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Wednesday, July 24th, 2013 | Author:


Tests Show Most Store Honey Isn’t Honey

Ultra-filtering Removes Pollen, Hides Honey Origins

More than three-fourths of the honey sold in U.S. grocery stores isn’t exactly what the bees produce, according to testing done exclusively for Food Safety News.The results show that the pollen frequently has been filtered out of products labeled “honey.”

The removal of these microscopic particles from deep within a flower would make the nectar flunk the quality standards set by most of the world’s food safety agencies.

The food safety divisions of the  World Health Organization, the European Commission and dozens of others also have ruled that without pollen there is no way to determine whether the honey came from legitimate and safe sources.

honey-without-pollen-food-safety-news1.jpgIn the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration says that any product that’s been ultra-filtered and no longer contains pollen isn’t honey. However, the FDA isn’t checking honey sold here to see if it contains pollen.

Ultra filtering is a high-tech procedure where honey is heated, sometimes watered down and then forced at high pressure through extremely small filters to remove pollen, which is the only foolproof sign identifying the source of the honey. It is a spin-off of a technique refined by the Chinese, who have illegally dumped tons of their honey – some containing illegal antibiotics – on the U.S. market for years.

Food Safety News decided to test honey sold in various outlets after its earlier investigation found U.S. groceries flooded with Indian honey banned in Europe as unsafe because of contamination with antibiotics, heavy metal and a total lack of pollen which prevented tracking its origin.

Food Safety News purchased more than 60 jars, jugs and plastic bears of honey in 10 states and the District of Columbia.

The contents were analyzed for pollen by Vaughn Bryant, a professor at Texas A&M University and one of the nation’s premier melissopalynologists, or investigators of pollen in honey.

Bryant, who is director of the Palynology Research Laboratory, found that among the containers of honey provided by Food Safety News:

•76 percent of samples bought at groceries had all the pollen removed, These were stores like TOP Food, Safeway, Giant Eagle, QFC, Kroger, Metro Market, Harris Teeter, A&P, Stop & Shop and King Soopers.

•100 percent of the honey sampled from drugstores like Walgreens, Rite-Aid and CVS Pharmacy had no pollen.

•77 percent of the honey sampled from big box stores like Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Target and H-E-B had the pollen filtered out.

•100 percent of the honey packaged in the small individual service portions from Smucker, McDonald’s and KFC had the pollen removed.

•Bryant found that every one of the samples Food Safety News bought at farmers markets, co-ops and “natural” stores like PCC and Trader Joe’s had the full, anticipated, amount of pollen.

And if you have to buy at major grocery chains, the analysis found that your odds are somewhat better of getting honey that wasn’t ultra-filtered if you buy brands labeled as organic. Out of seven samples tested, five (71 percent) were heavy with pollen. All of the organic honey was produced in Brazil, according to the labels.

The National Honey Board, a federal research and promotion organization under USDA oversight, says the bulk of foreign honey (at least 60 percent or more) is sold to the food industry for use in baked goods, beverages, sauces and processed foods.  Food Safety News did not examine these products for this story.

Some U.S. honey packers didn’t want to talk about how they process their merchandise.

One who did was Bob Olney, of Honey Tree Inc., in Michigan, who sells its Winnie the Pooh honey in Walmart stores.  Bryant’s analysis of the contents of the container made in Winnie’s image found that the pollen had been removed.

Olney says that his honey came from suppliers in Montana, North Dakota and Alberta. “It was filtered in processing because North American shoppers want their honey crystal clear,” he said.

The packers of Silverbow Honey added: “The grocery stores want processed honey as it lasts longer on the shelves.”

However, most beekeepers say traditional filtering used by most will catch bee parts, wax, debris from the hives and other visible contaminants but will leave the pollen in place.

Ernie Groeb, the president and CEO of Groeb Farms Inc., which calls itself “the world’s largest packer of honey,” says he makes no specific requirement to the pollen content of the 85 million pounds of honey his company buys.

Groeb sells retail under the Miller’s brand and says he buys 100 percent pure honey, but does not “specify nor do we require that the pollen be left in or be removed.”

He says that there are many different filtering methods used by beekeepers and honey packers.

“We buy basically what’s considered raw honey. We trust good suppliers. That’s what we rely on,” said Groeb, whose headquarters is in Onsted, Mich.

Why Remove the Pollen?

Removal of all pollen from honey “makes no sense” and is completely contrary to marketing the highest quality product possible, Mark Jensen, president of the American Honey Producers Association, told Food Safety News.

food-safety-news-good-honey-sample.jpg“I don’t know of any U.S. producer that would want to do that. Elimination of all pollen can only be achieved by ultra-filtering and this filtration process does nothing but cost money and diminish the quality of the honey,” Jensen said.

“In my judgment, it is pretty safe to assume that any ultra-filtered honey on store shelves is Chinese honey and it’s even safer to assume that it entered the country uninspected and in violation of federal law,” he added.

Richard Adee, whose 80,000 hives in multiple states produce 7 million pounds of honey each year, told Food Safety News that “honey has been valued by millions for centuries for its flavor and nutritional value and that is precisely what is completely removed by the ultra-filtration process.”

“There is only one reason to ultra-filter honey and there’s nothing good about it,” he says.

“It’s no secret to anyone in the business that the only reason all the pollen is filtered out is to hide where it initially came from and the fact is that in almost all cases, that is China,” Adee added.

