Saving pollinators from an imaginary bee-pocalypse

“Major bee die-offs have been reported as far back as 950 AD!”
– Paul Driessen

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“With new honeybee colony numbers showing a slight decline between 2019 and 2020, it’s almost a certainty that anti-pesticide groups will try to connect them to neonicotinoid use,” writes Paul Driessen. “Here are the facts, along with some fascinating history, data and discussions about bees, honey production, and scientific integrity and fraud.”

“With flowers blooming, bees buzzing, and people beginning to control garden pests, it’s a good time to revisit these always contentious and important issues.”

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Saving pollinators from an imaginary bee-pocalypse

Honeybees are doing OK, despite varroa mites, the Covid-driven economy and other problems

Paul Driessen

A torrent of media stories from 2013-2014 presented frightening tales of “unprecedented” colony collapse disorder (CCD) among honeybees, conjuring up visions of a “bee-pocalypse” and “a world without bees,” a world in which flowers and agriculture would be decimated.

Many articles blamed neonicotinoid pesticides, while others added climate change and biotech (GMO) crops as likely culprits. Some mentioned Varroa destructor mites and various viruses and diseases as possible causes. Virtually none suggested that organic food industry chemicals could also be implicated in bee deaths. The overall tone was “deep concern,” bordering on hysteria. But it sold papers and air time.

Over the next few years, the number of US honey-producing bee colonies (hives) generally and gradually increased, though with bumps in the road. There were 100,000 more hives in 2014 than in 2013, and numbers went on a slight roller coaster in subsequent years, up and down in the same range as 1993-2012.

Likely cause is the Covid-driven 2020 economy

A recent US Department of Agriculture honey report could ignite new concerns, especially in conjunction with recent data that show a 4% decline in US bee colony numbers: 2,812,000 in 2019 versus 2,706,000 in 2020. This time, though, the more likely cause is the Covid-driven 2020 economy

Indeed, honey production dropped 6% but honey prices rose slightly to offset some of the lower production and sales. Almond grove and other pollination revenue went down 18% and other revenues fell even more sharply. But it’s also interesting that that there were 1,000 fewer apiary workers in 2020 than the year before – and spending on Varroa and other bee disease control declined almost 30% (the same drop as expenditures on syrup and other bee food). That largely explains the lower hive numbers.

(Also interesting, four states – Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota – accounted for 38% of all US honeybee colonies in 2020, many of them reliant on canola flowers. Their honey averaged $1.60 per pound in 2020, versus $6.30 per pound for boutique honey from four states – Illinois, Kentucky, New Jersey and Vermont – that collectively had just over 1% of all US hives.)

No connection to neonics, other pesticides or much of anything else

Even more fascinating and instructive is the trajectory of US honeybee colony numbers over the past five decades, showing no connection to neonics, other pesticides or much of anything else.

The all-time-high for US honeybee hives was in 1977 (4,323,000 colonies), and it was 6% higher than in 1972. The total then plummeted 25% by 1986 – and hasn’t been above 3,000,000 since 1992. The all-time-low for US honeybee colonies was 2,342,000 in 2008 – five years before the bee-pocalypse!

It gets even harder to decipher recent bee problems when you realize that Varroa mites didn’t arrive in the United States until 1987, and neonic use didn’t begin until the mid-1990s. But US honeybee colony numbers have been consistently in the 2.5-2.9 million range, with just a few dips to 2.4 million.

Varroa mites are nasty threats

Varroa mites are nasty threats largely because the American-European honeybee (unlike its Asian cousin) had no natural defenses against them. The mites bite into bees and bee larvae, feed on bee “blood,” and create pathways into bees for at least 19 viruses and diseases. Tracheal mites, Nosema intestinal fungi, parasitic phorid flies, the tobacco ringspot virus and other pests can also cause significant colony losses.

Beekeepers can accidentally kill entire hives, trying to address such problems, but professionals have become much better at getting treatments and doses right than have most hobbyist beekeepers.

As their name suggests, neonicotinoid pesticides are derived from synthetic nicotine. Some 90% are applied as seed coatings that dissolve and get absorbed into plant tissues as crops grow; they target and kill only pests that feed on the crops. Neonics also largely eliminate the need to spray with other insecticides that can easily harm bees and other beneficial insects. These innovative chemicals have nevertheless been targeted by anti-pesticide groups, and by organic food producers that themselves use various crop-protecting pesticides that are harmful or lethal to honeybees and wild bees.

