OSU Extension

To Bee Or Not To Bee, That Is The Question.


A couple of weeks ago I wrote this column about my trials and tribulations with the blackberries that have overtaken my yard. I still have more of them to cut down and recycle, but my recycle barrel is full (for the second time) and I’ll have to wait until it is picked up and emptied before I can pile more debris into it. My back yard is enclosed by an old cedar fence so I don’t really have to worry about the neighbors being upset at the overgrowth of blackberry bushes, etc. that I have been cutting down and piling up.

Backyard Debris
Pruning Debris In My Backyard | Photo by Tim Chuey

I also have some other bushes to trim and while I was pruning one of them I noticed many many bees landing on the blooms. I had to stop pruning because I was afraid I would get stung by what seemed like 50 or more bees flying near me to get from blossom to blossom.

Backyard Bee
Bee In My Backyard | Photo by Tim Chuey

The thought occurred to me to ask the question: haven’t they been saying that the bees are dying and there are not as many as there should be to pollinate flowers, trees and crops?

In a March 2014 article written by Joachim Hagopian in the publication Global Research by the Center for Research on Globalization the statement was made that scientists reported “…perhaps the biggest foreboding danger of all facing humans is the loss of the global honeybee population. The consequences of a dying bee population impacts man at the highest levels on our food chain, posing an enormously grave threat to human survival. Since no other single animal species plays a more significant role in producing the fruits and vegetables that we humans commonly take for granted yet require near daily to stay alive, the greatest modern scientist Albert Einstein once prophetically remarked ‘Mankind will not survive the the honeybees’ disappearance for more than five years’.”

European Bee Hive
European Honey Bee Hive |Photo by Ashley N. Mortensen, Entomology and Nematology Department, University of Florida.

The Western Honeybee or European Honey Bee is defined by Wikipedia as Apis mellifera Linnaeus which is the most common of the 40 species of honey bee worldwide. “Like all honey bees the western honey bee is eusocial, creating colonies with a single fertile female (or queen) many sterile females or ‘workers,’ and small proportion of fertile males or ‘drones’.”

Noticeable decreases in the honey bee populations began in 2006. There have been a number of reasons given for this and a name given to the phenomenon “Honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder” or CCD for short. Earlier this year Newsweek Magazine that “honeybees in trucks migrate to various regions of the country to pollinate an estimated $40 billion worth of the nation’s agricultural produce each year.” It has been reported that 30% of the national bee population has disappeared and nearly one third of of all bee colonies in the U.S. have perished in the last five years alone.  

Xerces Society
Xerces Society | Image by agriecologyandsustanableagriculture.org

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation based in nearby Portland, Oregon recently published a Review of Research into the Effects of Neonicotinoids on Bees With Recommendations for Action by Jennifer Hopwood, Mace Vaughan, Matthew Shepherd, David Biddinger, Eric Mader, Scott Hoffman Black and Celeste Mazzaccano.

Bayer Pesticides
Bayer Pesticides | Image by kplu.org

Neonicotinoids are a new class of insecticides chemically related to nicotine. According to Texas A & M AgriLife Extension “They act on certain kinds of receptors in the nerve synapse. They are much more toxic to invertebrates, like insects, than they are to mammals, birds and other higher organisms.” The Xerces Society report contains many major findings one of which is that “There is no direct link demonstrated between neonicotinoids and the honey bee syndrome known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

Bee Colony Poster
Bee Colony Poster | Image by theconservationconnection.blogspot.com

However, recent research suggests that neonicotinoids can make bees more susceptible to parasites and pathogens, including the intestinal parasite Nosema which has been implicated as one causative factor in CCD.” They continue by saying “Many neonicotinoid pesticides that are sold to homeowners for use on lawns and gardens do not have any mention of the risks of these products to bees, and the label guidance for products used in agriculture is not always clear and consistent.”  They also note that the “application rates (for lawn and garden use) are up to 120 times higher than rates approved for agricultural crops.”

Two bees
Can You Find Two Bees In This Photo? | Photo by Tim Chuey

You’ve no doubt heard the statement “There’s an App For That” many times. The Oregon State University Extension Office released an app earlier this year that can be used by farmers and beekeepers to consult a publication while they are out in the field. It would be a handy guide for anyone needing to use a pesticide or herbicide to protect their plants and lawns. The app goes along with the OSU Extension publication How to reduce bee poisoning from pesticides (PNW 591). The guide lists 150 insecticides, fungicides, miticides and slug killers and growth inhibitors all of which are searchable by trade name or chemical name on the app. For detailed information on the publication and the app go to OSU News Release.

How To Reduce Bee Poisoning
How To Reduce Bee Poisoning | Image by Xerces.org

To sum it all up it looks like the problem has not been solved as yet, but as the research continues some protective measures have already been put into place. Bee stings can be painful and quite unpleasant, but are a small price to pay for the necessary pollination process that they perform. At this time there seems to be no easy solution for the future of the much needed honey bees.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].