The Sioux Honey Association, who says it’s America’s largest supplier, declined repeated requests for comments on ultra-filtration, what Sue Bee does with its foreign honey and whether it’s ultra-filtered when they buy it. The co-op markets retail under Sue Bee, Clover Maid, Aunt Sue, Natural Pure and many store brands.

Eric Wenger, director of quality services for Golden Heritage Foods, the nation’s third largest packer, said his company takes every precaution not to buy laundered Chinese honey.

“We are well aware of the tricks being used by some brokers to sell honey that originated in China and laundering it in a second country by filtering out the pollen and other adulterants,” said Wenger, whose firm markets 55 million pounds of honey annually under its Busy Bee brand, store brands, club stores and food service.

“The brokers know that if there’s an absence of all pollen in the raw honey we won’t buy it, we won’t touch it, because without pollen we have no way to verify its origin.”

He said his company uses “extreme care” including pollen analysis when purchasing foreign honey, especially from countries like India, Vietnam and others that have or have had “business arrangements” with Chinese honey producers.

Golden Heritage, Wenger said, then carefully removes all pollen from the raw honey when it’s processed to extend shelf life, but says, “as we see it, that is not ultra-filtration.

“There is a significant difference between filtration, which is a standard industry practice intended to create a shelf-stable honey, and ultra-filtration, which is a deceptive, illegal, unethical practice.”

Some of the foreign and state standards that are being instituted can be read to mean different things, Wenger said “but the confusion can be eliminated and we can all be held to the same appropriate standards for quality if FDA finally establishes the standards we’ve all wanted for so long.”

Groeb says he has urged FDA to take action as he also “totally supports a standard of Identity for honey. It will help everyone have common ground as to what pure honey truly is!”

What’s Wrong With Chinese Honey?

Chinese honey has long had a poor reputation in the U.S., where – in 2001 – the Federal Trade Commission imposed stiff import tariffs or taxes to stop the Chinese from flooding the marketplace with dirt-cheap, heavily subsidized honey, which was forcing American beekeepers out of business.

To avoid the dumping tariffs, the Chinese quickly began transshipping honey to several other countries, then laundering it by switching the color of the shipping drums, the documents and labels to indicate a bogus but tariff-free country of origin for the honey.

Most U.S. honey buyers knew about the Chinese actions because of the sudden availability of lower cost honey, and little was said.

The FDA — either because of lack of interest or resources — devoted little effort to inspecting imported honey. Nevertheless, the agency had occasionally either been told of, or had stumbled upon, Chinese honey contaminated with chloramphenicol and other illegal animal antibiotics which are dangerous, even fatal, to a very small percentage of the population.

Mostly, the adulteration went undetected. Sometimes FDA caught it.

In one instance 10 years ago, contaminated Chinese honey was shipped to Canada and then on to a warehouse in Houston where it was sold to jelly maker J.M. Smuckers and the national baker Sara Lee.

By the time the FDA said it realized the Chinese honey was tainted, Smuckers had sold 12,040 cases of individually packed honey to Ritz-Carlton Hotels and Sara Lee said it may have been used in a half-million loaves of bread that were on store shelves.

Eventually, some honey packers became worried about what they were pumping into the plastic bears and jars they were selling. They began using in-house or private labs to test for honey diluted with inexpensive high fructose corn syrup or 13 other illegal sweeteners or for the presence of illegal antibiotics. But even the most sophisticated of these tests would not pinpoint the geographic source of the honey.

food-safety-news-Vaughn-Bryant-honey-tester.jpgFood scientists and honey specialists say pollen is the only foolproof fingerprint to a honey’s source.

Federal investigators working on criminal indictments and a very few conscientious packers were willing to pay stiff fees to have the pollen in their honey analyzed for country of origin. That complex, multi-step analysis is done by fewer than five commercial laboratories in the world.

But, Customs and Justice Department investigators told Food Safety News that whenever U.S. food safety or criminal experts verify a method to identify potentially illegal honey – such as analyzing the pollen – the laundering operators find a way to thwart it, such as ultra-filtration.

The U.S. imported 208 million pounds of honey over the past 18 months. Almost 60 percent came from Asian countries – traditional laundering points for Chinese honey. This included 45 million pounds from India alone.

And websites still openly offer brokers who will illegally transship honey and scores of other tariff-protected goods from China to the U.S.

FDA’s Lack of Action

The Food and Drug Administration weighed into the filtration issue years ago.

“The FDA has sent a letter to industry stating that the FDA does not consider ‘ultra-filtered’ honey to be honey,” agency press officer Tamara Ward told Food Safety News.

She went on to explain: “We have not halted any importation of honey because we have yet to detect ‘ultra-filtered’ honey. If we do detect ‘ultra-filtered’ honey we will refuse entry.”

Many in the honey industry and some in FDA’s import office say they doubt that FDA checks more than 5 percent of all foreign honey shipments.

For three months, the FDA promised Food Safety News to make its “honey expert” available to explain what that statement meant.  It never happened. Further, the federal food safety authorities refused offers to examine Bryant’s analysis and explain what it plans to do about the selling of honey it says is adulterated because of the removal of pollen, a key ingredient.

Major food safety standard-setting organizations such as the United Nations’ Codex Alimentarius, the European Union and the European Food Safety Authority say the intentional removal of pollen is dangerous because it eliminates the ability of consumers and law enforcement to determine the actual origin of the honey.