Among those organic farm chemicals, pyrethrin neurotoxin pesticides are highly toxic to bees, possible human carcinogens – and no longer derived from flowers, but synthetically manufactured. Nicotine sulfate can partially paralyze bee wings and legs, and can be poisonous to humans. Copper sulfate is highly toxic to bees, deadly to fish, bio-accumulative in soil and water, and all-around nasty.

Changing agricultural and land-use practices, also play a role, including more houses, factories and highways replacing flowering trees and open fields of plants that provide pollen and nectar for bees.

Bees naturally have very short lives

However, when they see lurid photos of dead bees, people should understand that bees have very short lives. Exactly how long depends on their species and sex, the climate where they live, food availability, overall bee health in the hive – and what time of year bees emerge from their cell.

Queen bees can live 2-3 years, even 4 years or more; they lay up to 2,000 eggs per day. Male drone bees live several months during warm weather, but die after mating with a queen, because their reproductive organs are ripped from their bodies in the process! Female worker bees live only 4-6 weeks, because foraging for food takes them miles every day and wears their bodies out quickly; they live up to 20 weeks in the winter, when their job is keeping the hive warm.

Average honeybee colonies hit peak population counts of 50,000-60,000 in June – but those numbers plummet rapidly in autumn, as flowers disappear and cold weather sets in. So dead bees in and around hives is normal (but excellent fodder for fear-mongering).

Major bee die-offs have been reported as far back as 950 AD!

As to “colony collapse disorder” (sometimes called “disappearing disorder”), major bee die-offs were reported in Ireland as far back as 950 AD! The first recorded US case of worker bees suddenly abandoning hives full of honey occurred in 1869; researchers reported 25 significant bee die-offs between that one and 2003. The causes are unknown, but die-offs are not unprecedented.

Of course studies have purported to demonstrate the toxicity of neonics. But many were conducted in laboratories, using doses and application methods that bear no relation to what farmers do or what bees experience in the real world, where they might encounter neonic levels in pollen and nectar measured in parts per billion or trillion: the equivalent of a few seconds in 32 or 32,000 years, respectively.

Multiple field studies – in actual farmers’ fields – have consistently shown no adverse effects on honeybees at the colony level from realistic exposures to neonics. In fact, bees thrive in and around neonic-treated corn and canola crops in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and elsewhere.

So it was highly surprising that a 2017 article in the respected journal Science claimed that two years of field studies in three countries showed exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides reduced the ability of honeybees and wild bees to survive winters and establish new populations and hives the following year. The article generated a fury of I-told-you-so declarations from the likes of Greenpeace and Pesticide Action Network. But it’s no longer available online.

Perhaps that’s because, as I explained in my own detailed assessment, the authors violated multiple guidelines for scientific integrity. Not only did their own data contradict their primary claim; they kept extensive data out of their analysis and incorporated only what supported their conclusions. That’s fraud.

When all the missing and doctored data were examined, of the 258 separate honeybee statistical data analyses involved in the study, 238 found no effects on bees from neonics and 7 found beneficial effects from the pesticide! Only 9 (a mere 3%) found harmful impacts, while 4 had insufficient data.

It’s vital that we protect our honeybees, bumblebees and wild bees. But that means understanding history, science, modern agriculture and bee life expectancy – so that we are not so easily snookered by lurid tales of bee Armageddon, and we don’t do more harm than good, for the best of intentions.

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of books and articles on energy, climate and environmental issues.

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April 12, 2021 at 11:22AM

CA bill would nail those who can least afford the most expensive energy in the U.S.A.

California Senator Weiner has taken Governor Newsom’s recent Executive order to ban the sale of gas-powered vehicles and hydraulic fracturing one step further with his introduction of SB 467 to obliterate the California economy. The bill is so broad and ambiguous that the results of its passage would lead to a total production ban in California and increase energy costs upon those that can least afford it.

With California already having the highest cost of fuels in the country, the wealthy and middle class have more tolerance for expensive energy, but poverty kills and having legislatures pass legislation making energy more expensive on the less fortunate, will worsen poverty.

The Governor is proud of California, despite its dysfunctional energy policies making California the only state in the lower 48 states that imports most of its crude oil from foreign countries almost halfway around the world.

California’s dependency on foreign suppliers has increased imported crude oil from foreign countries from 5 percent in 1992 to 58 percent today. The imported crude oil costs California more than $60 million dollars a day, yes, every day, being paid to oil-rich foreign countries, depriving Californians of jobs, careers, and business opportunities. SB 467 will eliminate in-state production and require the State to increase its monthly imports resulting in expenditures approaching a whopping $90 million EVERY DAY for foreign countries to support the fifth largest economy in the world.

