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TIME Magazine Envisions a World Without Honeybees

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View Liz Judge's blog posts
09 August 2013, 4:42 PM
Spoiler: It's not a world anyone wants to live in

TIME Magazine's cover this week depicts a single bee, its wings flapping in frenzied motion on a stark black background. It forebodingly reads, "A WORLD WITHOUT BEES: THE PRICE WE'LL PAY IF WE DON'T FIGURE OUT WHAT'S KILLING THE HONEYBEE".

The article by Bryan Walsh addresses a disastrous phenomenon that could tumble the basis of our food system: the widespread collapse of honeybee colonies nationwide known as "colony collapse disorder." Honeybees across the nation have been dying at rates unseen in history. To say that the bees are dropping like flies, well, it's an affront to the necessity of bees in our food systems and economy. It's hard to talk about colony collapse disorder and not sound Doomsday-ish. And that's because, as Walsh reveals, one-third of the food on our tables is there because of honeybees, which polinate a wide array of the foods we love and need, and their survival is required to fuel our both our bodies and our economy. Forget about berries, fruits, many vegetables if we fail to address this honeybee crisis.

The article illustrates the stakes—what can happen if we lose even more honeybees: The example Walsh singles out is California's $4 billion almond crop, which could fail, and he calls up a powerful demonstration in which a Whole Foods in Rhode Island removed from its produce section all of the foods that exist because of honeybees: 237 out of 453 food items vanished, reports Walsh.

He then asks the necessary question: What's killing them? The TIME article does some of the usual scientific navel-gazing. Much of the mainstream media coverage around honeybee colony collapse just stops there, with scientists scratching their heads, asking questions and spinning a mystery. But, thankfully, Walsh digs into the role of pesticides in all of it. He reports on the lethal effects on bees of a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, or "neonics" for short.

Neonics are highly toxic to bees. Science shows that these pesticides could be the reason for the widespread die-off, and if these pesticides aren't killing the bees directly, they are likely causing them to lose their way back to the beehive, so they get lost and starve.

But the problem of pesticides is actually morphing and growing as big industrial chemical companies develop and rush to market numerous new types of pesticide chemicals; and those dangerous, new chemicals and pesticides are also being rubberstamped for approval by the Environment Protection Agency. Earlier this year, the EPA approved another bee-killing pesticide called Sulfoxaflor. Sulfoxaflor is shown to be “highly toxic” to honey bees and other insect pollinators. Sulfoxaflor is a new chemistry and the first of a newly assigned sub-class of pesticides in the “neonicotinoid” class of pesticides, which some scientists have linked as a potential factor to widespread colony collapse.

The doubt some are casting on the role of these toxic chemicals in colony collapse is unconvincing to many beekeepers across the country, who have observed it all first-hand and know the patterns better than anyone. And these beekeepers have seen all they need to see in their struggle to keep their businesses alive and survive financially. They are so concerned with the effects of pesticides on their industry that they have enlisted Earthjustice as their lawyers in taking the last-resort action of suing the EPA for continuing to approve new pesticides without considering impacts to bees. Anything but a litigious crowd, the beekeepers feel there's no other recourse to save their struggling industry.

They say that by approving sulfoxaflor and similar pesticides, or even by providing scant information for farmers about how they should apply the pesticides to protect the honeybees, the EPA is dooming their industry. And they have tried and tried to get EPA to take a close look at the repercussions of these chemicals not only on the beekeeping industry but also on our food systems.

Rick Smith, beekeeper and farmer and Earthjustice client in the lawsuit, when we filed the lawsuit in July, said:

The beekeeping industry has proactively engaged EPA to address concerns for many years. The industry is seriously concerned the comments it submitted during the Sulfoxaflor registration comment period were not adequately addressed before EPA granted full registration.

The sun is now rising on a day where pollinators are no longer plentiful.

Randy Verhoek, President of the Board of the American Honey Producers Association, added:

The bee industry has had to absorb an unreasonable amount of damage in the last decade. Projected losses for our industry this year alone are over $337 million.

Explained Bret Adee, President of the Board of the National Pollinator Defense Fund:

The EPA is charged with preventing unreasonable risk to our livestock, our livelihoods, and most importantly, the nation’s food supply.

This situation requires an immediate correction from the EPA to ensure the survival of commercial pollinators, native pollinators, and the plentiful supply of seed, fruits, vegetables, and nuts that pollinators make possible.

We got involved in this case because the stakes are tremendously high. As Earthjustice attorney Janette Brimmer put it:

The effects will be devastating to our nation’s food supply and also to the beekeeping industry, which is struggling because of toxic pesticides.