“The removal of pollen will make the determination of botanical and geographic origin of honey impossible and circumvents the ability to trace and identify the actual source of the honey,” says the European Union Directive on Honey.

The Codex commission’s Standard for Honey, which sets principles for the international trade in food, has ruled that “No pollen or constituent particular to honey may be removed except where this is unavoidable in the removal of foreign matter. . .”  It even suggested what size mesh to use (not smaller than 0.2mm or 200 micron) to filter out unwanted debris — bits of wax and wood from the frames, and parts of bees — but retain 95 percent of all the pollen.

Food Safety News asked Bryant to analyze foreign honey packaged in Italy, Hungary, Greece, Tasmania and New Zealand to try to get a feeling for whether the Codex standards for pollen were being heeded overseas. The samples from every country but Greece were loaded with various types and amounts of pollen. Honey from Greece had none.

You’ll Never Know

In many cases, consumers would have an easier time deciphering state secrets than pinning down where the honey they’re buying in groceries actually came from.

The majority of the honey that Bryant’s analysis found to have no pollen was packaged as store brands by outside companies but carried a label unique to the food chain. For example, Giant Eagle has a ValuTime label on some of its honey. In Target it’s called Market Pantry, Naturally Preferred  and others. Walmart uses Great Value and Safeway just says Safeway. Wegmans also uses its own name.

Who actually bottled these store brands is often a mystery.

A noteworthy exception is Golden Heritage of Hillsboro, Kan. The company either puts its name or decipherable initials on the back of store brands it fills.

“We’re never bashful about discussing the products we put out” said Wenger, the company’s quality director. “We want people to know who to contact if they have questions.”

The big grocery chains were no help in identifying the sources of the honey they package in their store brands.

For example, when Food Safety News was hunting the source of nine samples that came back as ultra-filtered from QFC, Fred Myer and King Sooper, the various customer service numbers all led to representatives of Kroger, which owns them all. The replies were identical: “We can’t release that information. It is proprietary.”

food-safety-news-Sue-Bee-honey-ad.jpgOne of the customer service representatives said the contact address on two of the honeys being questioned was in Sioux City, Iowa, which is where Sioux Bee’s corporate office is located.

Jessica Carlson, a public relations person for Target, waved the proprietary banner and also refused to say whether it was Target management or the honey suppliers that wanted the source of the honey kept from the public.

Similar non-answers came from representatives of Safeway, Walmart and Giant Eagle.

The drugstores weren’t any more open with the sources of their house brands of honey. A Rite Aid representative said “if it’s not marked made in China, than it’s made in the United States.” She didn’t know who made it but said “I’ll ask someone.”

Rite Aid, Walgreen and CVS have yet to supply the information.

Only two smaller Pacific Northwest grocery chains – Haggen and Metropolitan Market – both selling honey without pollen, weren’t bashful about the source of their honey. Haggen said right off that its brand comes from Golden Heritage. Metropolitan Market said its honey – Western Family – is packed by Bee Maid Honey, a co-op of beekeepers from the Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.

Pollen? Who Cares?

Why should consumers care if their honey has had its pollen removed?

“Raw honey is thought to have many medicinal properties,” says Kathy Egan, dietitian at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.  ”Stomach ailments, anemia and allergies are just a few of the conditions that may be improved by consumption of unprocessed honey.”

But beyond pollen’s reported enzymes, antioxidants and well documented anti-allergenic benefits, a growing population of natural food advocates just don’t want their honey messed with.

There is enormous variety among honeys. They range in color from glass-clear to a dark mahogany and in consistency from watery to chunky to a crystallized solid. It’s the plants and flowers where the bees forage for nectar that will determine the significant difference in the taste, aroma and color of what the bees produce. It is the processing that controls the texture.

Food historians say that in the 1950s the typical grocery might have offered three or four different brands of honey.  Today, a fair-sized store will offer 40 to 50 different types, flavors and sources of honey out of the estimated 300 different honeys made in the U.S.. And with the attractiveness of natural food and the locavore movement, honey’s popularity is burgeoning. Unfortunately, with it comes the potential for fraud.

Concocting a sweet-tasting syrup out of cane, corn or beet sugar, rice syrup or any of more than a dozen sweetening agents is a great deal easier, quicker and far less expensive than dealing with the natural brew of bees.

However, even the most dedicated beekeeper can unknowingly put incorrect information on a honey jar’s label.

Bryant has examined nearly 2,000 samples of honey sent in by beekeepers, honey importers, and ag officials checking commercial brands off store shelves. Types include premium honey such as “buckwheat, tupelo, sage, orange blossom, and sourwood” produced in Florida, North Carolina, California, New York and Virginia and “fireweed” from Alaska.

“Almost all were incorrectly labeled based on their pollen and nectar contents,” he said.

Out of the 60 plus samples that Bryant tested for Food Safety News, the absolute most flavorful said “blackberry” on the label. When Bryant concluded his examination of the pollen in this sample he found clover and wildflowers clearly outnumbering a smattering of grains of blackberry pollen.

For the most part we are not talking about intentional fraud here. Contrary to their most fervent wishes, beekeepers can’t control where their bees actually forage any more than they can keep the tides from changing. They offer their best guess on the predominant foliage within flying distance of the hives.

“I think we need a truth in labeling law in the U.S. as they have in other countries,” Bryant added.

FDA Ignores Pleas

No one can say for sure why the FDA has ignored repeated pleas from Congress, beekeepers and the honey industry to develop a U.S. standard for identification for honey.

