Sat, 15 January 2011
Tom Theobald was largely responsible for exposing the fact that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had licensed Bayer's systemic insecticide Clothianidin, against evidence that it was highly toxic to bees, and that the research used to back the application for licensing was poorly designed and executed.
FInd out more here - http://www.bouldercountybeekeepers.org
It turns out that Tom and I actually have a couple of things in common, and our discussion covers not only pesticides and bees, but also the corporate mind and the democratic process.
A reminder that you can be a part of this podcast by leaving a message on my voicemail, if you have a question for me, or something you would just like to say on air.
If you are in the UK the number is 0203 239 1643, if you are anywhere else add your outgoing international number, then country code 44 and strip the first zero - 44 203 239 1643 You can also use my Skype account to leave me a message, which is 'beesontoast'. That's bees - not beans.
If you prefer to email me, by all means do so - send your message to firstname.lastname@example.org, but please bear in mind that I get a LOT of emails and it may take me a while to get to yours.
If you have a general beekeeping question, please remember the natural beekeeping forum at naturalbeekeeping.org, where you will find over 4,000 beekeepers, some of whom may even be in your area.
Direct download: TomTheobold.mp3
-- posted at: 7:30 PM
Wed, 8 December 2010
Today I am going to be talking with Dr Henk Tennekes, who has published a book that is very relevant to our understanding of how systemic insecticides pose a real danger to bees and other insects, as well as to birds and other wild creatures. And ultimately, of course, to us, because we too are part of this picture.
Those of you who listen regularly to this podcast and who read my articles will know that my obsession with bees extends deep into the wider natural environment. The lives and habits of bees are entwined with those of flowering plants, with the flora and fauna of the soil that supports them and the birds and other creatures that depend on plants and insects for food.
As beekeepers, we must remind ourselves that it is neither possible nor even desirable to separate one species out from others and to claim to understand it in isolation: everything in nature is interdependent and if we interfere with one part of this intricate structure without looking at the big picture, we risk upsetting delicate and finely-tuned ecosystems that may underpin the very existence of some of the key species on earth.
This is the reason that I have for many years campaigned against the genetic manipulation of crop plants such as maize, oilseed rape and rice. They are examples of plants that are being treated as it they are not a part of the wider environment, in attempts to exploit certain characteristics for profit, without proper consideration being given to the effects such interference is likely to have on other species of plants and animals that will inevitably come into contact with them - and that, of course, includes bees.
This caution must also apply to the use of synthetic chemicals, especially on our food crops. The most controversial family of chemicals that has recently been introduced into agriculture, which many scientists are now blaming for causing mass die-offs of honeybees, is the neonicotinoids. You can tell from their name that they have a similar molecular structure to nicotine - the ingredient in tobacco that makes cigarettes so deadly. And these synthetic chemical forms are very toxic indeed, even in microscopic quantities - in concentrations that even the most powerful analytical equipment available to scientists struggles to detect.
To illustrate just how poisonous the neonicotinoids can be, imagine - if you will - an Olympic-size swimming pool, 50 metres by 25 metres, containing two and a half million litres of water - that's 2,500 metric tonnes - or over half a million UK gallons - or about two thirds of a million US gallons. With that picture in mind, imagine taking just one tablespoon of a neonicotinoid insecticide - just one tablespoon - and adding it to that Olympic-size swimming
Once that tiny amount of chemical has dispersed into the water - and despite the almost unimaginably small quantity of active ingredient in any single drop, that entire swimming pool is now toxic to bees.
That's all it takes - just a few parts per billion of one of these synthetic neonicotinoids - to have measurable effects on bees' ability to navigate. It may not kill them outright, but if they can't find their way home, it may as well have been instantly fatal.
My subject today is Dr Henk Tennekes, who was born in The Netherlands, and after graduating from the Agricultural University of Wageningen in 1974, he performed his Ph.D. work at Shell Research Ltd in the UK. He later worked for 5 years at the Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg, Germany.
The culmination of Dr Tennekes' research was his recent discovery that the way the neonicotinoid insecticides work has much in common with that of chemical carcinogens - cancer-causing agents.
When he realized the dire consequences of environmental pollution with these insecticides, he decided to write a book to warn the general public about an impending environmental catastrophe.
The title of Dr Tennekes book is: The Systemic Insecticides - a Disaster in the Making.
You can read more about his book at http://www.disasterinthemaking.com
Direct download: HenkTennekesInterview.mp3
-- posted at: 3:13 PM
Wed, 24 November 2010
This episode will be of particular interest to British beekeepers - especially those who are - or have been - or may one day be members of the British Bee Keepers Association - the BBKA.
