Thursday, October 27, 2011

Insecticides and Bees

     Imidacloprid (some of the trade names are Winner, Advantage and Gaucho) is a neonicotinoid insecticide (type of pesticide) widely used on a number of major agricultural crops since 1986.  France, Italy, Slovenia and Germany have banned it's use on certain crops because of health risks to bees (Neonicotinoid effect on European Bees): 
In France, beekeepers reported a significant loss of honeybees in the 1990s, which they attributed to the use of imidacloprid (Gaucho). See Imidacloprid effects on bee population. In response to this loss of bees called "mad bee disease," the French Minister of Agriculture convened a panel of expert scientists (Comite Scientifique et Technique) to examine the impact of imidacloprid on bees. After reviewing dozens of laboratory and field studies conducted by Bayer CropScience and by independent scientists, the panel concluded that there was a significant risk to bees from exposure to imidacloprid on sunflowers and maize (corn), the only crops for which they had exposure data. Following the release of this report, the French Agricultural Ministry suspended the use of imidacloprid on maize and sunflowers. Italy, Germany, and Slovenia have also suspended certain uses of the neonicotinoids based on concerns for bees.  To see studies done on the impact of neonicotinoid insecticides go to "The Impact of neonicotinoid insecticides on bumble bees, honey bees and other non-target invertebrates".

     One of major problems occurs during seeding of neonicotinoid coated seeds and the dusting that occurs during the machine planting process which in windy conditions can spread the insecticide a mile or more.  To see a study done on this problem go to "Effects of neonicotinoid insecticide coated maize seed on honey bees" and "Neonicotinoid effect on Bees".  This spring a number of commercial beekeepers in Canada and the United States have experienced devastating losses during the planting of neonicotinoid coated seeds.  To listen to the heart wrenching meeting between Canadian government officials and beekeepers who experienced these devastating losses go to the Parliament of Canada.
     This week Bayer, the major producer of Imidacloprid voluntarily removed Almond trees from their suggested use label.  The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S.) is reviewing this.  There are over 800,000 acres of almonds in California alone which are pollinated 100% by bees (the major seasonal crop for professional pollination companies).  This is great news for the billions of honey bees employed each year in the almond pollination industry.  This article by Kim Flottum : 
Imidacloprid On Almonds May Be History
Early this morning Bee Culture received a call from Steve Ellis, a member of the Honey Bee Advisory Board…the group of dedicated beekeepers working to make beekeeping a safer place by making pesticide businesses…farmers, applicators, sellers, manufacturers, researchers…more aware of the incredible damage their products can do to honey bees and pollinators.
The Honey Bee Advisory Board is in Washington D. C. this week, meeting with, among others, representatives of the EPA and Bayer CropScience. During the discussions it became apparent that Bayer was voluntarily removing almond trees from the label of their imidacloprid products.
Our call this morning was to inform us, and now you, that EPA is reviewing this request. Yes, reviewing. It seems that crops are so seldom removed from a label, especially by voluntary request, that the internal engine at EPA isn’t quite sure how to make that happen. So they are reviewing it.
Mr. Ellis was quite sure the review process would be swift and action taken very soon. Hopefully before it is to be used on almonds during the coming season, thus saving billions of honey bees from the opportunity of exposure to this chemical.  Members of the Honey Bee Advisory Board are all volunteers, not supported by any National or Regional beekeeping organization. They are to be commended for their ongoing pursuit of a better, safer life for honey bees, beekeepers, and all pollinators.

Pesticides are carried away by wind, evaporation, leaching and runoff

     Imidacloprid is not banned or even restricted for use in Canada and is also used for pet flea treatments.  It is obviously toxic to beneficial insects like bees, earthworms and ladybugs and causes reduced egg production in birds (  To view studies on the effects of pesticides on honey bees go to Pesticides and Honey Bees.

The effects of today's systemic pesticides on bees.

     Another neonicotinoid pesticide produced by Bayer is Clothianidin which like Imidacloprid is toxic to bees and it's use has been suspended by Germany.  The film below outlines the inability of the current system (EPA and corporate testing) to properly identify the safety of insecticides.

Beekkeeper Leaks EPA Document from Bee The Change on Vimeo.

     The video below is further evidence of the agricultural industry using agrochemicals irresponsibly with total disregard for safety or suffering. Productivity and profit are the singular motivation.  Endosulfan is an insecticide that was brought to the market in 1954 by Bayer CropScience and approved by the USDA.  Although the toxic effects on the environment and humans has been known for years it wasn't until the year 2000 that home and garden use was terminated in the United States.  In 2002 the EPA determined that endosulfan residues on food and in water pose unacceptable risks and so restricted but did not ban agricultural use.  In 2007 the Canadian government announced that endosulfan was under consideration for phase-out.  From 2007-2010 international steps were taken to restrict the use and trade of endosulfan but it wasn't until 2011 that the EPA announced that the registration of endosulfan in the U.S. will be cancelled.  Although in most parts of the world endosulfan is banned it is still being produced and utilized in reduced quantities.