Nancy Gentry owns the small Cross Creek Honey Company in Interlachen, Fla., and she isn’t worried about the quality of the honey she sells.

“I harvest my own honey. We put the frames in an extractor, spin it out, strain it, and it goes into a jar. It’s honey the way bees intended,” Gentry said.

But the negative stories on the discovery of tainted and bogus honey raised her fears for the public’s perception of honey.

food-safety-news-honey-samples-tested.jpgShe spent months of studying what the rest of the world was doing to protect consumers from tainted honey and questioning beekeepers and industry on what was needed here. Gentry became the leading force in crafting language for Florida to develop the nation’s first standard for identification for honey.

In July 2009, Florida adopted the standard and placed its Division of Food Safety in the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in charge of enforcing it.  It’s since been followed by California, Wisconsin and North Carolina and is somewhere in the state legislative or regulatory maze in Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, New York, Texas, Kansas, Oregon, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia and others.

John Ambrose’s battle for a national definition goes back 36 years. He said the issue is of great importance to North Carolina because it has more beekeepers than any other state in the country.

He and others tried to convince FDA that a single national standard for honey to help prevent adulterated honey from being sold was needed. The agency promised him it would be on the books within two years.

“But that never happened,” said Ambrose, a professor and entomologist at North Carolina State University and apiculturist, or bee expert. North Carolina followed Florida’s lead and passed its own identification standards last year.

Ambrose, who was co-chair of the team that drafted the state beekeeper association’s honey standards says the language is very simple, ”Our standard says that nothing can be added or removed from the honey. So in other words, if somebody removes the pollen, or adds moisture or corn syrup or table sugar, that’s adulteration,” Ambrose told Food Safety News.

But still, he says he’s asked all the time how to ensure that you’re buying quality honey.  ”The fact is, unless you’re buying from a beekeeper, you’re at risk,” was his uncomfortably blunt reply.

Eric Silva, counsel for the American Honey Producers Association said the standard is a simple but essential tool in ensuring the quality and safety of honey consumed by millions of Americans each year.

“Without it, the FDA and their trade enforcement counterparts are severely limited in their ability to combat the flow of illicit and potentially dangerous honey into this country,” Silva told Food Safety News.

It’s not just beekeepers, consumers and the industry that FDA officials either ignore or slough off with comments that they’re too busy.

New York Sen. Charles Schumer is one of more than 20 U.S. senators and members of Congress of both parties who have asked the FDA repeatedly to create a federal “pure honey” standard, similar to what the rest of the world has established.

They get the same answer that Ambrose got in 1975:  ”Any day now.”

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013 | Author:

JULY 8, 2013


National beekeeping organizations along with the National Honey Bee Advisory Board have come together in an attempt to protect the bee industry by an appeal against EPA for its approval of the pesticide Sulfoxaflor, shown to be “highly toxic” to honey bees, and other insect pollinators. Sulfoxaflor is a new chemistry, and the first of a newly assigned sub-class of pesticides in the “neonicotinoid” class of pesticides, which some scientists across the globe have linked as a potential factor to widespread and massive bee colony collapse. The case is filed as the beekeeping industry across the country struggles for survival, and faces the costly effects of pesticides upon their businesses.

Bee. (NASA)

The pesticide Sulfoxaflor has been shown to be “highly toxic” to honey bees, and other insect pollinators.(NASA)

The National Pollinator Defense Fund, American Honey Producers Association, National Honey Bee Advisory Board, the American Beekeeping Federation, and beekeepers Bret Adee, Jeff Anderson and Thomas R. Smith have filed an appeal against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, requesting changes needed in the Sulfoxaflor label, the Biological Economic Assessment Division (BEAD) assessment of the value of pollinators and their established habits, and the EPA’s Risk Assessment Process. These changes would acknowledge pollinator’s critical role in the U.S. food supply, and ensure that decisions regarding new pesticides comply with applicable laws.

Sulfoxaflor was granted a full registration by EPA for most crops, many of which require pollinators. Many other registered crops are utilized by pollinators, including honey bees, as forage. Based on the approved registration, pollinators, especially honey bees, may potentially be exposed numerous times by labelled Sulfoxaflor applications as honey bees are moved across the country to pollinate crops, produce the nation’s supply of honey, and recuperate from the rigors of pollination.

The groups are being represented by the public interest law organization Earthjustice. The appeal process through the courts is the only mechanism open to challenge EPA’s decision; it is commonly used by commodity groups to rectify inadequate pesticide labeling.

The following are their statements:

Attorney Janette Brimmer of Earthjustice: “Our country is facing widespread bee colony collapse, and scientists are pointing to pesticides like Sulfoxaflar as the cause. The effects will be devastating to our nation’s food supply and also to the beekeeping industry, which is struggling because of toxic pesticides. This lawsuit against the EPA is attempt by the beekeepers to save their suffering industry. The EPA has failed them. And the EPA’s failure to adequately consider impacts to pollinators from these new pesticides is wreaking havoc on an important agricultural industry and gives short shrift to the requirements of the law.”

Jeff Anderson, beekeeper: “EPA’s approval of Sulfoxaflor with no enforceable label protections for bees will speed our industry’s demise. EPA is charged under FIFRA with protecting non-target beneficial insects, not just honeybees. EPA’s Sulfoxaflor registration press release says, ‘… the final label includes robust terms for protecting pollinators …’ This is a bold-faced lie! There is absolutely no mandatory language on the label that protects pollinators. Further, the label’s advisory language leads spray applicators to believe that notifying a beekeeper of a planned application, absolves them of their legal responsibility in FIFRA to not kill pollinators.”

