A Nutty Business

Each year, about a thousand of America’s commercial beekeepers bring their honeybees to the California almond groves for pollination. It is the first major crop to be pollinated in the United States and is also a key source of income for commercial migratory beekeepers.

“They estimate that there are about 2 1/2 million colonies of bees in the whole country. The almond pollination requires about 1.6 million. Almost every available colony of bees is in California in February,” stated bee advocate, Tom Theobald.

California almond groves

In February, California almond groves are the first crop to be pollinated in the USA.

Considering that the majority of the commercial honeybees will be pollinating the almond groves in the beginning of the year, it would make sense that precautions would be taken to protect the health of the colonies from chemical applications that could harm or kill them. According to Tom Theobald the labeling is at issue.

An Inconvenient Truth

In Tom Theobald’s view, “‘The label is the law’ was the EPA’s mantra for twenty-five years until huge pesticide losses, not unlike what we are seeing in California, pressed beekeepers to call for enforcement of those laws. Suddenly, they became an inconvenience.”


A Tank Sized Toxic Problem

Tank mixes can be far more toxic than the ingredients are individually. There is very little direction with regard to tank mixes.

“They are tank mixing! They are mixing fungicides with IGR’s (insect growth regulators).

Tank Mixing

Tank-mixes and Pre-packs are combinations of two or more pesticides applied as a single mixture. (Photo: Pesticidestewardship.org)

Somebody made a comment, what do you expect out of this?  They say it is safe if it doesn’t blow up on you. You can use it if it doesn’t blow up. (It’s) A bomb! ….because nobody knows when you mix two chemicals together or what the effect is when you mix two chemicals together. It could be scary!” stated Bill Rhodes, Commercial Beekeeper and owner of Bill Rhodes Honey.

Who’s Watching The Watch Dog?


Listen To The Interview 

Did EPA’s flawed label language cause the massive honeybee devastation in California during almond pollination? Beekeeper and bee advocate Tom Theobald talks to June Stoyer on The Organic View Radio Show about the history of EPA’s labeling requirements and what this means as far as food security. To listen to the interview please click play on the video below.

New York Takes The Lead In Energy 

When it comes to New York, people typically think of Wall Street, Broadway, museums, fine dining, and so many amazing things. However, New York is now the place to be when it comes to the world of energy. New York has taken a leadership position, encouraging the development of alternative and renewable energy resources.

Renewable energy development is huge in New York

There are tremendous opportunities for renewable energy development in New York!

In order to impact our world, become truly energy independent and fully sustainable, we must bring together the technologies that are needed in order to utilize the renewable resources we have. Our future depends upon this innovation.

Stony Brook University

The Power Of Stony Brook! New York has become the hub for energy development and is opening the door for many women!

Listen To The Interview

Host, June Stoyer talks to energy expert and luminary, Mr. Robert B. Catell about one of the most important US based energy events, the Advanced Energy 2014 Conference. The unique conference features key energy leaders and showcases the most innovative, cutting edge energy technologies in the world. To listen to the interview, please click the play button on the video below.

Learn About Mr. Robert B. Catell

Mr. Catell was formerly the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of KeySpan Corporation and KeySpan Energy Delivery, the former Brooklyn Union Gas. His career with Brooklyn Union Gas started in 1958. Following National Grid’s acquisition of KeySpan Corporation, Mr. Catell became Chairman of National Grid, U.S. and Deputy Chairman of National Grid plc.

Mr. Robert Catell with former New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg

Mr. Robert Catell with former New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg

He currently serves as Chairman of the Board of the Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center (AERTC) at Stony Brook University, New York State Smart Grid Consortium, Cristo Rey Brooklyn High School (formerly Lourdes Academy), Futures in Education Endowment Fund, and the New York Energy Policy Institute’s Advisory Council (NYEPI).

Robert Catell with many of the speakers at Advanced Energy 2013

Robert Catell with many of the speakers at Advanced Energy 2013

The Advanced Energy Research & Technology Center (AERTC.org) which is based at New York State University at Stony Brook is a true partnership of academic institutions, research institutions, energy providers and industrial corporations. The AERTC works to develop advanced cutting-edge technologies to explore new ways for the production of clean energy, enhancing production from renewable sources, and finding efficient methods for distribution and storage of energy with minimal impact on local ecosystems. Its mission is innovative energy research, education and technology deployment with a focus on efficiency, conservation, renewable energy and nanotechnology applications for new and novel sources of energy and to strengthen partnerships among the business, government and academic sectors, to help move towards a sustainable energy future that strengthens the economy, the environment and policy at all levels of government.

