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In defence of neonics...?

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  • Registered Users Posts: 1,275 ✭✭✭bpmurray



    There are enormous differences in the results of scientific investigations. A recent paper from The Netherlands indicates that neonics are, indeed, responsible for not only impacting pollinators, but also wild birds.

    I suspect the problem is that the experiments have not been designed well, so the results are really inconclusive. The things being measured are insufficiently isolated from external factors, e.g. are queens impacted by pesticides directly, or by residual pesticides in royal jelly? Also I question whether some of the things being measured really matter. For example, the number of bee colonies, as highlighted in this article, is an irrelevant metric since any beekeeper can easily multiply their colony numbers, e.g. I doubled the number of my colonies this year without buying in any external bees. In reality, a much more important number is the number of colonies that fail to survive the winter: this is a direct measure of mortality which is, after all, the key metric when measuring how bees are thriving.

    So, as an alternative to this article which is based on a meaningless measurement, the COLOSS results show a much more interesting picture and it is much less rosy than Crabtree & Wager paint.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,949 ✭✭✭yosemitesam1


    bpmurray wrote: »
    There are enormous differences in the results of scientific investigations. A recent paper from The Netherlands indicates that neonics are, indeed, responsible for not only impacting pollinators, but also wild birds.

    I suspect the problem is that the experiments have not been designed well, so the results are really inconclusive. The things being measured are insufficiently isolated from external factors, e.g. are queens impacted by pesticides directly, or by residual pesticides in royal jelly? Also I question whether some of the things being measured really matter. For example, the number of bee colonies, as highlighted in this article, is an irrelevant metric since any beekeeper can easily multiply their colony numbers, e.g. I doubled the number of my colonies this year without buying in any external bees. In reality, a much more important number is the number of colonies that fail to survive the winter: this is a direct measure of mortality which is, after all, the key metric when measuring how bees are thriving.

    So, as an alternative to this article which is based on a meaningless measurement, the COLOSS results show a much more interesting picture and it is much less rosy than Crabtree & Wager paint.

    That nl paper blames neonics exclusively where they are likely to be an indicator of the farming intensity and lack of diversity which will effect the whole ecosystem.

    Imo neonics aren't the biggest problem (if a problem at all), much more important is the age profile of beekeepers, poorer forage/yields, increased diseases/pests and cheap imports making it even less profitable. Faostat figures show a worldwide increase but a decline in eu


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,275 ✭✭✭bpmurray


    That nl paper blames neonics exclusively where they are likely to be an indicator of the farming intensity and lack of diversity which will effect the whole ecosystem.

    Imo neonics aren't the biggest problem (if a problem at all), much more important is the age profile of beekeepers, poorer forage/yields, increased diseases/pests and cheap imports making it even less profitable. Faostat figures show a worldwide increase but a decline in eu

    The problem is the blind assumption that more colonies can be equated to good health of the bees. Any beekeeper can create 6 hives from one in a summer, but that doesn't say anything about the bees. The real measurement is mortality, i.e. what COLOSS measures. If there is high mortality something bad is happening.

    Ireland had around 29% mortality last winter, but it's certainly not only Europe. The largest beekeeper in the US with some 40000 hives lost over 50%: he's blaming neonics and is suing the EPA.

    Profitability is irrelevant - it's always been difficult to turn a profit with bees, but that does not reflect the health of the bee population.


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,522 ✭✭✭paleoperson


    "geneticliteracyproject" is a biased pro-industry pro-risk financially conflicted website posing as some sort of knowledge resource. It should not to be trusted with how it presents any information.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,949 ✭✭✭yosemitesam1


    bpmurray wrote: »
    The problem is the blind assumption that more colonies can be equated to good health of the bees. Any beekeeper can create 6 hives from one in a summer, but that doesn't say anything about the bees. The real measurement is mortality, i.e. what COLOSS measures. If there is high mortality something bad is happening.

    Ireland had around 29% mortality last winter, but it's certainly not only Europe. The largest beekeeper in the US with some 40000 hives lost over 50%: he's blaming neonics and is suing the EPA.

    Profitability is irrelevant - it's always been difficult to turn a profit with bees, but that does not reflect the health of the bee population.

    Mortality in Ireland can't be attributed to neonics, its down to the weather, poor management/bees

    Profitability is very important, big beekeepers hold the majority of hives in europe and nobody keeps 100+ hives for the laugh. An awful lot of the 50-100 hive beekeepers have given up in the last 10-15 years and there hasn't been anyone replacing them (there might be a lot of beginners but the majority of these are 2-3 hive lads and wont get much further if they even last the first few years).


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  • Registered Users Posts: 9,761 ✭✭✭Effects


    There might be a lot of beginners but the majority of these are 2-3 hive lads and wont get much further if they even last the first few years.

    How come? They just get bored of it? Too much trouble?