Bret Adee, President of the Board of the National Pollinator Defense Fund: “The EPA is charged with preventing unreasonable risk to our livestock, our livelihoods, and most importantly, the nation’s food supply. This situation requires an immediate correction from the EPA to ensure the survival of commercial pollinators, native pollinators, and the plentiful supply of seed, fruits, vegetables, and nuts that pollinators make possible.”

Randy Verhoek, President of the Board of the American Honey Producers Association: “The bee industry has had to absorb an unreasonable amount of damage in the last decade. Projected losses for our industry this year alone are over $337 million. While not all of the losses are due solely to pesticides, there are strong correlations between pesticide misuse killing bees and impairing colony performance.”

George Hansen, President of the Board of the American Beekeeping Federation: “The honey bee industry is very concerned since the EPA has failed to adequately address our comments about realistic risk to pollinators posed by sulfoxaflor. The EPA continues to use flawed and outdated assessments of long term and sub-lethal damage to honey bees.”

Rick Smith, beekeeper and farmer: “The beekeeping industry has proactively engaged EPA to address concerns for many years. The industry is seriously concerned the comments it submitted during the Sulfoxaflor registration comment period were not adequately addressed before EPA granted full registration. The sun is now rising on a day where pollinators are no longer plentiful. They require protection 365 days a year in order to be abundant at the critical moment their pollination service is required by the plant. Applying pesticides in a manner which does not expose pollinators during the period a pesticide is acutely toxic, and, knowing sub-lethal and delayed effects, are the cornerstones in their protection. EPA’s assessment process has chosen not to use long established and accepted published information concerning pollinator foraging habits in the Environment Hazards Section of the Sulfoxaflor label.”

Sulfoxaflor Fact Sheet

  • Chemical name: Sulfoxaflor; cyanamide, N-[methyloxido[1-[6-(trifluoromethyl)-3-pyridinyl]ethyl] ?4 –sulfanylidene]
  • IRAC MoA Classification: Group 4C: nicotinic acetylcholine receptor agonists, sulfoxamines
  • Mode of Action: Sulfoxaflor is an insecticide that acts through a unique interaction with the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor in insects. While Sulfoxaflor acts on the same receptor as the neonicotinoids, it is classified as its own subgroup (4C). It is an agonist of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) and exhibits excitatory responses including tremors, followed by paralysis and mortality in target insects. The structure of Sulfoxaflor makes it stable in the presence of monooxygenase enzyme that was shown to degrade a variety of neonicotinoids in IRAC Group 4A, resulting in a lack of cross-resistance demonstrated in laboratory experiments.
  • Registrant: DOW AgroSciences LLC
  • Proposed products: Sulfoxaflor is being registered as EPA Reg. 62719-631 (Sulfoxaflor Technical), 62719-625 (Transform WG), and EPA Reg. 62719-623 (Closer SC). Methods of application include aerial and ground broadcast, in addition to chemigation for potato.
  • Additional background information from the National Pollinator Defense Fund: Sulfoxaflor has the same constellation of properties as many other systemic insecticides that have been shown to cause acute and sub-lethal effects, including:
    1. High acute toxicity to bees.
    2. Sufficient water solubility to permit systemic uptake by the plant, and be expressed in pollen and nectar, as indicated by some of the studies the EPA evaluated.
    3. Sufficient persistence in the environment that would permit pollinator exposures from ingestion of nectar and pollen from treated plants.

The EPA is required by FIFRA to determine that a pesticide does not pose an unreasonable risk to the environment or to economic interests such as that of the bee industry.

The EPA’s testing did not adequately examine the impact of acute and sub-lethal poisoning of adult honey bees, brood, bee life span, in light the dynamics of the colony organism. The EPA’s reviewed research and analysis of bee foraging behavior and habits is being questioned based on long accepted publications; the Agency lacked the necessary data on how Sulfoxaflor remains systemically absorbed in the crop tissue, and how that may harm bees and bee colonies long term subjected to levels below the lethal toxicity level to adult bees; and the EPA failed entirely to look at how differing amounts of pesticides affect pollinators over time.

Bee kills since March 2013 as reported to the National Pollinator Defense Fund:

  • Florida: 1300 hives
  • Minnesota: 2312 hives
  • Utah: 630 hives
  • New York: 300 hives

Since 2006 an estimated 10 million bee hives at an approximate current value of $200 each have been lost and the total replacement cost of $2 billion dollars has been borne by the beekeepers alone (J. Frazier, unpublished).
(Report on the National Stakeholders Conference on Honey Bee health, USDA and EPA, report released May 2, 2013, page 1.)

“Annually for example in the United States between $20 billion and $30 billion, that’s B, billion with B dollars of our agricultural production is dependent on pollination.” Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, Director of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
(Report on the National Stakeholders Conference on Honey Bee Health by USDA and EPA, May 2, 2013, WITS-USDA Office of Communication, page 3.)