Conference Information

The conference program for Advanced Energy 2014 will feature several plenary events, including a continental breakfast, a plated luncheon featuring keynote speakers, a networking cocktail reception, an exhibit hall and a poster session.

Advanced Energy 2014

The educational program will comprise a broad offering of tracks and plenary sessions featuring topic experts and thought leaders from all across the energy industry. To register now, please click this link.



Over 475,000 Colonies Impacted From Exposure!

In early February, commercial, migratory beekeepers travel with their bees to the almond groves in California for pollination. Almonds are one of many key crops that rely upon honeybees for pollination. Many migratory beekeepers begin with almonds and then travel to other states to work with growers and pollinate other crops such as apples, cherries, avocados, cranberries and blueberries. The California almond crop is critical because it supplies 80% of the world’s almonds.

Due to exposure to neonicotinoids, IGR’s (insect growth regulator pesticides) and fungicides, the number of bees impacted will continue to grow as the chemicals take their toll.

Why would you risk putting something out there that could kill the bees that you need? It doesn't make sense. A first grader wouldn't do it."- Bill Rhodes

A Tank Sized Toxic Cocktail For Bees

Although EPA has made some effort to protect bees by changing the label language, the danger to bees remains due to lack of clarity and overall thorough protection of the bees. Protection of bees should be paramount but there are a growing number of beekeepers, beekeeping advocates and environmentalists that feel industry is EPA’s key concern.

“What’s interesting with the pesticides that were applied to almonds, none of the pesticides had any kind of warnings for or directions for use that would indicate that they were toxic to honeybees or insect pollinators but it is pretty obvious to beekeepers that the tank mixes actually were pretty toxic.”- Jeff Anderson

Commercial migratory beekeepers checking frames

Commercial migratory beekeeper, Bill Rhodes, checking frames.

What Will The Economic Impact Be?

Below is a graphic that illustrates the impact sustained from one beekeeper who lost 200 colonies back in 2010. What will the impact be from this year’s bee losses in California? This is just the beginning of the year.

bee losses figure

Image: Beyond Pesticides

Can Beekeepers Recover?

Even if the commercial beekeepers recover, they may opt not to return to California next year.  That is a harsh reality that the growers who depend upon these beekeepers face.

The financial burden is tremendous for commercial beekeepers who are mortgaging their homes, living hand to mouth and doing whatever they can to keep their bees alive. Bee losses of this magnitude are devastating commercial operations. It is getting harder and harder to avoid these chemicals. At what point will the bees cease to survive?

Jeff Anderson -quote

Listen To The Interview:

In this segment of The Organic View Radio Show, host, June Stoyer talks to two leading commercial, migratory beekeepers, Mr. Jeff Anderson and Mr. Bill Rhodes about the recent news about major honeybee deaths in California from almond pollination. To hear the interview click the play button below on the video.

Learn About Jeff Anderson

Mr. Jeff Anderson is the owner of California-Minnesota Honey farms.  Jeff also represents the beekeeping industry on the National Beekeeping Advisory Board, The National Pollinator Defense Fund and the Pollinator Stewardship Council.

Jeff Anderson and his family

Jeff Anderson and his family, owner of California-Minnesota Honey farms

Learn About Bill Rhodes

Bill Rhodes

Bill Rhodes

Mr. Bill Rhodes is the owner of Bill Rhodes Honey, one of Florida’s leading honey producers. The Umatilla business began as a one-man operation in the early 1970s after Bill returned home following a two-year career in the Canadian Football League.  “I got interested in the bee business through a friend,” says the former Florida State University lineman. “I started with 50 hives and before I knew it I had 400.”  Today, he has anywhere between 8,000 and 10,000 hives and 15 employees. He has a plant in South Dakota as well as a farm in Georgia where he “runs” the bees. He also pays “bee rent” to farmers who want their crops pollinated. His company produces 1,500 to 2,500 drums of honey annually, but those numbers can fluctuate wildly from year to year because of weather and a variety of other factors.  “Bill was instrumental in helping Florida become the first state in the nation in 2009 to set industry standards,” says Doug McGinnis, co-owner of Tropical Blossom Honey Co. in Edgewater. “He is passionate about making sure honey is pure, and we need more beekeepers like him.”  When Bill has a bit of downtime from producing honey, the Umatilla native enjoys spending time with his wife, Anna, and their grandchildren. Their son Billy manages the family’s farm in Quincy, Florida, and their other son, Bobby, is a local contractor and proprietor of a solar energy company. When the family isn’t discussing business, they are talking football—both sons followed in their father’s footsteps as FSU players in the late ‘90s.


