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View Diary: Florida citrus grower gets slap on the wrist after killing millions of honeybees (140 comments)

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  •  That's plain silly. I don't believe it. (0+ / 0-)

    Beekeepers make their living from their bees. They aren't going to risk their livelihood when there's a shortage of bees and good contracts are plentiful.

    "Some folks rob you with a six-gun, some rob you with a fountain pen." - Woody Guthrie

    by Involuntary Exile on Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 01:28:31 AM PDT

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    •  Um... (4+ / 0-)

      I'm a third generation beekeeper. My grandfather had 100 hives, my father 3000, and I had 300.

      I now have only 20.

      I happen to know beekeeping very well. What I'm getting at with my previous comment is getting good locations is difficult. Have you ever gone out knocking on doors of farmers looking for apiary locations that will produce a honey crop for hundreds of hives? I've done this, and it often isn't easy to find them in a competitive world.

      So, I'm basically surmising that new beekeepers getting into the business, or beekeepers expanding, or moving bees into a new area, would probably take the risk by putting bees at those locations where the bees were poisoned. I know beekeepers, how they think, what drives and motivates them. The growers under discussion will tell the new beekeeper they made an error, will reassure them that they have adopted better protocols, and life will go on.

      They need to ban these pesticides. That is the answer. Believe me, I know far more about this than you are giving me credit for. But realistically, I know how the business works.

      "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

      by ZhenRen on Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 01:58:06 AM PDT

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    •  The shortage of bees (1+ / 0-)
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      is NOT so great that Florida, which likely has a lot of beekeepers since beekeepers love the warmer climates which have an early spring (so that bees can build up faster after the winter dormancy), wouldn't be competitive. Orange locations are coveted by beekeepers. Beekeepers from all over the more northern east coast region would truck bees south to Florida for the winter, and then put them on the oranges in the spring for the April honeyflow. Or they would truck them to the almonds in central California in February, and then back to Florida. Lots of possible ways to move them around to get maximum profit, depending on the style of beekeeping.  

      THAT is why the locations might be in tight supply in Florida. Do you get it now?

      "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

      by ZhenRen on Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 02:07:38 AM PDT

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      •  I definitely get how beekeeping works. (0+ / 0-)

        Beekeepers truck their bees beginning in early spring to orchards in bloom. The orchards need the bees and the bees need the orchards. If the supply of bees is declining rapidly, which everyone says it is, then beekeepers will not have to beg growers to set their bees in blooming orchards. Quite the contrary, I should think. All the orchards of a given fruit in a particular area bloom at the same time. It seems to me if there is a shortage of bees then beekeepers will get to choose among orchards. And if they get to choose among orchards, why would they choose one that is known to spray nicotinoids? That goes directly against their own self-interest.

        What surprises me is that the decline in bees is not so great in Florida. Surely that must be attributable to an increase in the number of beekeepers since bee colonies there experienced the same die-off rate of 30% as the country as whole.  I should think that it won't be long before the decline in bee colony numbers becomes as big a problem in Florida as it is in California.

        If I made my living keeping bees I would want to put them on only those flowers I knew wouldn't poison them and destroy my investment. If that meant keeping them far away from Ben Hill Griffin orchards, that is what I would do. Now, its's possible there are really stupid beekeepers in Florida and the other southeastern states who will set their hives anywhere they can find an orchard in bloom, but if they set their bees in poisoned orchards they won't be keeping bees for very long.

        "Some folks rob you with a six-gun, some rob you with a fountain pen." - Woody Guthrie

        by Involuntary Exile on Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 08:58:34 AM PDT

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        •  You still don't understand (0+ / 0-)

          The elephant in the room regarding this discussion is oranges don't depend on pollination anywhere close to the degree assumed by people here in this diary. Not all fruits require the extensive pollination that some plants require. One third of food crops require pollination, which leaves 2/3 which don't. For example, avocados benefit from pollination more than oranges, but even those grove owners don't pay for bees.

          Orange grove owners don't usually pay for pollination. Must I provide links?  (I've dealt with orange farmers and have had bees in orange groves, and I have knowledge of which plants require pollination).  It isn't as crucial to oranges compared to other crops. You're assuming a lack of bees placed directly in the orchard will be devastating to the owners. Bees in other groves nearby will fly to the grove, so the owners won't have to worry (bees can fly up to five or more miles, and don't limit themselves to an assigned area). So the premise that these grove owners will fear a lower crop yield just isn't true. Now, if ALL hives were to disappear in the neighboring groves as well, the owners might see a bit a a decline, and then they might begin to wake up a bit, or just charge higher prices. The problem with oranges is owners think they don't need bees, since oranges don't experience the huge increases in yields due to pollination like certain other crops. You may not realize that plants respond to bee pollination to varying degrees. This is reflected in what farmers pay. Almonds are at the top, getting $150 per hive. Other crops, like blackberries and blueberries, fetch something like $50 to $70 per hive in my area. Some don't pay at all. This reflects the degree to which the plants benefit. I know a guy with a small farm who never pays, and hobbyist beekeepers place hives there for free.