“California agriculture reaps $937 million to $2.4 billion per year in economic value from wild, free-living bee species …” “About one-third of the value of California agriculture comes from pollinator-dependent crops, representing a net value of $11.7 billion per year… However, the new study estimated that wild pollinators residing in California’s natural habitats, chiefly rangelands, provide 35–39 percent, or more than one-third, of all pollination “services” to the state’s crops.”
(Wild Pollinators worth up to $2.4 billion to farmers, Ann Brody Guy, College of Natural Resources at Berkeley, 6-20-2011,

“For fruit and nut crops, pollination can be a grower’s only real chance to increase yield. The extent of pollination dictates the maximum number of fruits. Post-pollination inputs, whether growth regulators, pesticides, water, or fertilizer, are actually designed to prevent losses and preserve quality rather than increase yield.”
(Bee Benefits to Agriculture, Kevin J. Hackett, ARS National Program Leader, 3-2004, Forum.)

“When honey bees interact with wild native bees, they are up to five times more efficient in pollinating sunflowers than when native bees are not present …” “ In fields where wild bees were rare, a single visit by a honey bee produced an average of three seeds. But as wild bee numbers increased, so did the number of seeds produced per honey bee visit, up to an average of 15 seeds per visit … by provoking honey bees to alter their behavior, wild bees were indirectly responsible for an additional 40 percent of the pollination. Honey bees on their own provided just 53% of the pollination.”
(Wild bees make honey bees better pollinators, Liese Greensfelder, UC Berkeley news release (Study author was Sarah Greenleaf, and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences issue on Sept. 12, 2006 an EPA funded study), 8-28-2006,

“The researchers estimate that up to 40 percent of some essential nutrients provided by fruits and vegetables could be lost without pollinators.”
(NCEAS working group produces study showing how vitamins and minerals in fruits and vegetables depend on pollinators, National Center for ecological Analysis and Synthesis, 6-22-2011, (Univ. of Calif .Santa Barbara news release))

Michele Colopy, National Pollinator Defense Fund, (832) 727-9492
Liz Judge, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2007
Wednesday, July 24th, 2013 | Author:

Neonics: 1 part per TRILLION can have an effect on bees, lingering in water and plants for YEARS.

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013 | Author:

July 18, 2013|By JUDY BENSON, The Day, McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Parting the broad, fan-like leaves of one of the 420 Gladiator pumpkin plants spreading over the sun-baked field, Kimberly Stoner found what she was looking for.

“Oh, yes, there’s a female flower,” said Stoner, associate scientist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, pointing out the distinguishing miniature fruit structure at the base of the flower, sterile until fertilized with male pollen. “Each plant will have male and female flowers, and usually the males emerge first. But pumpkins are absolutely dependent on bees for pollination.”

The quarter-acre field, planted in early June, is part of the research Stoner is leading to better understand the critical relationship between pumpkins and their squash-family kin and bees, without which there would no jack-o-lanterns, no pumpkin pie and no butternut squash at Thanksgiving.

Looking At Pesticides

A multifaceted, federally-funded project, the research is intended to trace whether pesticides commonly used on pumpkins and squash are showing up in bee pollen, to add to emerging science on the causes of bee colony collapse, which has been plaguing agriculture for the past half-dozen years. The project will also compare productivity from fields using different techniques to attract pollinators, and which types of wild bees share the fields with the managed honeybee hives.

Stoner stressed the importance of the wild bees in their research. There are two species of wild bees – a type of bumble bee and a squash bee – that show up on their own in squash fields, Stoner said. Through her research and other studies, she has determined that those wild bees do about 80 percent of the pollination in the squash fields.

“Practically nobody has looked at pathogens of squash bees, so it’s all new,” said Stoner. U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded research is part of the Specialty Crop Research Initiative also supporting studies of cranberries in Massachusetts, blueberries in Maine and apples in New York state.

Earlier this month, Stoner and Amelia Tatarian, seasonal research associate, visited the experiment station’s research farm off Shelton Road in Griswold to size up the pumpkin plants’ growth and, based on the numbers of male and female flower buds, determine when the bees are likely to arrive.

“I’ll probably be back in a week,” said Stoner, who is keeping tabs on similar plots in Hamden and Windsor, as well as at 20 commercial farm fields around the state.

As Stoner and Tatarian checked each plant, tallying their findings, some 125,000 honey bees buzzed around hives in a shady spot several fields away. The hives had been brought to the farm a few days earlier by Mark Creighton, state apiary inspector. The bees are spending their days pollinating wildflowers around the farm until the pumpkin flowers start opening.

“Bees are very specific,” Creighton said, crouching beside one of the hives to watch a bee fly into the opening, its underside bright with white pollen, after getting clearance from the “guard bees” hovering outside the hive. “If they decide they’re going to pollinate squash, they’ll stay until it’s all done. That’s how they’ve evolved.”

Creighton said he is eager to spread the word about the important role of bees in agriculture, and the need to better understand how bee populations are being stressed.

“If we didn’t have honey bees as pollinators we wouldn’t have a lot of the crops that we take for granted, like strawberries and peaches, apples and pumpkins,” he said. “Most people don’t realize how much we rely on these little miracle workers.”

Last winter, he said, more than one-third of the state’s commercial bee population died, most likely from a convergence of stressors including invasive mites, infections and pesticide exposures, forcing orchard owners and other farmers to hire out-of-state beekeepers to truck their hives into the state for pollination season. Like tiny migrant workers with wings, honeybees are unique among other pollinators – including other insects, birds and bats – for their ability to be moved from place to place when people need them.

“This was the first time we’ve had to bring bees in from out of state to do some of the pollination,” Creighton said.