     A few good sites to check regarding information on insecticides are: ;
The pesticide action network: ;The Permanent People's Tribunal ; Coalition Against Bayer Dangers

*To view further studies on the effects of insecticides on bees go to Insecticides and Bees in our Beekeepers' Library.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Insulated Moisture Quilt

      One of the major reasons for winter loss of honey bee colonies in cold climates is cold, moisture dripping on the cluster of bees.  The moisture is created when the warm air emitted from the cluster of bees rises and contacts the cold surface of the outer cover, creating condensation.  A major source of winter moisture can be the feeding of syrup in late summer and early autumn which gets stored but not capped.  In the spring you can find these frames covered in mold.  When creating your winter hive makeup (in our area that is October) make sure you don't have excessive frames of uncapped honey or syrup which will act as himidifiers.  As someone who has spent most of their life working outdoors in the winter I prefer 30 below and dry to 2 above (Celsius - 35 Fahrenheit) and wet.  
       Winter bees are produced at the end of the summer. They are physiologically different from summer bees with a different blood protein profile and fatter bodies with the specific purpose to survive until spring.  Once the temperature drops below 14 Celsius these winter bees begin to form a cluster within the hive.  The bees on the outside act as insulators with their heads pointed towards the center of the cluster.  On the inside of the cluster the bees move their wings rapidly and the friction of this movement creates heat.  The centre of the cluster, where the queen resides is approximately 32 degrees Celsius.  As the heat rises the bees in the middle of the cluster move outward to become insulators and the outer bees move inward to become heat generators.  This movement of bees is continuous throughout the winter.   

       With the Insulated Moisture Quilt installed the warm air from the cluster rises up through the quilt contacting the less cold, insulated surface.  The reduced condensation that is formed will drip on and be absorbed by the wood chips.  The air vents will dry the wood chips.   
        To build the Insulated Moisture Quilt you could simply use a medium or deep super but for those like myself who like to build things here is a step by step description using scrap material.  First I screwed together some 6 inch wide 3/4  inch plywood (any 3/4 inch dimensional wood would work) to create a box that would fit on a deep super. 

   Then I screwed in 3 pieces of plywood 3 inches high. 

       I stapled landscape cloth (porous) over the bottom of the quilt box (2011).  More durable and better alternatives to landscape cloth are window screen or 1/8 inch hardware cloth (2017).  Also, some have found that the bees will try to work the landscape cloth and get stuck in it.  I recommend window screen or 1/8 inch hardware cloth and stapling it to the bottom sides rather than underneath so that a gap (width of the 1/8 inch hardware cloth) is not created between the moisture quilt and the upper super. 

The 3/4 inch vent holes were drilled 2 inches above the landscape cloth.  Hardware cloth is applied over the vent holes to prevent entry by bees or mice.

       On the bottom I screwed on an optional 1 inch frame so the bees don't attempt to join the frames to the quilt surface.  The extra space will allow for pollen patties or sugar feeding in the early spring but could be replaced by a candy board between the quilt and the super to prevent comb building. This space could be modified or reduced to be more in line with proper 3/8 inch bee spacing.  I don't find this much of a problem for me as the quilt is primarily on when there is little or no foraging and wax burr comb creation.  Note the upper entrance chiseled improperly on the side of the eke.  I repaired this and added a front upper entrance.

                                                     Two inches of wood chips are added to absorb the moisture.

                            I added a 1/4 inch plywood cover with stapled rope for easy removal.                                 

        2 inches of solid insulation is added. It's a good idea to paint the finished project for weather protection.                   

Winter hive set up with 2 inch feeder and insulated moisture quilt

      Another way to combat the winter moisture issue is putting a 2x4 under the rear of the hive so that the condensation formed on the underside of the outer cover runs down the front of the hive instead of on the cluster.  Also an upper entrance is recommended to increase ventilation. Here are a few different quilt designs and a downloadable version of the Insulated Moisture Quilt: A non insulated Langstroth quilt;  A quilt using wool as the absorption material; and a Warre Hive quilt.  "The Biology and Management of Colonies in Winter" describes the temperature and moisture dynamics that occur within the hive in cold climates during winter.   For more information go to the "Winter Management" section of the  Beekeepers' Library.
      I received a World Wide Patent on this design which stipulates that anyone who uses this design must give me a jar of honey.  What can I say it's the law.  All honey related patents in Canada are strictly enforced by the C.H.P. (Canadian Honey Police), Chief of Police Winnie (from Winnipeg) T. Pooh.

Chief of Police

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