          The entire discussion is based on a flawed premise that these offenders are going to suffer due to their transgressions. The bottom line is these grove owners who did the spraying, unfortunately won't experience some big punitive response, other than the fine. That is the essential point here.

          That aside, as to your other comments, when commercial beekeepers lose bees, they usually make up for it by buying package bees or making hive divisions to bring their hives back up to previous levels. They don't usually just give up and quit. So the reports of 50% loss of bees is made up for (to a certain degree) the next spring. And as locations open up due to declines in hives, other beekeepers will move in and take them, since these sites are coveted. As I said, I know how beekeepers think.

          The vast majority of large grove owners spray their crops. The problem is in the instance of this story reported by the diary, the spraying was done in an irresponsible manner (which actually isn't at all a new development, it's just that this story made the news due to the fine). Beekeepers are used to this problem, to a degree. If the owners tell beekeepers they made an error, and have corrected it, there will be some beekeeper who will believe the owners and put their bees there. But even if this doesn't happen, as i explained above, the owners will be fine.

          There are nuances in the background reality that beekeepers deal with, which the inexperienced person just won't understand.

          So for specific regions like Florida and its oranges, I'm pretty sure bees will still be present. Warm climates with good honey plants have a disproportionate amount of beekeepers.

          Almonds, on the other hand, in central California, which don't really secret a lot of nectar, and which absolutely need pollination, are experiencing increased problems getting bees into groves. The problem is with all of the problems with neonics and associated bee diseases, mites, etc., the hives aren't strong enough that early in the spring (February) to meet the requirements of the growers. There is no reason to have bees in the almond regions other than for the almonds (due to monoculture) so there won't be as many beekeepers local to the specific region keeping bees in that area as there would be in Florida. And if beekeepers in Florida pass up the almonds, guess where there will be more bees in the early spring?

          "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

          by ZhenRen on Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 10:28:14 AM PDT

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    •  But if this becomes a bigger problem (0+ / 0-)

      on a wider scale with specifically oranges, then yes, beekeepers will eventually pull away from that crop. The problem is it isn't just oranges. The neonics are widely used, and it is very difficult for large beekeeping operations to get away from them.

      "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

      by ZhenRen on Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 02:11:25 AM PDT

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      •  Neonicotinoids are a huge problem everywhere (0+ / 0-)

        But they are specifically an issue for orange groves. There is a disease called citrus greening caused by the Asian citrus psyllid (warning:PDF) that as of now is only effectively controlled through the systemic use of neonicotinoids. UC Davis advises that to be effective it should be applied systemically (requiring root activity for uptake) from June through September. It seems application to blossoms is ineffective, so it's hard to understand why Ben Hill Griffin, Inc. spayed the blooms.

        This pest-born disease is a huge problem for citrus groves in both California and Florida, for beekeepers, and for consumers of oranges and orange juice. Systemic use, rather than spraying, of neonicotinoids is still dangerous to bees, not to mention what it might be doing to people. A better solution needs to be found.

        "Some folks rob you with a six-gun, some rob you with a fountain pen." - Woody Guthrie

        by Involuntary Exile on Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 09:52:25 AM PDT

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        •  Yep, this is basically true (1+ / 0-)
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          Involuntary Exile

          And the reason they spray the blossoms directly is because a direct hit from the pesticides does kill insects. That's why recently in Oregon, close to where I live, there was a massacre of bumble bees in a parking lot due to direct spraying of a neonic-based pesticide to kill aphids on linden trees while in bloom (I wrote a diary about the incident, and went to the scene, and yes, bees were killed quite effectively). But the systemic expression of the pesticide is better and has a longer effect, it would seem, than direct spraying on the insects.

          But what you're ignoring is the neonics are being used in many, many other crops as well. In my region, the pesticide is used on many varieties of fruit trees, berries, and is widely present. Neonics are designed to be systemic, and this isn't limited to oranges, but to most other agricultural uses. I have seen the effect on my bees, and it's awful. The only way I can get my bees away from this would be to place them in a wild, remote area away from agriculture, which I'm planning to do. But I don't depend on the bees for an income at present (although I'm trying to expand). Other beekeepers in my area know about the neonics, but they can't just pull up and leave. I'm pretty sure the guy who owns the berry farm next to where I have my bees uses heavy amounts of neonics, but he still pays a commercial beekeeper to put hives there, and for $50 per hive, the beekeeper accepts the situation, while I am planning to remove mine from the area.

          "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

          by ZhenRen on Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 10:43:56 AM PDT

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          •  Good god, people are stupid. (1+ / 0-)
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            Neonicotinoids in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and honey, bees are dying at alarming rates, and we are eating food laced with a neurotoxin. Stupid, stupid, stupid. That's why I try to stick with organic foods and locally grown produce from small growers that I know with certainty do not use pesticides. It costs more but it's worth it to me.

            "Some folks rob you with a six-gun, some rob you with a fountain pen." - Woody Guthrie

            by Involuntary Exile on Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 02:11:40 PM PDT

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