When the pumpkins were planted, an insecticide called Imidacloprid was applied to the soil around the roots. As the plants grow, they are absorbing the insecticide so that anything that eats the leaves and stems also ingests the chemical, and dies. Sold in hardware stores for home use under the brand name GrubEx, the insecticide has been on the market for about 20 years and is now one of the most widely used in the world, Stoner said. It is a particularly potent protection against highly destructive squash beetles.

As a farmer, I can see why they use it, because it’s really, really effective,” said Robert Durgy, the farm manager, standing amid the seed-catalogue perfect pumpkin plants, with none of the leaf holes or shriveling that insect infestations can cause.

Not So Benign

Imidacloprid, Stoner added, was first developed as an alternative to organophosphate pesticides. After concerns about toxic exposures of workers applying those chemicals directly on the plants, Imidacloprid looked like a benign antidote, a “systemic” pesticide that could safely be applied to the soil without harming humans.

But it turned out that bees, when they gather pollen and nectar from the squash flowers, also end up ingesting some of the insecticide, Stoner said. While it may not kill them immediately, Stoner said, there is now concern that it is having cumulative effects that, in combination with other stressors, are proving lethal. In the European Union, she noted, it has been banned for some specific uses.

Some facets of this project will rely on old-fashioned field work, with workers deployed into the fields throughout the season to track and record the types of bees visiting the flowers at various times, and the size, number and weight of the fruits.

“I’m going to tell the summer workers that they need to make up maps now showing where each of the plants are,” Stoner told Durgy. True to their reputation, Durgy said, the pumpkin plants would soon start spreading well beyond their orderly rows with long, intertwining vines that would make it hard to distinguish where one plant begins and the next one ends.

The pesticide research part of the project, however, will involve some more complex techniques. Pollen from the bees will have to be tested and analyzed in a lab for traces of pesticide. To collect the pollen, Creighton will attach a kind of gate on the front door of each bee hive. As the bees try to reenter, they will end up depositing half of the pollen they’ve gathered into a collection basket.

“I’m going to put a pollen trap on the first hive in the next day or so,” Creighton told Stoner.

A Courant staff report was added to this story.

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013 | Author:

Oregon Dept. of Ag issues temporary restrictions on dinotefuran after large bumblebee kill
Compiled by staff
Published: Jul 2, 2013

The Oregon Department of Agriculture estimates 25,000 bees are dead after feeding on blooms of linden trees that were treated with dinotefuran earlier in June, leading to a temporary ban on the pesticide, announced Thursday.

The ODA has determined the application of dinotefuran – which is part of a group of pesticides known as neonicotinoids – was directly related to the bee deaths. The application was originally intended to control aphids.

In implementing a temporary restriction on the pesticide, ODA said it’s “in abundance of caution” to avoid similar large bee kills.

ODA Director Katy Coba said the ban will be in effect “until such time as our investigation is completed and we have more information.” Specifically, the ODA is allowed to enforce the ban for 180 days, after which time ODA is expected to complete its investigations.

Oregon Dept. of Ag issues temporary restrictions on dinotefuran after large bumblebee kill

Oregon Dept. of Ag issues temporary restrictions on dinotefuran after large bumblebee kill

The investigations will determine if the pesticide applications were in violation of state or federal laws.

The ODA restriction focuses on ornamental, turf, and agricultural pesticide products that are used by both professional applicators and homeowners. Products with the active ingredient dinotefuran registered in Oregon for other uses, such as flea and tick control on pets or home ant and roach control, are not affected by the restriction. ODA’s concern is focused on those uses that may impact pollinators.

Officials have also covered the treated trees with netting to prevent other bees from returning to the trees’ blooms.

Concern about bee health has been ongoing in both the U.S. and the E.U., where European Commission officials earlier this year instigated a full ban for three pesticides classified as neonicotinoids – clothianidin, thiametoxam and imidacloprid — on fears that the pesticides were harming pollinators.

The ban, which will be effective December 1, 2013, prohibits the sale and use of seeds treated with the three neonicotinoid pesticides in question, and restricts the use of the products to professionals.

The USDA has avoided issuing any similar enforcements, but has completed a joint study with the Environmental Protection Agency to address increasing incidences of bee deaths. The study found several factors have been contributing to bee decline, and categorized the issue as a “complex problem.”

According to the USDA, one out of every three bites of food depends on bees, butterflies, bats and other pollinators.
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Tagged: usdadepartment of agricultureEnvironmental Protection Agencyoregon department of agriculture

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013 | Author:


Banned Insecticide Causes Changes In Honeybee Genes
By News Staff | July 2nd 2013 09:36 AM 

A new paper says that exposure to a banned neonicotinoid insecticide causes changes to the genes of the honeybee. The paper was written to support the recent decision taken by the European Commission to temporarily ban three neonicotinoids amid concerns that they could be linked to bee deaths.

Honeybees pollinate one-third of the food that we eat and the experiment looked at changes in the activity of honeybee genes linked to one of the recently banned neonicotinoids, imidacloprid.

The work (in press), led by Dr. Reinhard Stöger, Associate Professor in Epigenetics in the University of Nottingham’s School of Biosciences, found that a very low exposure of just two parts per billion has an impact on the activity of some of the honeybee genes.

The researchers conclude that cells of honeybee larvae had to “work harder” and increase the activity of genes involved in breaking down toxins most likely to cope with the insecticide. Genes involved in regulating energy to run cells were also affected. Such changes are known to reduce the lifespan of the most widely studied insect, the common fruit fly, and lower a larva’s probability of surviving to adulthood.