This lawsuit against the EPA is an attempt by the beekeepers to save their suffering industry. The EPA has failed them.

And the EPA’s failure to adequately consider impacts to pollinators from these new pesticides is wreaking havoc on an important agricultural industry and gives short shrift to the requirements of the law.

Stay with us as we fight to save beekeepers and their bees, our nation's food supplies, and the future of our country, which depends on a sustainable and healthy food system.

We as consumers have the POWER. STOP buying products from companies such as BAYER and MONSANTO that produce these killing pesticides. We have to put pressure in their wallets, it is the ONLY THING THEY CARE ABOUT!!!!

I am interested in learning which products are connected to Bayer and Monsanto. I do not approve of Monsanto and the government actions as they are reckless.
I also would like to know if a petition form communities would be effective in the lawsuit against the EPA? Or. what can the concerned citizen do to aid the lawsuit?
I am 55 years of age and saw the beginnings of the EPA agency and have seen it grown exponentially to what I see is a detriment to our nation. My dearly departed father was an OSHA consultant and there's no doubt he's turning in his grave.

As long as we keep putting officials in charge of regulating organizations, that come from the industries that they are supposed to regulate, we will continue to have the industry control regulations. This is true with the EPA, FDA, USDA, SEC, etc.. I am sorely disappointed with president Obama, for continuing this way of appointing. Demand that your congressman, senator, and president end these types of appointments.

What's killing our bees is their anonymity. School children know bees only from Winnie the Pooh and the occasional wasp that stings them in the summer. Oh bees! I am so afraid of bees! Allergic to bee stings! Swarming of bees! African killer bees! It is the outrageous stupid campaign of a media bent on stupidifying our society. Bees are negligible and a nuisance to many who have no idea their role. Of course, many have no idea where food comes from in the first plavce. That is the fault of our useless and self-fulfilling educational system.

As alwyas, it is a small and knowledge base in their own world who know the bee and protect it, raise them and love them. They need to raise their voices.

I also think some of this partly due to the profiteering beekeeper who ship their bees all over the US without thought to their wellbeing and exposure to strange microbes and plants, weakening their ability to fight off usual illnesses. Bees are not meant to fly thousands of miles in a season, they stay rather well in one area and get to know where their sources of pollen are. Change that up by moving htem constantly and their ability to find and develop food resources is reduced and thus, the hive weakens and is susceptible to ordinary stress and death occurs.

I believe that we are doing so much damage to mother earth that at some point, perhaps soon, she will evict us.
And we will deserve it.

It should be obvious at this point that humans, as a species, are flawed and, more importantly, destructive, not only to itself and other living creatures but the the very planet needed for it's own existence.
In millions of years, long after our bones have turned to dust and the remnants of man have long dissolved, the Earth will return to it's former grandeur, sans one "hairless ape," and it's pernicious ambitions.

Honeybees are an essential part of nature. We need them for so many things. Please stop hurting them!!

I'm surprised that no one has yet mentioned radio frequency, cell phone towers, and "smart meters" as a part of what is killing bees as well as many other insects, causing stunted growth in plants, in frogs...the list goes on....not to mention what all the RF is doing to humans.
I know people who keep bees who saw their bees die not long after smart meter were installed.
The chemicals are obviously a huge issue but add the RF on top of it and it has taken us over the edge. It NOT just one thing.
We ALL have to take responsibility for inviting and demanding RF to be everywhere in our lives. This is addiction and we've created this mess.
SO you say you're concerned about bees dying??? people and get rid of your cell phones and i-everythings, hard wire your computer and landline telephones, and demand that smart meters be stopped.

Look at these articles for some startling information. There's a huge body of scientific research showing what RF is doing to every living thing. so stop hiding your head in the sand and take action!

Food collection and response to pheromones in an ant species exposed to electromagnetic radiation Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine, 2012 Early Online: 1–18,

Mobile Phone Mast Effects on Common Frog Tadpoles: The City Turned into a Laboratory. ALFONSO BALMORI . Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine, 29: 31–35, 2010

The Arab Spring was a wake up call to this planet. America is not absent from this call.
Our voices must not continue to be whispers in the wind.It is the LIGHT shining on the darkness that has reigned this world and its evil is running out of time, This is why we are witnessing so much devestation at an accelerated rate. We truly need to be our brother's keeper in these even darker days to come... We are witnessing hell being unleashed. A person does't have be religious to recognize whats happening.
May God's glory be upon each and every one of us as we do fight the good fight. Remember who is the One True Judge and it is in Christ we trust and ask to come GODspeed! Amen

soon, there won't be any bees to pollinate the crops that are flood drenched or drought parched. We will have to hire people to pollinate the flowers with tiny paint brushes.