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,275 ✭✭✭bpmurray


    Mortality in Ireland can't be attributed to neonics, its down to the weather, poor management/bees
    While that may well be true, I haven't seen any research to support that. Do you have links to the research, please - I'd love to read it.
    Profitability is very important, big beekeepers hold the majority of hives in europe and nobody keeps 100+ hives for the laugh. An awful lot of the 50-100 hive beekeepers have given up in the last 10-15 years and there hasn't been anyone replacing them (there might be a lot of beginners but the majority of these are 2-3 hive lads and wont get much further if they even last the first few years).

    Profitability is orthogonal to the question of health. Of course it's important, but it's a completely different discussion.

    As for the small backyard beekeepers, they actually do stick around. I know of several who have kept bees for 30+ years, yet have stuck at around 3 hives.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,275 ✭✭✭bpmurray


    "geneticliteracyproject" is a biased pro-industry pro-risk financially conflicted website posing as some sort of knowledge resource. It should not to be trusted with how it presents any information.

    I did a bit of research on this - you're actually wrong. It follows the science pretty well. While many of the writers appear to be biased, that still doesn't make it an industry mouthpiece.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 20,633 ✭✭✭✭Buford T. Justice XIX


    Another study, from WSU, claiming a low risk from neonics.

    https://news.wsu.edu/2016/08/15/study-neonicotinoid-pesticides-pose-low-risk-honey-bees/


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,275 ✭✭✭bpmurray



    Yes - there are loads of articles that claim that neonics are harmless, but this one isn't one that I'd take too seriously: it's published in the Journal of Economic Entomology which has a Journal Rank of 0.894. I wouldn't bother with anything less than 1, and would prefer much higher than that (Nature is close to 20).


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  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]


    bpmurray wrote: »

    Ireland had around 29% mortality last winter,

    Just for interest, where did that figure come from? The other EU surveys that I have seen just showed a considerable variation between countries and years (but no irish data), hinting that weather would be the dominant factors. In 2013 Sweden and Finland had similar mortality levels to that but the following year they were much lower.

    Indeed, I suspect that this issue has been 'spun' by environmental lobbies for their own ends.

    http://ec.europa.eu/food/animals/live_animals/bees/study_on_mortality/index_en.htm


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,275 ✭✭✭bpmurray


    Just for interest, where did that figure come from? The other EU surveys that I have seen just showed a considerable variation between countries and years (but no irish data), hinting that weather would be the dominant factors. In 2013 Sweden and Finland had similar mortality levels to that but the following year they were much lower.

    Indeed, I suspect that this issue has been 'spun' by environmental lobbies for their own ends.

    http://ec.europa.eu/food/animals/live_animals/bees/study_on_mortality/index_en.htm

    Nope - from the COLOSS report. Don't assume I'm against pesticides - I'm not. I would like one though that has far less bee toxicity than those currently available and would love if they could find one that wasn't systemic in action with a very short half-life. That would make it just as effective while reducing the side-effects. And as for spin, I think you'll find there's a lot more from people like Bayer who produce TD50 numbers and half-life spans, but neglect to explain any side-effects and the fact that systemic treatments have effectively an infinite lifespan.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,949 ✭✭✭yosemitesam1


    bpmurray wrote: »
    Nope - from the COLOSS report. Don't assume I'm against pesticides - I'm not. I would like one though that has far less bee toxicity than those currently available and would love if they could find one that wasn't systemic in action with a very short half-life. That would make it just as effective while reducing the side-effects. And as for spin, I think you'll find there's a lot more from people like Bayer who produce TD50 numbers and half-life spans, but neglect to explain any side-effects and the fact that systemic treatments have effectively an infinite lifespan.

    If you were to compare losses in the west of ireland versus the main cropping areas in wexford etc do you think there will be a significant difference and which will have the higher losses?


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 5,368 ✭✭✭Chuchote


    Mortality in Ireland can't be attributed to neonics, its down to the weather, poor management/bees

    Why not, @yosemitesam1? I'm told that neonics are more or less universally used by rape farmers, and rapeseed is a big crop in Ireland.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,949 ✭✭✭yosemitesam1


    Chuchote wrote: »
    Why not, @yosemitesam1? I'm told that neonics are more or less universally used by rape farmers, and rapeseed is a big crop in Ireland.

    Its tiny overall in ireland, less than 10,000 ha grown annually, a large proportion of bees will never be near it


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 5,368 ✭✭✭Chuchote


    12,000 hectares according to Teagasc

    https://www.teagasc.ie/crops/crops/break-crops/oilseed-rape/

    and more and more as time goes on. But oilseed rape is only one of the crops neonics are used on.

