Well, here we are guys! Episode 4 of our Save the Bees series (here's part 1, part 2 and part 3) I'm absolutely blown away by the support I've received from everyone so far - it’s been heart-warming to see everyone's pledge to join in on this important mission. For those of you who haven't been following along, In September I attended attended ShiftCon on behalf of YBC - it was at this conference that I found myself participating in a discussion panel lead by Tiffany Finck-Haynes. Tiffany is a Food Futures Campaigner for the Food and Technology Program at Friends of the Earth and gave us a super informative presentation that educated us on what’s been happening to the bees in our very own backyards. Her panel covered everything from recent die-off reports to why this is happening and who’s responsible along with tips and tricks we can do to help save the bees. I'm so excited to be sharing all the eye-opening knowledge I gained from her and the rest of the team at FOE. I've also met Jay Williams along the way, Jay is the proud owner of Williams Honey Farm in Tennessee and has decided to partner up with YBC on some exciting projects and has given me some great first hand knowledge for this series.
Throughout this series we’ve discussed the extremely important role bees play in our ecosystem - they're responsible for pollinating 90% of the world's food, from almonds to tomatoes and strawberries and the growing seriousness of Colony Collapse Disorder in recent years - just last winter beekeepers from across the nation reported a loss of between 40-90% of their bees.... um, NINETY PERCENT OF THEIR BEES! In our most recent episode, I touched the tip of the iceberg in terms of who and what is responsible - hint hint, petrochemical companies like Bayer, Syngenta and Monsanto and their patented pesticides like RoundUp. Round-up, like many other pesticides coming from these companies, contain neurotoxic pesticides called neonicotinoids, which just happen to be the fastest-growing and most widely used class of synthetic pesticides today. Studies have shown that neonics can kill bees outright by attacking their nervous systems. Even low levels of exposure have been shown to disrupt foraging abilities, navigation, learning, communication, memory and even suppresses the immune systems of bees, making them more vulnerable to disease and pests. With over 140+ crops treated with neonics across our nation today - I was very curious to see what Monsanto and similar counterparts were saying about the collapse of bee colonies.
Well let me tell you guys something, pesticide companies are coming up with some brilliant ways to spin the truth behind the bee decline to, of course, protect their precious profits (the neonic global market is $2.6 billion dollars) and stay in the good graces of the global population. They have typically promoted a “multiple factors” argument that severely downplays the seriousness as to the pesticides’ role in this whole thing. The main factors being varroa mites, pathogens and bee forage as primary threats. These corporations have even gone as far as pointing blame at the farmers and consumers for misusing otherwise “safe” pesticides and accusing beekeepers of poor keeping!
What these major corporations are essentially trying to do is divert attention from the problem of neonic pesticides while creating an elaborate appearance of being front and center of the crisis and taking a lead role in saving bees. Their main goal is to manufacture doubt about their products’ contribution to the bee crisis so they’re able to profit from these products as long as possible.
I want to give you guys an idea of how these corporations are spinning things. In May 2013, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency and U.S Department of Agriculture issued a joint report on the National Stakeholders Conference on Honey Bee Health - concluding, among other things that “Pesticide exposure to pollinators continues to be an area of research and concern, particularly the systemic pesticides such as neonicotinoids”  Bayer responded immediately, attempting to spin public understanding about the report’s findings and ignoring pesticides when discussing key threats to bees saying: “the main challenges are disease pathogens such as parasites and varroa mites, and the growing decline in areas where bees can collect pollen and nectar… in addition there is climate change, various factors stemming from bee inbreeding problems, the list of factors is long and varied.” even adding, “it’s generally known that the varroa mite is the main enemy of the bee.” I mean come on, how long has the varroa mite been around, and they're just now killing off all the bees at once?!? As my mom always said, if it doesn't make sense, it's probably not true.
