Buzzkill leaves one with the impression that the entire bee and almond industries are on the verge of collapse. Of course, the news media focus on fear and disaster, so we may consider taking such dire projections with a grain of salt. In the case of Dan Rather, the focus was on the beekeepers with troubles, not upon those who successfully filled their pollination contracts.
So just how severe was the problem? Let’s say that there was an overall shortage of 100,000 hives (a figure that I heard floated)—that would represent only about 6% of the total number of hives placed into almond pollination. The other 94% were successfully delivered (although a proportion of those were weak due to the poor season).
Since the debacle, I’ve heard from plenty of beekeepers whom I’ll refer to as the "silent majority," who experienced "normal" colony winter losses in the 5‐25% range, and who successfully filled their pollination contracts. Although the hearts of all beekeepers go out to those who suffered severe colony losses, many felt that some of those losses could have been prevented if the afflicted beekeepers had been more proactive than reactive.
And don’t forget those upon whom the rest of the industry depends to supply bees for restocking their deadouts! The California package producers, who have been pollinating almonds for decades, are routinely counted on to consistently take strong hives to almonds, and to then shake over a hundred thousand packages of bees for sale afterwards. Few of these major producers experience severe unexplained colony losses.
THE LYNCH MOB
Despite the fact that a wide range of bee‐toxic insecticides are being applied (often during bloom) to corn, soy, sunflowers, alfalfa, cotton, and other major crops, if you Google anything about insecticide use, you’ll quickly find that the blogosphere focuses only upon the putative link between a single class of insecticides—the neonicotinoids‐‐and the demise of pollinators .
People look at me incredulously when I point out that there is zero firm evidence to date that the neonic seed treatments are a serious problem! But the notion that all honey bee problems are caused by an
insidious new insecticide resonates with a distrustful public , and has firmly established itself as "common knowledge." But repeating something does not make it true!
"It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled"–Mark Twain
Practical application: the question is, "Are the neonic seed treatments being railroaded into a guilty verdict in the media’s kangaroo court of public opinion?"
One group recently brought suit against the EPA to ban the use of the seed treatments clothianidin and thiamethoxam , neither of which even make California’s top 100 list of pesticides applied , nor that have ever been demonstrated to harm colonies feeding on the pollen or nectar of seed‐treated plants! A number of people have made up their minds that the neonics are the main cause of colony collapse, and it appears that no amount of facts to the contrary will cause them to reconsider!