Thursday, 17 September 2009

CATCH THE BUZZ - Asian Beetle Uproar

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Following is a letter Bee Culture received yesterday, Sept 16, regarding a very unique situation that may, or may not occur in Massachusetts today. I was in this city last fall and talked at length to beekeepers and USDA officials about the problem. Since then it has come to the following….

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Yesterday’s Boston Globe article on the subject can be found here…I suggest you read it for background, it is very enlightening:

Additional comments in local papers are at:



This (very slightly edited for length) letter from Dean Stiglitz is a local beekeeper’s comments and concerns:

RE:  Asian Longhorn Beetle Eradication (ALB) Effort and the fall application of imidacloprid by APHIS in Worcester County, MA.

 First, I do not believe that imidacloprid is the cause of recent well publicized honey bee die offs.  Imidacloprid does kill bees in isolated incidents, some of these are well documented, and there is no question that it is extremely toxic to bees if they encounter it.  The issue here is with the ALB treatment and is unique. My wife and I are beekeepers in Worcester County, Massachusetts.  Our colonies are outside of the treatment zone, but not far away.  We attended the initial public when the ALB was first spotted.  I participated in the forum, and made important contacts at APHIS, notably, Bob Baca, whose job is environmental compliance.

 I was involved with APHIS to setup a monitoring program of the proposed treated area. Bob Baca, our county bee inspector Ken Warchol, Jeff Pettis (of the USDA Beltsville Bee lab)and one of his a graduate students, and our state apiarist, Al Carl, are also involved in the study of 25 hives inside and 25 outside the treated area to be monitored for 3 years. 

 I don’t believe that the Environmental Assessment done by APHIS is sufficient to justify any treatments. As part of the assessment they must determine if the bees will encounter enough imidacloprid to cause harm, but no one has data showing how much imidacloprid will end up in the pollen, nectar, and/or plant resins (that bees collect for making propolis) of the early blooming maple trees; certainly not with the dosages used over the 3 year treatment time proposed by AHPIS.  Without this data, any assessment from APHIS as to the impact on honey bees is impossible.

 The response from APHIS includes: "The imidacloprid treatments will continue to be conducted in accordance with the label, which allows treatments to occur any time of the year so long as bees are not visiting flowers while treatments are being conducted." Fall treatments are scheduled to begin today.

 Consider the following.

 1.  Imidacloprid is a systemic insecticide, designed to spread to every part of the plant inlcuding the pollen and nectar.

 2.  The requirement that treatments not be conducted while bees are visiting flowers is to protect bees from being poisoned by this product.  The manufacturer feels that the product is toxic enough to require this in application.

 3.  The trees are treated in the fall, and the imidacloprid spreads to all tissues.  Bees forage and collect pollen and nectar in February, contaminated by unknown levels of this chemical.  Later, the beetles emerge and get poisoned while chewing their way out of the tree, or when they try to chew their way in to lay eggs. (I feel) This is a violation of the intent of the label because you cannot claim that the time period between when the pesticide is applied and when it is designed to be effective on the target insect (ALB) is not “the time period the treatment is being conducted”. (see APHIS statement, above). Thus, these treatments (should be considered) illegal and are probably deadly to honey bees.  To claim that bees not be visiting flowers during applicaton would allow nighttime treatments, or treatments in the r ain on any flower at any time.  This interpretation is clearly not what Bayer intended when drafting this requirement.

 4.  Tree or soil injections of imidacloprid are not applications of topical pesticides that quickly break down.  Imidacloprid is being used in the fall because it will keep the tree toxic through spring, past the time bees will be foraging.

 Communication with APHIS (and Bob Baca specifically) has been easy and productive.  I greatly object to what they are planning to do, and the justifications they use to do so, but nothing seems to have been secretive or done behind anyone’s back.  I couldn’t be more impressed in this regard.

 I believe the fall application to be illegal, and contrary to the label requirements.  If you believe the same, please email the following people at APHIS, as these are the folks I’ve been corresponding with.



Dean Stiglitz

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