Newsom’s Executive order and Senator Weiner’s SB 467 are forcing increases in our dependency on foreign countries that have less environmental controls than California. SB 467 further reduces oil production by requiring larger setbacks from existing oil production wells, forcing companies to shut down anything within 2,500 feet of a building.

Hopefully, when the bill goes before Senate Natural Resources Committee at a hearing on Tuesday April 13th, it will meet its demise. The bill would result in hundreds of thousands of Californians without jobs, and all 40 million residents being completely reliant on petroleum produced from other parts of the world.

It has been a tough year for everyone during the pandemic, but more so on the lower income portion of the population. As we emerge from an emotionally and financially challenging year, we are seeing that the wealthy and middle-income folks have mostly recovered. The bottom half remain far from it.

This dichotomy is evident in many facets of the economy, especially in employment. Jobs are fully back for the highest wage earners, but fewer than half the jobs lost this spring have returned for those making less than $20 an hour, according to a new labor data analysis by John Friedman, an economics professor at Brown University and co-director of Opportunity Insights.

Exorbitant energy costs make California’s economic recovery from the pandemic even more challenging for the 18 million (45 percent of the 40 million Californians) that represent the Hispanic and African American  populations of the state. The median income for Latino households in 2016 was $56,200, $55,200 for African American households, and $96,400 for white households. According to several studies, as many as 40 percent of all Californians cannot regularly meet basic monthly expenses.

In 2019, 57 percent of Black families and 50 percent of Latino families with children were poor in terms of net worth, lacking enough financial resources to sustain their families for three months at a poverty level, finds new research from Duke University.

Governor Newsom’s recent Executive order directing the state to require that, by 2035, all new cars and passenger trucks sold in California be zero-emission vehicles, will add more electrical charging demands onto a dysfunctional energy program that has already shuttered nine (9) in-state power plants in the last decade.

California, with 0.5 percent of the world’s population (40 million vs 8 billion) professes to be the leader of everything, and through its dysfunctional energy policies imports more electricity than any other state– currently at 32 percent from the Northwest and Southwest  and dysfunctionally HOPES that other states will be able to generate enough power to meet the demands of the state.

In addition to the closure of the San Onofre nuclear power plant and three natural gas power plants in very recent years, the state has five more to shutter in the cross hairs – the last nuclear plant at Diablo Canyon and four more natural gas power plants. The Governor wants to add more electrical charging demands onto an energy grid that would most likely contribute to more rolling blackouts in the coming years.

As much as Governor Newsom and Senator Weiner want to electrify everything with intermittent electricity, they have yet to comprehend that intermittent electricity cannot support:

  1. The fossil fuel energy needs for the non-nuclear military equipment of aircraft carriers, battleships, destroyers, submarines, planes, tanks and armor, trucks, troop carriers, and weaponry,
  2. Commercial aviation, with 23,000 commercial airplanes worldwide that have been accommodating 4 billion passenger annually,
  3. Cruise liners, each of which consumes 80,000 gallons of fuels daily, that have been accommodating more than 25 million passengers annually worldwide, and
  4. The 53,000 merchant ships burning more than 120 million gallons a day of high sulfur bunker fuel (soon to be converted to diesel fuel to reduce sulfur emissions) moving products worldwide worth billions of dollars daily.

Simply put, the goal to “electrify everything” is a de facto energy tax on low- and middle-income Californians that could add more instability to an already proven unstable state power grid.

It is mind boggling that California’s legislature continuously perpetuates greater energy costs onto those that can least afford “energy poverty” as anyone can see the direct correlation between high energy costs for electricity and fuels, and poverty, homelessness, and a housing affordability crisis already impacting the Golden State.

To compound the dysfunctionality, Governor Newsom’s recent Executive order to ban the sale of gas-powered vehicles by 2035 and in-state production of energy will be devastating to the state’s economy and environment, as the Governor wants to add more electrical charging demands onto a dysfunctional energy program and increase reliance on foreign oil.

California’s legislature continues to perpetuate the state’s dysfunctional energy polices and continues to do everything possible to further INCREASE the costs for energy for its 40 million residents which does not bode well for the bottom half making less than $20 an hour. It’s time for the Senate Natural Resources Committee to reject Weiner’s SB 467.”

