Canadian Senate Bee Hearings: American Beekeeping Federation confirms neonics number one problem.

(excerpt) Tim Tucker, President, American Beekeeping Federation:  Thank you.  I am honoured to be here to offer what information I might to the committee.

Again, my name is Tim Tucker, and I am the current President of the American Beekeeping Federation.  We are the largest beekeeping group in the United States currently. 

I have been a beekeeper for 23 years.  At one time in the early or mid‑2000s, I ran as many as 800 beehives or colonies during my experience as a professional beekeeper.  Today, it has become more difficult to maintain our numbers of total bee colonies; they have fluctuated from a low of 240 hives that we had in the early spring two years ago to as many as around 500 that we are currently operating.  We suffer heavy winter losses each year here in the U.S., and I don't believe that's exclusive just to the U.S.; it's going on around the world and in Canada as well.

Each year, our young queens don't seem to manage to produce enough bees to grow colonies to levels where they would be successful the way we saw them in the 1980s and 1990s.  These subpar colonies are always a significant percentage of our production units, and during the year, we either combine them together or these colonies just have to be destroyed because they are just not up to production par levels. 

It has become almost impossible to get back to the numbers that we operated at 10 years ago because we are continually replacing lost colonies.  The commercial beekeeping industry today really and truly is in crisis.  We do need to find answers before more commercial beekeepers such as myself give up our operations.

We have many variables involved in this when we talk about honeybee health, but we feel as a group, most commercial beekeepers involved in the U.S. feel there are three main factors that we continue to address.  Those three factors would be what we feel in order of importance are, number one, pesticides. 

There is no longer any doubt that pesticides have been implicated in the deteriorating health of many species, and our honeybees are no exception.  The recent international Task Force on Systemic Pesticides has concluded, after reviewing over 800 scientific reports, that the amount of pesticides being used and the manner that they are being utilized are affecting the environment.  Individual studies by the University of Guelph have demonstrated that when bees have long‑term exposure to these neonicotinoids pesticides, they are much less effective at foraging for pollen. 

Nigel Raine, who holds the Rebanks Family Chair in Pollinator Conservation, recently noted in the study that bees have to learn how to navigate in their area.  They have to utilize sources when and where they are available at the times of day that they are available, and they have to adapt to the changing conditions in their environment.  His conclusions from this recent study were that "exposure to these neonicotinoid pesticides seem to prevent bees from being able to learn these essential skills" and adapt quickly to their environment. 

It is not merely coincidental that over the past 20 years, with the increase in the use of these compounds, that many species, from marine invertebrates to insects and birds, have had large population declines.  Some species are being so critically affected that they are reaching levels that may make their survival questionable.

Full testimony here.