Stöger said, “Although larvae can still grow and develop in the presence of imidacloprid, the stability of the developmental process appears to be compromised. Should the bees be exposed to additional stresses such as pests, disease and bad weather then it is likely to increase the rate of development failure.”

The study was funded by The Co-operative Group, a $15 billion UK company, as part of its Plan Bee campaign. Chris Shearlock, Sustainable Development Manager at The Co-operative, said: “This is a very significant piece of research, which clearly shows clear changes in honeybee gene activity as a result of exposure to a pesticide, which is currently in common use across the UK.

“As part of our Plan Bee campaign launched in 2009 we have adopted a precautionary approach and prohibited the use of six neonicotinoid pesticides, including imidacloprid, on our own-brand fresh and frozen produce and have welcomed the recent approach by the European Commission to temporarily ban three neonicotinoid pesticides as this will allow for research into the impact on both pollinators and agricultural productivity.”

DERECKA K, BLYTHE MJ, MALLA S, GENEREUX DP, GUFFANTI A, PAVAN P, MOLES A, SNART C, RYDER T, ORTORI CA, BARRETT DA, SCHUSTER E and STÖGER R, 2013. Transient exposure to low levels of insecticide affects metabolic networks of honeybee larvae PLOS ONE.

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013 | Author:

PCAs and growers take notes on the stops of the tour of the Bayer CropScience research farm recently.

Bayer CropScience will soon be introducing a new class of chemistry that will be an alternative to imidacloprid, the company’s embattled systemic insecticide that has been implicated in honey bee deaths.

The new active ingredient is flupyradifurone. It is a systemic from the butenolide chemical class and is active on sucking insect pests.

It will be marketed by Bayer under the trade name Sivanto, according to Phil McNally, a Bayer rep who talked about the new product at Bayer’s recent field day at its research farm just east of Fresno.

About 100 PCAs and growers heard McNally called it a “bee friendly product with no bloom (application) restrictions.” He says Bayer expects to have the reduced risk product federally registered in 2015.

Biological efficacy studies conducted within the U.S. since 2007 by internal and external scientists on an array of annual and perennial crops have shown high levels of efficacy against various species of aphids, leafhoppers, psyllids, scales, thrips and whiteflies.

A unique property of Sivanto is its strong and rapid feeding cessation effect from both soil and foliar applications. It is active via ingestion and contact. It is an adult knockdown product that controls nymph and egg stages.

It is both systemic for root uptake and translaminer from foliar applications. It has minimal impact on beneficials.

Submitted for global joint review in 2012, registration is being pursued on many annual and perennial crops.

The proposed label includes a four hour re-entry interval.

It is expected to be a major part of the Bayer CropScience insecticide package as an alternative to imidaclolprid.

Imidacloprid is currently the most widely used insecticide in the world. Although it is now off patent, the primary manufacturer is Bayer CropScience. It is sold under many names.

Recent research suggests that widespread agricultural use of imidacloprid and other pesticides may be a factor in honey bee  deaths called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).  The decline of honey bee colonies in Europe and North America have been observed since 2006. As a result, several countries have restricted use of imidacloprid and other neonicotinoids. Some European countries, including France, Germany and Italy, have even banned neonicotinoids, though pesticide companies vehemently defend their ecological safety and say concerns are based on inconclusive and premature science.

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013 | Author:

Seems like yesterday. I’ve updated WordPress and migrated all the old data. Thanks for bearing with me while you read some php warnings… There are more bee removals to be done, so we’ll see some more pics soon. Stay tuned.

Hot nights means get out and fan. Beehive at a community garden in the Hudson Valley, NY.

Hot nights means get out and fan. Beehive at a community garden in the Hudson Valley, NY.

Category: My Journal  | Leave a Comment
Sunday, July 08th, 2012 | Author:

I started this blog in 2008 and at the time, I had a vision for how beekeeping should be used as a rehabilitative activity for veterans returning shellshocked and struggling with PTSD from the treasonous invasion zones into which they were sent.  Naturally, not all veterans share my opinions about the invasion of Afghanistan or Iraq, Panama or Nicaragua, Yemin or Palestine…. but one simply cannot brush the subject under the rug without declaring an opinion, as that itself is disrepectful to ourselves and the war veterans among us. The suicide rate among veterans is unconscionable and OUR RESPONSIBILITY.

To my joy this morning, I happened across a photo while randomly looking at poisonous weed photos on Flickr and found my vision realized, to some degree. Though not overtly a rehab device, active military members are learning beekeeping, and this, I believe, will likely have the desired affect that beekeeping has on many men. The affect is different for women, I would argue. Seems like the idea is to make well-rounded people in the military so they’re more prepared and useful for long-term re-building of places that are bombed to backwater first… that’s the cynical perspective. Another view would be investing in military personnel to be better citizens prepared for deployment to rebuild crumbling America… woops… still cynical (or is that realist?)

None-the-less, I hope that this training brings beekeeping one step closer to the struggling veterans, and that these active military personnel reach out to teach those isolated veterans the magic of keeping these amazing creatures healthy, happy, productive and always in relationship with us. Kudos to the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and Col. Richard Sele, commander of the Army Reserve’s 431st Civil Affairs Battalion.

Never give up. Thoughts Are Things.

431st Civil Affairs Battalion Learns Beekeeping

Saturday, February 04th, 2012 | Author: