What Happened on Oahu Didn’t Stay on Oahu

Scientific detective work stopped cholera – now it needs to separate myths, mites and neonics
By Paul Driessen

Honey Bee
Honey Bee
Paul Driessen
Paul Driessen

United States -(AmmoLand.com)- If modern activist groups held sway in the mid-nineteenth century, countless multitudes would have died from typhoid fever and cholera.

The “miasma” paradigm held that the diseases were caused by foul air arising from putrid matter – and only dogged scientific work by William Budd, John Snow and others finally convinced medical and health authorities that the agent was lethal organisms in drinking water.

Ultimately, the investigators’ persistence led to discoveries of Vibrio and Salmonella bacteria, the use of chlorine-based disinfectants for drains, water purification and hand washing, programs that kept sewage away from drinking water supplies, and steady advances in germ and virus theories of medicine.

Parallels exist today, with activist politics driving the science, rather than solid science guiding informed public policy decisions. One such arena is neonicotinoid pesticides and large-scale bee deaths.

Europeans introduced domesticated honeybees to North America in the early 1600s. They helped foster phenomenal growth in important food crops like tomatoes and almonds. Indeed, over 60% of all U.S. beehives are needed each spring just to pollinate California’s extensive almond groves. By contrast, staples like wheat, rice, corn and most citrus fruits do not require animal pollination at all (by bees, hummingbirds, hover flies, butterflies and bats); these crops are self-pollinating or wind-pollinated.

Varroa Destructor Mite
Varroa Destructor Mite

Commercial beekeeping grew steadily, and today about 1% of all beekeepers manage nearly 80% of the 2.7 million U.S. honeybee colonies. The system generally functioned well until 1987, when a vicious new pest arrived. As the appropriately named Varroa destructor mite spread, beekeepers began reporting major to total losses of bees in Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin hives in spring 2006, and later in Florida, the Dakotas, southern states, both U.S. coasts, Europe and elsewhere.

Dubbed “colony collapse disorder” (CCD), the problem led to scarifying news stories about a “bee-pocalypse” and the imminent demise of modern agriculture. However, inexplicable bee colony losses had been reported in 1898, 1903, the 1960s and 1970s – even as far back as 940 AD in Ireland!

Explanations included an undefined “disappearing disease,” organophosphate pesticides, cell phone towers, GM crops that embed Bt insect killers in their genetic makeup, climate change (of course), and even a lack of “moral fiber” in bees, Paradigms and Demographics blogspot editor Rich Kozlovich notes.

A psychic, he adds, claimed she was communicating with domesticated bees, who told her they were tired of being enslaved by humans and were leaving their hives to protest their crowded, inhumane conditions!

Mounting evidence suggests that today’s die-offs are primarily due to Varroa mites, along with parasitic phorid flies, Nosema fungal parasites, the tobacco ringspot virus – and even beekeepers misusing or over-using pesticides in hives to control disease outbreaks, by killing tiny bugs on little bees.

However, anti-pesticide activists and some news stories continue to blame colony deaths and other bee problems on neonicotinoid insecticides. This new class of chemicals protects crops primarily (97% of the time) by coating seeds, letting plants incorporate the pesticide into their leaves and stems, to target insects that feed on them, without harming beneficial bugs. The regular rotation of different neonic products is also the only means currently available to kill the Asian psyllids that spread “citrus greening disease” (HLB), which is decimating citrus groves in Florida and is now spreading to Texas and California groves.

This is where solid scientific detective work becomes vital.

Without it, the wrong conclusions are drawn, the wrong “solutions” are applied, and the unintended consequences can be serious. For example, banning neonics will likely mean farmers are forced to use insecticides that truly are dangerous for bees.

Over the past 50 years, Varroa mites have killed off millions of honeybee colonies around the world, scientists note. Among the diseases the mites carry is deformed wing virus, which results in short, twisted or otherwise deformed and useless wings. Like many other viral infections, DWV had long been present in hives, but was generally considered harmless before Varroa became ubiquitous. Disease-carrying mites bite through the bees’ hard shell (exoskeleton) and inject viruses and infections directly into the bee blood (hemolymph). The mites’ saliva also carries an enzyme that compromises the bees’ immune systems, making the diseases far more toxic. Modern transportation methods disperse the problems far and wide.