I live in southeast Texas. Every year a fast growing climbing "weed" starts racing over bushes, across the ground, up the fences and up the bricks on my house. I noticed last year the bees were feeding off clusters of sealed pods or flowers if you will that occur periodically on the vine. I chose this year not to try and kill this weed. It has overtaken and killed three ligustrum bushes in my yard but hey the hum of hundreds of bees feeding when I walk out my back door is music to my ears. If I could identify this weed and get the word out to those trying to save them who posses the knowledge to utilize the info I wonder if it would help? My neighbors don't have this so called weed in their yards. However I haven't used any lawn care pesticides in several years now. Im sure they are annoyed because it grows over and through the privacy fence into their yards. Oh well. This weed dies around October and won't be back again til April of next year. When I was growing up, 20 miles from where I currently live, my father raised bees for his children to sell the honey door to door to help all 6 of us get through college. With other projects, like a tree farm, it worked.

The outcome of what Homo sapiens is doing to the planet is obvious. Our earth is changing quickly & we are not ready to cope with our greed.

Human kind needs a psychoanalyst. Bombings, torture, murder, wreaking havoc on the environment, exporting weapons of everykind, drugs, alcohol, food containing antibiotics, pesticides, herbacides, fungicides, the air crackling with artificial electronic waves, paranoia manifested by mass spying and interception of communications, global warming is an opportunity to exploit areas that melt out with no consideration to what will happen elsewhere, politicians that are all talk and no action or worse are full of neurotic behavior that manifests itself in know it all behavior ... and what have these politicos really done in life? What have they seen of life? Controlled media......and what comes next?

I am a small time bee keeper / hobbyist who struggles with neurological deficits. Through pure fate/accident, I have benefited immensely from the stings and other bee products in controlling my debilitating neuropathy . Depressing as it is, I continue the fight to keep my bees alive. I believe that bees may hold the answers/ cures to many diseases that are plaguing our health care system. These incredible creatures need to be protected for the survival of all.

Keep up the effort. I firmly believe you are right about bees having a big part in our health issues.

I am a small time bee keeper / hobbyist who struggles with neurological deficits. Through pure fate/accident, I have benefited immensely from the stings and other bee products in controlling my debilitating neuropathy . Depressing as it is, I continue the fight to keep my bees alive. I believe that bees may hold the answers/ cures to many diseases that are plaguing our health care system. These incredible creatures need to be protected for the survival of all.

The aquaculture industry in Washington State is anxious to see imadicloprid registered in Wa. state to replace the carbaryl that they've been using for over 50 years to kill a native ghost shrimp that they say makes the mud flats too mucky for them to profitably raise their oysters. Carbaryl was subject to a settlement with the Washington Toxics Coalition and Ad Hoc Coalition for Willapa Bay. The use of carbaryl(Sevin) a nicotinoid was supposed to end after last year. The oystergrowers were able to extend its use for a year while they are looking into getting imadicloprid registered. EPA has conditionally approved imadicloprid for use in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor---DOE says it has no say in this, but WSDA can stop it.
Its time for Washingtonians to step up and challenge the humungous use of pesticides in
this state, aquatically and terrestrially.

I am a beekeeper who has seen the drastic affects of these nasty pesticides! Many of you may not know but these types of pesticides have a 20 year half life in the ground so no matter what is planted there it is poison to you and your family! Also the fact that farmers add the chemicals every time they plant another crop it is never going to get any better! Other countries have already banned these pesticides and we the supposed greatest nation on Earth don't CARE about the outcome! NO BEES, NO POLLINATION = NO FOOD & WE ARE ALL DEAD IN 4 YEARS. GET MY POINT? ACT NOW BECAUSE THE LIFE YOU SAVE WILL BEE YOUR OWN!!!

Try putting white vinegar on weeds, enough to soak to the root. I never spray any type of pesticide or herbicide on my farm.

This is just plain awful,thinking to lobby and legislate and 'not-label' the toxic monoculture as Ok and ignoring the fact that our bees are intrinsic to our well-being is unbelievable. All pressure should be applied to this issue..permaculture not pesticide,get the poisons out of our environment and food supply..its a 'no-brainer' which is probably a result of pesticides in our systems already!..Save the Bees,Save Ourselves ~

This article reminds me of the movie Snow White and the Huntsman, where the wicked
Queen with her evil control causes the land to be dark and barren for her personal gain.
That is us, and the EPA is not doing their job. That is very sad and so scary.

