https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/pressroom/presspacs/2017/acs-presspac-april-19-2017/neonicotinoids-detected-in-drinking-water-in-agricultural-area.html
Bayer to Aquire Monsanto: https://www.advancingtogether.com/en/about-the-combination/next-steps/
Avaaz Saving Bees From Killer Pesticides: https://www.avaaz.org/page/en/highlights/
May 19, 2015 - “National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators,” Presidential Memorandum issued from White House:
Leaked November 2, 2010, EPA Memo: http://www.panna.org/sites/default/files/Memo_Nov2010_Clothianidin.pdf
Honey Bee, Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honey_bee
Hackenberg Apiaries: http://hackenbergapiaries.org
The Systemic Insecticides: A Disaster in the Making © 2010 by Henk Tennekes, Ph.D.: http://www.toxicology.nl/