This just in: pesticides are good for honeybees!

wait-whatI’ll just let that sink in for a moment. That’s right: everything that we think we know about honeybees and pesticides are wrong. Believe it.

No, I haven’t lost my mind. A journalist tried to feed me that line this morning. Bear with me, it will take a minute to explain.

I was perusing the Beekeepers of Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec Facebook group this morning (What? You haven’t joined yet? Go. I’ll wait.) and a group member had posted this link.

Short version:

The experiment couldn’t have been simpler. Working with nearby beekeepers, Harvard researcher Chensheng Lu and his team treated 12 colonies with tiny levels of neonics and kept six control hives free of the popular chemicals. All 18 hives made it through summer without any apparent trouble. Come winter, though, the bees in six of the treated hives vanished, leaving behind empty colonies—the classic behavior of colony collapse disorder. None of the six control hives experienced a CCD-style disappearing act, although one did succumb to a common-to-bees gut pathogen called nosema.

Pretty clear. It’s a very small study in one part of the US that appears to demonstrate a link. Is it conclusive? No. Is it intriguing? Does it point the way forward for more study? Hell yes!

As Facebook often does, this posting was followed by a list of three “Related Articles”. The first two were both Forbes Magazine, so I had a look:

Science Collapse Disorder — The Real Story Behind Neonics And Mass Bee Deaths

Bee Deaths Reversal: As Evidence Points Away From Neonics As Driver, Pressure Builds To Rethink Ban

Jon Entine, self-described “Contrarian, author, think-tank scholar, leadership & sustainability consultant, media commentator and public speaker on the DNA of human behaviour”, is more than a bit of sceptic when it comes to links between neonicotinoid pesticides and colony collapse disorder, wrote both pieces. I found him on Twitter and the oddest exchange with him:


Neonicotinoids “improve bee health and zero link to CCD”. You’ll notice my restrained response. He shocked me so badly that I could barely type.

We’ve only been keeping bees since 2008, but I’ve never heard anything so ludicrous. The chemical that’s been rather convincingly demonstrated to indiscriminately kill insects of all kinds, not just honeybees, is actually some sort of vitamin?

Not even the pesticide makers have the nerve to try to make that claim. If I ever find the studies, I’ll post the links here.

UPDATE: A reply, of sorts, from Mr. Entine:


More as it comes in.

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