Dealing with Challenges to Honey Bees and other Pollinators


Problem - Bees Need Help Now!


Earth Focus Episode 44 (half hour)


Good websites:


Be a beekeeper/support beekeepers:
- Ojai Valley Bee Club meets 2nd Thurs, Farmer & the Cook
- Santa Barbara Bee Club,, 805-450-9194


Advocate for Laws and Regulations that Protect Bees:
- Support "Save America's Pollinators Act" in the US Congress.
- Write letters to responsible agencies for bee protection:

Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture
Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior
Nancy Sutley, Chair, Council on Environmental Quality
Bob Perciasepe, Acting Administrator, EPA


Letter to President


I Pledge to Bring Back the Pollinators
· Grow a variety of bee-friendly flowers that bloom from spring through fall.
· Protect and provide bee nesting habitat.
· Avoid using pesticides, especially insecticides.
· Talk to my neighbors about the importance of pollinators and their habitat.
· Buy organic food, shop at farmers markets, ask about pesticide use.



Bees, honey, other native pollinators, including flies, moths, hummingbirds, bats etc. pollinate plants so that the plants produce food that we eat.


Important , pollinate 90% of worlds food 71 of 100 major crops. Beekeepers reporting 30% hive loss during winter. Without pollinators, production more difficult. Key crops: almonds, blueberries, apples, melons, and much of alfalfa.


Pressures: Under pressure from pesticide use, habitat destruction, nutritional stress, diseases, moving bees for pollination, GMO crops, beekeeper abuse - self inflicted injury from pesticide use and putting strain on bees.


Most important is pesticide use in context of what can easily be controlled.

Managed media - USA is now run by big corporations, Bayer, Monsanto, Dow get message out that we need these pesticides to grow food. Not true. We help farmers grow crops using beneficial insects to control pests without toxic pesticides. Objective studies - not paid for by chemical companies - says that agroecological methods - what we know as organic farming - are the way to feed the world.


Neonicotinoids at-a-glance

Very persistent in soil & water soluble.

Systemic pesticides applied at the root (as seed coating or drench) & then taken up through the plant’s vascular system to be expressed in pollen, nectar & guttation droplets (like dew) from which bees then forage & drink.

Systemics on food cannot be washed off.

Nicotine-like, neurotoxic insecticides that bind to nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in insects’ brains.

Bees have a particular genetic vulnerability to these & other pesticides because they have more of these receptors, as well as more learning & memory genes, & fewer genes for detoxification.

Widely used on more than 140 crop varieties, as well as on termites, flea treatments, lawns & gardens.

Fastest-growing class of synthetic pesticides in history. Imidacloprid is Bayer Crop Science's top-selling product.


List: Acetamiprid, Clothianidin, Dinotefuran, Imidacloprid, Nitenpyram, Thiocloprid, Thiamethoxam

Labels: Admire, Merit, Advantage,


Letter to President

Key facts acknowledged by EPA officials, made in public statements at recent meetings, in media statements, in EPA documents and other venues:

  • Guidance for neonicotinoid use was inadequate.
  • EPA’s bee kill incident reporting system was inadequate.
  • pesticide labels are inadequate to mitigate adverse environmental effects, specifically to avoid seed dust-mediated mortality to honey bees and other beneficial insects in or near corn fields.
  • corn planting machinery poses significant dust-off risks and needs changing,
  • bee health and populations, and crop pollination, are in a near-crisis state based on several synergistic factors including insecticide use.
  • the agency has not consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on potential effects on threatened or endangered species under Sec. 7 of the Endangered Species Act for the neonicotinoid insecticides.


Despite the above, EPA has refused to exercise its regulatory power to address the one factor it could address tomorrow – the major contribution of these insecticide to bee declines – and instead has pointed to land use decisions, crop planting choices by farmers, pathogens, bee nutrition and other factors over which EPA has no authority. Indeed, no other Federal agency has the power to help stem bee declines by addressing any of those synergistic factors within a reasonable timeframe.


We would like to further highlight a broader threat: water contamination by imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam and the other compounds, the effect of which is to “sterilize” much of the invertebrate food chain, threatening insects, fish, amphibians and other taxa, including, but not limited to, aquatic and insectivorous birds.