About the same time that the USDA published its report in May 2013 citing neonics, Bayer broke ground on its North American Bee Care Center in North Carolina. Bayer has strategically built these “Bee Care Centers” stationed around the globe - one role for the bee care centers is better education of beekeepers on mite control and other factors to CCD other than pesticides. Bayer’s Marketing VP made the following statement regarding the centers, “Ultimately what we’re trying to do is to provide good scientific support to the epidemic and help understand why bee populations are declining and really put our money where our mouth is and enable a more scientific approach” ....because apparently all the other scientific research that's been published - that doesn't support their agenda, is bogus. Guys, this makes me want to scream!
Now, it’s not just Bayer using these sinful tactics. Syngenta goes so far as to blame human fear as one of the main “causes” of bee declines. The corporation states, “Many people are afraid of bees, wasps, hornets, and many other flying insects. This fear converts, unfortunately, into a major health threat to bees, as too many people simply kill them if they fly into a home or too near to people as they eat, sleep, talk or drink. The number of bees killed by humans each year dwarfs the numbers of bees killed by any of its other predators.”
If you think blaming human fear was low…Bayer doesn’t do itself any favors by targeting children with these false messages and talking points. The corporation published a children’s book called Toby and the Bees , in the book a beekeeper tells Toby that the bees are getting sick, but “not to worry” it’s just a problem with mites, and there is a special medicine to make bees healthy. I’m sure you’ve already guessed that this so called medicine, Check-Mite Plus, significantly reduces the survival rate of bee larvae . I mean, this is outrageous...Bayer is clearly promoting their miticide as the solution while ignoring the role of their very own pesticides.
Efforts to blame anything but pesticides from these guys are on the rise big time and they’ll stop at nothing. From blaming poor science, spinning science, funding their own “research”, lobbying politics, to attacking regulators, they’ve done it all. Bayer, Syngenta and Monsanto all have a great deal at stake in the fight over who and what gets blamed for widespread bee deaths. The truth is, while other factors have been identified as possible contributors to bee declines and hive failure – such as pests, diseases, loss of habitat and changing climate, neonicotinoid pesticides are a core problem that must be addressed. I also can’t help but think so myself, BUT for the use and implementation of these pesticides, would these “multiple factors” still be deadly to the bee population?
The European Union has already placed bans on three widely used neonic pesticides but don't think they're not receiving criticism from these major corporations. Bayer called the restriction "a decision that Bayer considers disproportionate and one that distracts attention away from the real issues surrounding poor bee health."  Its important that we take a stance together to show these guys they can't spin the story to protect their precious profits anymore.
I believe its time to #BeeBold and take action in our own backyards and beyond. Bayer has long been going to extreme lengths to protect its bee-killing products so lets help our friends at FOE break through their misleading messages to win the fight against their sleazy PR campaign by donating here.
In episode 5 of this series I’ll go over what we can do to help stop CCD while supporting great causes, small businesses we love and your local bee population...Plus, I might even have a fun little diy for the bees perfect for the entire family so stay tuned!
 USDA. 2012. Report on the National Stakeholders Conference on Honey Bee Health. http://www. usda.gov/documents/ReportHoneyBeeHealth.pdf.
 Doran, T. “Bayer CropScience expands bee research efforts.”Agrinews. September 27, 2013. http://www.agrinews-pubs.com/Content/News/ Latest-News/Article/Bayer-CropScience-expandsbee-research-efforts-/8/6/8395 (accessed 1/15/2014).
 Bayer Crop Science, Toby and the Bees, 2013. http://beecare.bayer.com/bilder/upload/ dynamicContentFull/Publications/Toby_and_the_ beeshfattqbf.pdf.
 Wanyi Zhu, Daniel R. Schmehl, Christopher A. Mullin, James L. Frazier. Four Common Pesticides, Their Mixtures and a Formulation Solvent in the Hive Environment Have High Oral Toxicity to Honey Bee Larvae. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (1): e77547 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0077547.
 Bayer Cropscience United States. 2013. Decision to restrict use of neonicotinoid-containing products will not improve bee health. Press Release: May 24, 2013. http://www.bayercropscience.us/news/press-releases?storyId=37273802-f1c7-4e83-b994-10c235b884c2.