Last month, members of group called SumOfUs.org, sporting a giant inflatable bee, organized a protest at a Lowe’s shareholder meeting, insisting that the corporation “remove bee-killing neonicotinoid insecticides from its shelves.”
In a news release, the group cited a Harvard study released last month which “strengthens the link between neonicotinoids and the collapse of honeybee colonies.”
Many news organizations reported on the Harvard study, but few were compelled to challenge findings from such a prestigious institution. Except for Randy Oliver, who has a Web site called ScientificBeekeeping.com.
Oliver, who currently runs about 1,000 bee hives in California, started beekeeping as a hobby 47 years ago, and earned a university degree in biological sciences, specializing in entomology. Oliver has extensive knowledge and experience to share about bee health.
In a recent blog on the Harvard study and its lead scientist Chensheng Lu, Oliver held nothing back. “I am no supporter of insecticides and am acutely aware of their negative effects upon colonies (I suffered bee kills from pesticides this spring). But I am a strong supporter of good science. It disturbs me greatly when trash like Lu’s papers become the darlings of advocacy groups to support their misguided agendas to ban a particular pesticide outright, rather than to find the actual causes of colony losses, and to push for specific regulations that would ensure more pollinator-friendly use of pesticides in general (like not spraying on flowering crops during daylight hours).”
Oliver says the Harvard study overshadows good research by dedicated bee scientists who are “helping us understand which pesticides (including beekeeper-applied miticides) are actually contributing to colony morbidity and mortality.”
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Oliver says his own research does not support the hypothesis that neonicotinoids are a likely single cause of colony collapse disorder. “Any of several factors may be involved in colony collapse, including pesticides. In short, sudden colony depopulation is typically due to the troika of varroa, viruses, and nosema, exacerbated by poor nutrition, beekeeper-applied miticides, and chilling – which may push colonies past the tip point.”
To Oliver, Lu’s research “isn’t about trying to learn something about CCD, rather it is to support a preconceived agenda – that a certain insecticide is the cause of CCD (despite the fact that no other researcher on earth, not matter how hard they tried, have ever been able to make such a connection.”
What is discouraging about Lu’s study is that it sent the public off on yet another wild bee chase, diverting attention from the answers beekeepers need, while slandering an insecticide farmers need for profitability.
Beekeepers and farmers need answers, not giant inflatable bees at Lowes.