    Here's a good wiki on them for a basic guide

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neonicotinoid

    A long read about neonicotinoids and bees in the US

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/what-is-killing-americas-bees-and-what-does-it-mean-for-us-20150818


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,949 ✭✭✭yosemitesam1


    Chuchote wrote: »
    12,000 hectares according to Teagasc

    https://www.teagasc.ie/crops/crops/break-crops/oilseed-rape/

    and more and more as time goes on. But oilseed rape is only one of the crops neonics are used on.

    Here's a good wiki on them for a basic guide

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neonicotinoid

    A long read about neonicotinoids and bees in the US

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/what-is-killing-americas-bees-and-what-does-it-mean-for-us-20150818

    The way I see it is that there are large parts of the country that have zero exposure to neonics but yet their losses are similar or higher than the east of the country where neonic use would be highest, that doesn't add up with this idea that neonics are killing all the bees and ban neonics to make everything alright. If you look to commercial beekeepers in the uk the majority will try to get hives on rape, if there was a negative effect on these hives it would have surely been noticed by now.


  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]


    BUT... bottom line is... do any of the properly conducted surveys in Europe show evidence for anything other than weather and maybe varroa to account for winter losses? I'm not pro pesticides at all, i'd prefer if none were used, but im anti media manipulation.

    What is a classically accepted annual loss (ie before pesticides)? Every time a TV reporter talks about bees they give the impression that there are almost none left, they dont seem to realise that a certain level of winter losses are normal.

    By the way, i have seen a lot of bumble bees all summer, just wondering if thats a general observation.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 5,368 ✭✭✭Chuchote


    Beekeeper friends now regularly report opening the hives after winter and either hives are empty or all bees are dead. This didn't happen before.

    The main problem with neonics seems to be that the bees' ability to navigate is disrupted, as well as deformed larvae etc.

    From the New Yorker in 2012, when the first suspicions of neonics came up:

    http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/silent-hives


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,949 ✭✭✭yosemitesam1


    [quote="Chuchote;100859231"This didn't happen before.
    [/quote]

    Winter deaths have always been part of beekeeping, varroa has increased them a bit but its main effect was to kill off the supply of swarms from wild bees which has meant numbers are harder to get back up especially for the small beekeeper who can easily lose all their bees in one go. Making up nucs for increase is a fairly modern thing.


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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 5,368 ✭✭✭Chuchote


    From one scholarly journal:
    http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0006481
    Over the last two winters, there have been large-scale, unexplained losses of managed honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) colonies in the United States. In the absence of a known cause, this syndrome was named Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) because the main trait was a rapid loss of adult worker bees.

    From a wiki:
    While such disappearances have occurred throughout the history of apiculture, and were known by various names (disappearing disease, spring dwindle, May disease, autumn collapse, and fall dwindle disease),[1] the syndrome was renamed colony collapse disorder in late 2006[2] in conjunction with a drastic rise in the number of disappearances of western honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies in North America.[3] European beekeepers observed similar phenomena in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain,[4] Switzerland and Germany, albeit to a lesser degree,[5] and the Northern Ireland Assembly received reports of a decline greater than 50%.[6]


  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]


    Chuchote wrote: »

    Over the last two winters, there have been large-scale, unexplained losses of managed honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) colonies in the United States. In the absence of a known cause, this syndrome was named Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) because the main trait was a rapid loss of adult worker bees.


    Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), where bees were reported to suddenly depart from a hive is a phenomenum that was reported from the US around 2005/2006. It is not clear if it is still being seen in the US and the anecdotal higher winter mortality reported in the EU is not CDD.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,275 ✭✭✭bpmurray


    Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), where bees were reported to suddenly depart from a hive is a phenomenum that was reported from the US around 2005/2006. It is not clear if it is still being seen in the US and the anecdotal higher winter mortality reported in the EU is not CDD.

    It appears that CCD is a thing of the past. However, "anecdotal" isn't really applicable to COLOSS.

    Also, there is a new report in the Proceedings of the Royal Society stating that two neonics (thiamethoxam and clothianidin) caused drones to have reduced fertility and a reduced lifespan compared to unexposed drones. http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/283/1835/20160506


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 20,633 ✭✭✭✭Buford T. Justice XIX


    bpmurray wrote: »
    It appears that CCD is a thing of the past. However, "anecdotal" isn't really applicable to COLOSS.

    Also, there is a new report in the Proceedings of the Royal Society stating that two neonics (thiamethoxam and clothianidin) caused drones to have reduced fertility and a reduced lifespan compared to unexposed drones. http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/283/1835/20160506
    This whole subject is very much open atm.

    CATCH THE BUZZ – Little Risk to Bees from Widely Used Insecticide, Reports Expert from The University of Arkansas.

    http://www.beeculture.com/catch-the-buzz-little-risk-to-bees-from-widely-used-insecticide-reports-expert-from-the-university-of-arkansas/


    They found that even after spraying with neonics, the exposures to the neonics were below the adjudged safe levels except in a few situations.


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