We live on a farm and we never use any chemicals or sprays of any kind. We let nature
do its job naturally. It is real easy.

We get picked on a lot for being" tree huggers" because of it, but I feel really good
knowing we are doing our part to help the environment. I can sleep at night.

Pam, wish I could buy the food that you produce. Where do you live?

and what of the beekeepers' role in this? without the availability of trucked in hives for pollination, vast deserts of almonds would never have been planted. other flowering plants would have to be included in plantations to support local populations of honey bees and other pollinators. if permanent honey bee hives and local pollinators were relied on to do the job, would pesticides still be applied?

I'm a beekeeper myself. my bees are doing just fine. I leave them in one place. I don't open the hives except to harvest. I don't use miticides. I don't graft queens. I don't suppress swarms. in short, I don't heap abuse on a wonderful ally and then expect it to keep coöperating.

neonicotinoid pesticides are clearly a great evil. but they are an evil made attractive largely by the activities of a group (migratory beekeepers) that the environmental community seems all too willing to defend.

I think this idea is baloney. I have a friend who has just two or three hives in one place, but he found a neighbor spraying pesticide/herbicide not half a block from his hives on the wild blackberry bushes we have locally (everywhere, such as in your lawn). You don't have to be moving your hives or renting them out to be victimized by these products: They're universal.

hi Dawn,

it's rather unlikely that your friend's neighbor was spraying neonicotinoid insecticides on wild blackberries. folks spray herbicides on blackberries, not insecticides.

herbicides cause all sorts of problems, but directly killing bees is not one of them. removing sources of pollen and nectar by killing flowering plants certainly doesn't do bees any favors, but herbicides are not, for the most part, acutely toxic to bees if they are not applied to plants that are flowering.

I believe that herbicides are also largely a product of industrial agriculture, which goes hand-in-hand with industrial beekeeping. according to the EPA, 80% of pesticide use in the U.S. occurs in the agriculture sector. the vast majority of pesticide use is due to industrial agriculture, not individual consumers spraying those pesky blackberries. were those pesticides not made viable by the services of migratory beekeepers, an enormous part of their market would not exist. and so, perhaps, there would be no impetus for ever bigger and badder pesticides in an escalating war against nature.

beekeepers are not the entirety of the problem, but it does us no favors to pretend they are free of blame.

apologies for the repeat post.

I have Bee's that are drinking water at irrigation water pump valves, They never bother me, as they are busy getting a drink.
Qustion, could the inscticides that get in to the irrigation ditches be killing Bee's?
Nothing can be done about it, but just a thought?

and what of the beekeepers' role in this? without the availability of trucked in hives for pollination, vast deserts of almonds would never have been planted. other flowering plants would have to be included in plantations to support local populations of honey bees and other pollinators. if permanent honey bee hives and local pollinators were relied on to do the job, would pesticides still be applied?

I'm a beekeeper myself. my bees are doing just fine. I leave them in one place. I don't open the hives except to harvest. I don't use miticides. I don't graft queens. I don't suppress swarms. in short, I don't heap abuse on a wonderful ally and then expect it to keep coöperating.

neonicotinoid pesticides are clearly a great evil. but they are an evil made attractive largely by the activities of a group (migratory beekeepers) that the environmental community seems all too willing to defend.

I totally agree with your observations

As Rachel Carson admonished, these "biocides" kill their targets....and others.
We humans, at the top of the food chain, need to comes to grips with the reality that what we make, put on the ground, in the air, and in the water, comes back to us in perverse ways.
Stop making more and more and more poisons!!!

cure for the planet is.....kill the humans

Greed! Make one sweeping law against greed and limit the amounts of money any one individual can have. Overhaul the entire system for survivals sake. Since that won't happen until mass destruction, perhaps the money people & industries put into destroying weeds can be channeled into youth programs to hand work the land & pull those weeds, using the good ones for food & fuel. People need to use their heads and be considerate of all natural systems.

The EPA needs to get off of their dead butts and do what we are paying them to do, protect our environment. Not sell out to the highest paying industrial lobbyists.

Humans need bees to survive.

Monsanto and Roundup MUST go!!!!!!!!!!!!!! There will be NO financial gain for those companies if people are gone because we did not save bees.

Stores like Home Depot are stocked up with Round-up and pesticides to the ceiling. They also treat their plants in the garden center with insecticides before they sell them to unaware customers. I live in Southern Arizona and I am glad, when something grows at all. Using all these toxins is absolute insanity and this must be stopped!