Wherever you are, I think you will find something of interest, though, as I will be interviewing a man who has looked very carefully at the whole issue of pesticides and their potential impact on bees, with particular reference to the BBKA's decade-long policy of taking money from the pesticide industry in return for the use of the BBKA logo on certain products, and the endorsement of such products as being somehow 'bee-friendly'.
Many people - when told that a bee keepers association endorses insecticides at all - are shocked and surprised, as was Dr Bernie Doeser, who has recently produced an independent report that is highly critical of the way the BBKA have managed - or failed to manage - their policy.
Bernie Doeser's report reveals barely believable levels of negligence and incompetence in this whole episode, starting with the fact that the BBKA actually endorsed some of the pesticides that - far from being bee-friendly - are actually among the top five most lethal pesticides in their class.
I had to record the interview with Bernie Doeser in the rather echo-y cafe of the Tate gallery in the seaside town of St Ives in Cornwall, and although we managed to arrange coats and hats to absorb much of the background noise, you can still tell that it is a cafe.
And for those of you outside the UK, Cornwall is in the bottom left hand corner of England, and England is part of that little island off the coast of Europe called Great Britain, the United Kingdom or just the UK.
Bernie Doeser's report can be downloaded from here - http://tinyurl.com/bbkapesticides
The BBKA's announcement is here - http://www.britishbee.org.uk/news/statements/bbka-strategic-review-the-plant-protection-industr.shtml
Why has the BBKA failed to support other European bee keeping organizations and oppose the use of neonicotinoids? Is it because they are the only ones in the pay of Bayer?
Direct download: BernieDoeserNov2010.mp3
-- posted at: 12:55 AM
Sun, 31 October 2010
You will hear very little from me today, and quite a lot from some people who have spent a great deal of time looking very carefully at the issue of genetically engineered farm crops.
I recorded these short interviews and a panel discussion at a conference I attended recently, where some well-informed speakers talked about their work and their conclusions about the potential dangers of growing GM crops in the UK and elsewhere.
Whether or not you have paid attention to the GM food and crops story since their introduction about 15 years ago, I urge you to find time to listen to these speakers - these are serious people and very far from being a bunch of wild-eyed hippies - which is how the press love to characterize people who speak out on this subject.
What does this have to do with beekeeping? Well, everything. GM pollen has been implicated in several studies of the 'colony collapse' phenomenon, and many GM plants have insecticides built into them, rendering them deliberately toxic to bees and all other insects.
First, you will hear from Michael Hart, a British farmer and carpenter, who has travelled to the USA recently to talk to American farmers who have been growing GM crops and who have found that they are not all that Monsanto promised them to be. He has made a film of his journey, which will be available soon and I will provide a link to it in due course.
Other speakers will introduce themselves. After that, you will hear part of the panel discussion that concluded the conference, followed by a short piece from Lawrence Woodward, which was taken from the panel discussion, as I did not get the chance to interview him personally.
If you are not up to speed with GM issues, I recommend you watch this short video featuring Vandana Shiva talking about the future of food - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vi1FTCzDSck
If you value what I do and you can afford it, I would be very grateful if you would 'buy me a coffee' to help me provide you with more free stuff next year. There will be more podcasts, more videos and more DIY plans, for starters.
As a 'thank you' I will send you a free copy of 'The Barefoot Beekeeper's Guide to Swarming and Swarm Management' (usually US$4.99).
And just a reminder that you can call and leave a message on my voicemail, if you have a question or comment for me to use in this podcast. The number is 0203 239 1643 if you are in the UK, or - +44 203 239 1643 if you are outside the UK. You can also use my Skype name to leave me a message, which is 'beesontoast'. That's bees - not beans.
Direct download: GM_podcast_Oct_2010.mp3
-- posted at: 9:10 PM
Thu, 28 October 2010
You will have noticed that there is a lot of free stuff on my web site at www.biobees.com - including these podcasts.
I do this because I want to make information about natural beekeeping available to everyone, regardless of ability to pay. Some things - like my book - I do charge for, simply because I have to eat too, but I do send out some free copies to people who are unable to pay.
Very soon, I will need to upgrade my aging PC, do some urgent repairs on my elderly car and buy more timber for next year's trials of new (even simpler!) hives. As you probably know, I make no income directly from beekeeping - only from book sales, speaking and teaching.
So if - and only if - you value what I do and you can afford it, I would be very grateful if you would 'buy me a coffee' to help me provide you with more free stuff next year. There will be more podcasts, more videos and more DIY plans, for starters.
As a 'thank you' I will send you a free copy of 'The Barefoot Beekeeper's Guide to Swarming and Swarm Management' (usually US$4.99).
Thanks for your help - and thanks for listening!
-- posted at: 11:01 AM
Sat, 23 October 2010
This is another outside podcast, directly from one of my apiaries, to the accompaniment of bees, birds and nearby horses.