Xerces Pollinator Protection Pledge

The pollinator protection pledge is part of the Xerces Society's Bring Back the Pollinators campaign. This campaign is based on four simple principles: grow pollinator-friendly flowers, provide nest sites, avoid pesticides, and spread the word. Shop for local organic food. You can join this campaign. With these core values, pollinator conservation can be adapted to any location, whether you tend an urban community garden or a suburban yard, work in a city park or on a farm. We make the commitment to you that we will work every day to protect pollinators and their habitat. Will you make a similar commitment to the pollinators?


To Bring Back the Pollinators, I will:

1. Grow a variety of bee-friendly flowers that bloom from spring through fall.

2. Protect and provide bee nests and caterpillar host plants.

3. Avoid using pesticides, especially insecticides.

4. Talk to my neighbors about the importance of pollinators and their habitat.

5. Buy organic food, shop at farmers markets, ask about pesticide use.

We have some seed mixes for plants that attract beneficial insects.

Handout on biocontrol of bee pests


Controlling Pests in Bee Hives


Arthropod Pests of Honey Bees

Varroa Mite, Tracheal/External Mite, Small Hive Beetle, Wax Moth, Ant

Others: Bee, Wasp, Bee Lice, Dragonfly, Beetles, Spider, Bug, Roach, Earwig, Termite


Varroa mites have been reduced with insect eating fungi (entomopathogenic). Tests by USDA with a particular strain of Metarhizium anisopliae, showed good reduction of the varroa mite with no apparent harm to the bees. Follow up studies were done with another strain that was not effective. The price for treating a hive looks like $1-$2 per hive which seems competitive for organic. Met52 is commercially available in US, but not NOP organic. Production is simple on cooked rice. This fungus is used in huge quantities in North Africa to control the desert locust, and is called Green Muscle after the green fuzzy spores sprouting from the dead insects.


Conidiobolus coronatus is a gossamer, phantom fungus, quite unlike anything you have ever seen before. It eats a lot of soft bodied insects but not bees (hymenoptera). It seems to be good at reducing varroa mite, hive beetle, wax moth and termite. This is a developmental product and is sold as an inoculant.


Powdered sugar and grease helps. Sucrose octanoate, trade name Sucrocide, a sugar soap, is a low risk pesticide spray selectively kills varroa mite. A screened bottom board with a sticky plastic sheet below, traps mites for monitoring.


Tracheal Mite can be controlled with menthol or a combination of thymol, eucalyptus and menthol. Some trials with smoke from eucalyptus or citrus leaves showed promise for this strategy. Grease patties and powdered sugar work well. Some predator mite may be found that would live in the hive and feed on the pest mites – Hypoaspis was tried without good results.


The small hive beetle (Athina tumida), North America's newest beekeeping pest, was first discovered in Florida in the spring of 1998. The above fungi are possibilities for the larvae in the hive. The larvae drop to the soil to pupate where you can treat with insect eating nematodes, such as Heterorhabditis bacteriophora (Hb). This nematode is commonly used to control white grubs in lawns. A suspension of the nematodes is sprayed on the ground around the hive and watered in.


Wax moth larvae eat the comb in weak hives or stored frames. Trichogramma, a minute parasitic wasp lays its eggs in moth eggs and the wasp larva eats the moth egg. Bt, (Bacillus thuringiensis), a bacteria that makes caterpillars sick, can be sprayed on comb before it is stored (not currently registered for this use). Light traps can reduce the adult moths in store rooms.


Ants can be excluded (along with roaches, earwigs and termites) with water or oil traps on the legs of the hives. A bait of boric acid, sugar and water, placed in plastic bait stations around the hive, will be taken back to the colony where it will knock down the colony.


Roach & Earwig are attracted to yeasty baits like beer into mechanical traps. Slug Saloon with powdered beer bait traps earwigs and sowbugs as well as slugs. To make a roach trap, coat the inside neck of a pint jar with petroleum jelly and bait with a small piece of white bread moistened with beer.


The organic message is that a healthy plant growing in healthy soil will fend off pests and disease. With bees, providing a well-designed hive, good forage, and supplemental feeding, will give the bees a chance to take care of themselves. When pests and diseases show up, use natural, integrated methods of dealing with the pests that don’t stress the bees.


Rincon-Vitova has a long history of introducing new biocontrols to the market. We would like to work with beekeepers to develop biocontrol strategies and cultural controls to keep bees organically. This is a big challenge with invading pests. Please send questions, notes, tips, and suggestions and we will post them on a beekeeping page on our website. - Ron Whitehurst, PCA