You are right we will not survive if we destroy the bee's and it is the same with all living creature's.There are a lot of animal's at risk are whole way of living is destroying the animal's and are planet.We need to stop so much of what we are doing I don't fear much except the people who are in charge of most of the planet.I hope something huge changes are whole planet so it can start over.



Vanity and laziness are killing the bees. People want weed free, pest free lawns and gardens.

You don't like dandelions, the most useful plant ever, then pull it, don't spray it. You don't like weeds in your lawn, too bad, bees could use the flowers in the lawn such as clover. You would have a greener lawn if you allowed "weeds". Don't spray, don't use chemicals. Hand picking of pests is a relaxing occupation.

Farmers need to rotate crops and place crops in appropriate locations so that bugs that infect one crop will not affect the crops next to it. Isolate.

Bees are little creatures than have been crapped on far too long and far too often.

Commonsense could save the bees. I am with Edeltraud Baker.

We need the "best of the best" pros in social media as well as aspiring superheroes to get on board. The recent Time magazine cover story served as a reminder of this serious problem that is not getting the attention it deserves. So put on your cape, super charge your fingers, and pull out your bag of tools you use on your " save the world" adventures and lets see if any of us can be the new world setter of story telling and information sharing.

There is a solution to this crisis. As you can imagine, it will take mankind making some major adjustments in our thinking to bring it about, and not just about banning certain pesticides, although that will help.

Mankind has dominion over the animals, and that does not mean we have the right to be brutal to them. It means that animals reflect mankind's crises. Think about animals, such as police dogs, and how they can determine the criminal.

Bees generally function according to the principles of the cooperation of nature, but mankind is going through a major societal shift that started several years ago, which relates to the end of power games of one-upmanship and greed. As the games that we rely on come to an end, there is a great deal of fear. Many people fear for the future. Fear is a very low energy, "darkness." I have noticed that for the last few years, the leaves are turning earlier and earlier, as if the days are getting shorter. Darkness is coming earlier, but it relates to the fears, not the sunshine.

To overcome this crisis, mankind must start learning to work together, like the bees, all working to benefit everyone. The power games that are causing so much fear are also triggering tsunamis and hurricanes, and tornadoes.

My organization is introducing a plan for world peace based on the principles of the cooperation of nature, and it is patterned after a beehive. We recommend that to overcome the fear, we can take a lesson from bees.

This article made me think of the movie Snow White and the Huntsman, where all the land went dark and
barren when the wicked Queen was in control of the land and poisoned it all. That is us and the EPA is not
doing their job. What a scary thought!

The wicked Queen has got to go.

Like most government agencies, an EPA study and evaluation may take years. Years that will continue to profoundly devastate the beekeeping industry and take its toll on our food supply. What is needed to back the lawsuit is attention from food growers who rely on bees to pollinate crops, from grocery store chains who buy those crops, and from us -- the general public who keep paying more and more money to buy and consume pesticide laden food in the name of productivity.

Follow the money here--who profits from new pesticides? It's not the EPA, but they are convinced and persuaded by lobbyists to promote these pesticides and allow them to be sprayed again and again.

Am I preaching to the choir? Maybe, but we need all choir members to step up and take aim at pesticides. What can we, the public, do to get involved now?

New Beekeepers,
Paige, Texas

As long as we are scared to put our name to our opinion,
as long as we buy products from companies who produce herbicides and pesticides, which we THINK we must use to get better fruit, vegetable, flowers or whatever we want to grow; as long as we want everything to be perfect in shape and size and looks;
as long as we buy shares from and support companies who do research with our food supply through genetic engineering with DNA, bacteria and viruses etc;
as long as we don't care about consuming genetically modified food and prefer to live in a more and more sterile environment - nothing will change.
Every day we can read about Human Rights, Justice etc. - Where are our rights when we buy items, which contribute to Allergies, Neurological Disorders, Cardiac Diseases, Cancers, Alzheimers and much more?

Here is my name Edeltraud so how does that help the statement about living in Southeast Texas with the weed that the bees feed off of?

The almost total devastation of the bee population in Boulder CO this year cannot be through the evil hand of Monsanitation must be Fukushima.

once again greed & tremendous stupidity win out over common sense. how is it the idiots keep being able to make life altering decisions for the rest of us?

Because the rest of us are equally to blame. Americans are complacent, allowing and even granting powers that be the ability to destroy. Americans need to rise up and stand for life, all living things. We are the cancer to the planet. Our consciousness is to blame. When will WE ever learn. Talking is a wonderful tool, although real change and transformation often occurs in the world of action.

" a cancer with shoes"

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