I talk about my recent visits to Neil and Carol Klein's North Devon, where I installed a top bar hive earlier this year, and to London, where I gave a talk and met some interesting people at The Hub, Kings Cross.
I have used grease patties containing tea tree oil for the first time, and I talk about the pros and cons of treating for Varroa mites. You can find the recipe for grease patties here - http://www.honeybeesuite.com/?p=1841
Robbing has been a problem recently, and it is especially galling when the robbers are coming from someone else's apiary. I discuss a couple of deterrent tactics.
Please leave me comments on iTunes and do post reviews with lots of stars if you like my efforts!
Questions and ideas for future podcasts - please use the voicemail number: 020 32 39 16 43 (UK) or +4420 3239 1643 elsewhere.
Fri, 24 September 2010
I get asked a lot about when, how and with what to feed bees, so here are some of the answers. It is a big subject, of course, and one that I may well have to deal with in more detail one day, but this is a start!
In this episode, I also apologize for messing up on the voicemails. I failed to record them onto my hard drive before Skype wiped the messages, so PLEASE try again!
Leave your messages/questions/comments on: 020 32 39 16 43 (UK) or +4420 3239 1643 elsewhere.
Direct download: podcast_final_edit_sep23.mp3
-- posted at: 3:58 PM
Sat, 28 August 2010
Christy Hemenway talks about how she started in beekeeping, how she met the White House beekeeper, and how an Irish penny caused her to cross the Atlantic.
Christy is a great ambassador for bees and top bar beekeeping. Look out for her beekeeping courses if you are anywhere near Maine and wherever you are, check out her web site at http://www.goldstarhoneybees.com
Direct download: Christy_Hemenway_Aug_2010.mp3
-- posted at: 7:47 AM
Wed, 18 August 2010
It is natural for beginners to ask questions - I encourage it and this is why we have a thriving Natural Beekeeping Forum with over 3,500 members around the world. Often, when I give a talk, I spend as much time answering questions as I do speaking, and that is how I like it - it's always more interesting to be responding to genuine interest in people than to be just talking at them. And when I don't know the answer, I say so.
As we accumulate experience, I think one of the most common things I hear is not so much that all our questions are answered, but that we find ourselves asking more and more of them - not necessarily of others, but of ourselves. Questions like, 'why do I do it this way?' and 'is there a better way to do this?' and, best of all, 'what would happen if I did this?'.
For me, it is vital that I go on questioning everything I do with bees, to make sure I don't get stuck in doing things only one way 'just because that's the way it's done'. Whenever I see someone doing something mechanically, I am likely to ask them why they do it, and if they can't come up with a better answer than 'because that is the way I have always done it', then I'm liable to ask a lot more questions! And that's what I like to do to myself.
And this is why I like the way we can discuss new ideas on the forum, and why we generally don't go in for 'laying down the law' of 'natural beekeeping'. We are a broad church, and we welcome people with no experience (even those who ask 'what does a honeybee look like?') as well as those who have been looking after bees for decades. By and large, we like to encourage the attitude of 'have you tried this' rather than 'you need to do it this way'.
Every month or so I receive an (un-asked for) email from a woman who claims some sort of hot-line to the mind of Rudolf Steiner, and on this basis makes largely unintelligible pronouncements about the way we should be keeping bees. She has convinced herself that 'there is only one way'.
As a lifelong dissenter from all things religious, I have an abiding dislike of dogma. I can see the damage that has been done in the world by the blind following of rules, and the last thing I want is to be making more rules. So I encourage everyone participating in the great experiment of 'natural beekeeping' to ask more questions, use your senses to seek answers from the bees themselves, and don't get bogged down in the pronouncements of people with axes to grind or 'gurus' to follow.
Think for yourself. Ask questions of yourself and other people. Take nothing for granted.
Direct download: bbk11.mp3
-- posted at: 6:43 PM
Thu, 29 July 2010
Are honeybees native to Britain? And do they compete with other native bees? That's one of the questions I will be dealing with in this espsode, along with announcing a new voicelmail number for you to leave messages and questions on for the podcast - +44 203 239 1643
I also announce the new 'app' that will run alongside this podcast, making it easy for owners of iPhones, iPods and iPads to get episodes and some extra content not available elsewhere, in return for a small subscription that will go towards helping to make it possible for me to produce these podcasts on a regular basis. It can take up to a full day to record, edit and process one of these episodes, so I hope you will support me in doing this if you have the appropriate technology.
A large chunk of this episode consists of feedback from people who attended my last weekend event at Welcombe in North Devon, organized by the Yarner Trust. They talk about their experiences and what they learned, as well as giving some suggestions for further enhancing the experience.
Direct download: Yarner_July2010_complete.output.mp3
-- posted at: 1:01 PM