Impact On Honeybee Navigation

In the latest research published by the team of Dr. Randolf Menzel, Dr. Johannes Fischer, Dr. Teresa Müller, Dr. Anne-Kathrin Spatz, Dr. Uwe Greggers, and Dr. Bernd Grünewald, titled, Neonicotinoids Interfere with Specific Components of Navigation in Honeybees, the impact of three neonicotinoids was tested to see the effects on honeybee navigation.

The neonicotinoids: imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiacloprid were selected because of how they directly work on the brain and change the function of the brain. The chemicals were applied at non-lethal doses in order to test their effects on honeybee navigation.


Examples of flight paths of two individual bees. Fischer J, Müller T, Spatz A-K, Greggers U, et al. (2014) Neonicotinoids Interfere with Specific Components of Navigation in Honeybees. PLoS ONE 9(3): e91364. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0091364

The Complexity Of The Honeybee Brain

Most people think of a honeybee as a simple insect. However, they are social beings that communicate in multiple ways. The Honeybee, Apis mellifera has been studied extensively with respect to its sensory and neural capacities in navigation, communication, visual and olfactory learning and memory processing. The Virtual Brain Project was formerly funded by the BMBF as a subproject of the Virtual Neuro Lab and is now continued in the Project DigiNeuro.

The Virtual Atlas of the Honeybee Brain

The Virtual Atlas of the Honeybee Brain

Learn About The Virtual Atlas of the Honeybee Brain

The goal of this project serves to integrate the entirety of information into a Virtual Atlas of the Honeybee Brain. This common spatial reference map will potentiate the representation of structural and functional data obtained in different experiments and from different individuals. Pictured above is the Virtual Honeybee Standard Brain Atlas which is an interactive three-dimensional surface model with integrated neuron and neuronal tracts. For more information on this fascinating project, please contact DigiNeuro.

Listen To The Interview:

In this segment of The Organic View Radio Show, Neurobiologist and Professor Emeritus, at the Free University of Berlin, Dr. Randolf Menzel, discusses new research titled, Neonicotinoids Interfere with Specific Components of Navigation in Honeybees with host, June Stoyer. Please click play to listen to the interview.

Learn About The Brilliant Mind of Dr. Randolf Menzel:
Dr. Randolf Menzel pioneered the honeybee as a model system in neuroscience with respect to color vision, olfaction, learning, and memory.


Dr. Randolf Menzel

Combining levels of analysis from natural behavior to single neurons, he traced perceptual and cognitive capacities to their neural and cellular substrates. He established the first evidence for the role of the insect mushroom body in memory formation and characterized the cellular and neural correlates of different phases of memory.

The Blame Game

It has been almost a year since commercial beekeeper, Jim Doan lost his bees to neonicotinoid exposure. Industry continues to shift the focus away from the pesticides and have used anything and anyone as a scapegoat in order to continue to sell products containing or treated with neonicotinoids. In fact, industry is now shifting the blame on the beekeepers insinuating that beekeepers, who have been managing hives for generations, are at fault. Industry also claims that there is not enough science yet the scientific community continues to publish paper after paper about the impact of neonicotinoids.

Commercial Beekeeper, Jim Doan is now out of business due to pesticide exposure

Commercial Beekeeper, Jim Doan is now out of business due to pesticide exposure

The Money Crop

So, what exactly are these chemicals and why are they controversial? Neonicotinoids are a class of systemic pesticides with a common mode of action that affects the central nervous system of insects, causing paralysis and death. Neonicotinoids are often applied as seed treatments which means coating the seeds before planting. They also generate billions of dollars for the agro-chemical companies that manufacture these chemicals and are available not only for agricultural applications but also can be found in a myriad of garden products available all over the world.

money growing from neonics

Profits are growing tremendously thanks to neonicotinoid sales.

Industry also argues that without these systemic pesticides, agriculture will suffer, resulting in crop failure. Perhaps what should be considered is the number of commercial beekeeping operations that have been operating for generations which will be forced to close due to exposure from neonicotinoid pesticides.

Listen To The Interview

Here is the original interview on the only series devoted to the impact of neonicotinoids called “The Neonicotinoid View”. Listen to host, June Stoyer and beekeeping advocate, Tom Theobald talk to New York State commercial beekeeper, Jim Doan to discuss his decision to sell his farm after losing his bees to neonicotinoid exposure. At one point during his tenure, Jim grew his business to manage up to 5300 hives and just a few short years later was reduced to nothing due to a never-ending war against Neonicotinoid exposure. If you would like to hear Jim’s heart-breaking story, stay tuned!

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