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April 12, 2021 at 11:01AM

EP 164: Keepers of the Everglades, Part III – AguaCulture Teaser

EP 164: Keepers of the Everglades, Part III – AguaCulture Teaser

In Episode 163 of District of Conservation, Gabriella previews her upcoming Conservation Nation video on Aguaculture featuring Marshall Jones of Mack’s Fish Camp, conservationist Mike Helfenbein, and AguaCulture creator Nick Szabo.

Catch up on Part I & Part II.

Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/district-of-conservation/support

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April 12, 2021 at 10:54AM

Covid Cult Oppresses Public

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Multiple businesses were vandalized after an anti-curfew protest turned into a riot in Montreal, Quebec Sunday night.  François Legault, the Premier of Quebec, announced Quebec’s Covid-19 curfew will be pushed up from 9:30 PM to 8:00 PM beginning Sunday due to rising Covid cases.

Thy children shall suffer … and other commandments of the Cult of COVID  By Donald S. Siegel, David A. Waldman and Robert M. Sauer at NY Post.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

The Cult of COVID’s spread has been made possible by an alarmingly powerful public-health establishment and large corporations.

cult-of-covid

For years, we’ve heard that a growing share of Americans don’t identify with any religion. But the past year has witnessed a remarkable religious revival in a nation that was supposed to be fast-secularizing. Only, the religion in question is grim, hopeless, more akin to a cult than true faith — and decidedly imposed from on high.

We’re speaking, of course, of the Cult of COVID, the fastest-growing religion in the United States and across much of the developed world, a religion whose spread has been made possible by an alarmingly powerful public-health establishment and large corporations.

The Cult of COVID has its own clerical elite, its own commandments and even modesty norms. And like any cult, its fanatic adherents shame and silence heretics for defying the public orthodoxy.

The faith’s First Commandment: Thou shalt stay locked down.

For the first time in history, healthy, asymptomatic people of all ages were “quarantined” and placed under virtual house arrest for long stretches.

It’s hard to remember now, since they’ve become a part of our lives, but lockdowns and “reopenings” are an unprecedented imposition on our fundamental rights to work, study, do business, freely associate and worship (God, not the COVID deities).

It’s equally hard to remember, but the COVID clerisy told us the lockdowns would last a few weeks at most, until we “flatten the curves”; we did that, months ago, yet the liturgy of lockdowns goes on.

Then there’s the faith’s Second Commandment: Thou shalt wear a mask.

So essential is this modesty norm that even those who are fully vaccinated continue to wear surgical masks whose effectiveness is questionable at best. We are told that the vaccines are overwhelmingly effective — yet not effective enough, apparently, to disrupt the liturgy of lockdowns or to obviate the mask requirement.

Next commandment: Thy children must suffer.

Like most barbarous cults, the Cult of COVID demands child sacrifice, albeit less overtly bloody than the ancient pagan variety. Pagans practiced child sacrifice in order to appease supernatural beings. Likewise, under the Cult of COVID, the educational development and physical and mental health of our children have been sacrificed on the altar of Absolute Safety, one of the cult’s most capricious and hard-to-appease deities.

The priestly class of epidemiologists, school officials and union leaders — the latter are especially important in the cult’s hierarchy — are tasked with carrying out this dark liturgy. The media supply the chorus with predictions of imminent doom if children and their parents don’t continue to sacrifice their freedom and social and academic development.

The children of the poor suffer especially for lack of access to affordable, healthy food. All children pay the price by being deprived of real learning and physical activity.

The disregard for kids’ wellbeing may seem callous, but such is the Cult of COVID: Even and especially the president of the United States must pay obeisance to the cult’s supreme hierarchs, teachers-union bosses.

Which brings us to one of the cult’s most central teachings: that you and your family aren’t individuals with rights and liberties.

Instead, you are germ factories, whose movement and social interaction must be severely limited. The media lionize the experts who have imprisoned us. Politicians claim to “follow the science,” when, in reality, they are really following the cult’s edicts, which are impervious to reason and evidence — for example, evidence that children transmit the virus at a much lower rate than do adults, or that outdoor transmission is so negligible as to render wearing masks in the open downright ridiculous.

If you don’t remember choosing to join an irrational cult, well, nor do we. And nor do millions of people across the West now called to participate in its bizarre, cruel and never-ending liturgies. Whatever your religious beliefs, this was one religious revival America didn’t need.

Donald S. Siegel, is a professor of public policy at Arizona State University, where David A. Waldman is a professor of Management. Robert M. Sauer is a professor of economics at the University of London.

 

 

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April 12, 2021 at 09:47AM