Making the beekeepers’ challenge even more daunting, female Varroas often lay eggs in the same hexagonal beehive cells where the queen lays newly fertilized eggs, before worker bees “cap” the incubator cells. New honeybees then emerge with an infected mite already attached. And to top it off:

Trying to kill vicious bugs you can’t even see, in a box filled with some 40,000 buzzing bees that you don’t want to hurt, using chemicals that could easily become toxic – and that the Varroa mites quickly become resistant to – is a devilishly complicated business, beekeepers like Randy Oliver attest. In fact, they are already on their third generation of miticides, and Varroa have become resistant to all of them. So the battle rages on, as pesticide companies again try to gain the upper hand against the crafty pests.

Varroa was discovered on Oahu, Hawaii in August 2007. By spring 2008, 274 of 419 honeybee colonies on Oahu had collapsed, and wild bees had disappeared from its urban areas. Despite quarantine measures, by late 2010 the mite spread throughout the island of Hawaii. Now even effective Varroa control cannot eradicate DWV, since the disease is in their hemolymph and transmitted through feeding and sexual activity.

Studies in the United Kingdom and New Zealand found similar mite, DWV infection and CCD patterns.

Another nasty plague on honeybee houses involves parasitic phorid flies, which have now been found in California, Vermont and South Dakota hives. The flies stab bee abdomens and lay their eggs inside. When they hatch, fly larvae attack the bees’ bodies and brains, disorienting them and causing them to fly in circles and at night – giving rise to stories about zombie bees, or “zombees.” As the larvae mature into new flies, they exit the bees at their necks, decapitating them. Not surprisingly, phorid flies also carry DWV, Nosema parasites and other bee diseases.

Meanwhile, in the real world where bees interact with nature, agriculture and pesticides (rather than with artificial laboratory conditions and egregious over-exposure to those pesticides), multiple studies in Canadian and other countries’ canola and corn fields have concluded that neonicotinoids do not harm bees when used properly.

And in equally good news, U.S. Department of Agriculture, StatsCanada, EU and UN data show that bee populations have been increasing over the past several years, with American and Canadian colony totals reaching their highest levels in a decade or more.

And yet, news stories still say neonics threaten domesticated and wild bees with zombee-ism and extinction. That’s partly because anti-pesticide groups are well funded, well organized, sophisticated in public relations, and aided by journalists who are lazy, gullible, believe the activist claims and support their cause, or simply live by the mantra “if it bleeds, it leads.” A phony bee-pocalypse sells papers.

The activists employ Saul Alinsky tactics to achieve political goals by manipulating science. They select and vilify a target. Devise a “scientific study” that predicts a public health disaster. Release it to the media, before honest scientists can analyze and criticize it. Generate “news” stories featuring emotional headlines and public consternation. Develop a Bigger Government “solution,” and intimidate legislators and regulators until they impose it. Pressure manufacturers to stop making and selling the product.

Too often, the campaigns are accompanied by callous attitudes about the unintended consequences. If banning neonics means older, more toxic pesticides kill millions of bees, so be it. If a DDT ban gives environmentalists more power and influence, millions of children and parents dying from malaria might be an acceptable price; at least they won’t be exposed to exaggerated or fabricated risks from DDT.

When activism and politics drives science, both science and society pay dearly. The stakes are too high, for wildlife and people, to let this continue. The perpetrators must be outed and defanged.

About the Author:

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death.

  • 13 thoughts on “What Happened on Oahu Didn’t Stay on Oahu

    1. Well written article. However, there are a few (phorid?) flies in the butter here. First, organic bee keepers, the ones who don’t use pesticides or stress their bees by constantly hauling them all over the country, have not been experiencing colony collapse disorder. Second, reports are coming out of Europe that colony collapse disorder is disappearing where neonics have been banned. Third, a very large percentage of CFACT’s funding comes from Exxon Mobil corporation. One of the very few things liberals get right once in while, scam artists such as Al Gore aside, is environmental safety, while conservatives seem to have this huge blind spot concerning anything that might be interpreted as harming commerce. That blind spot is going to kill us. One side wants to put chains on me in the name of ‘social justice’ and similar nonsense, while the other is determined to poison me in the name of cronyism masquerading as capitalism. God help us.

      1. You’re a fking idiot, no two ways about it. If you really think that it is libturds that are fighting for environmental safety your boat sailed without you. Libturds have only one goal when it comes to the environment and that is finding ways to use the environment against personal rights and to steal more tax dollars for agenda. The majority of conscientious beekeepers and small/organic farmers are conservatives who are fighting the big agricultural monopolies that are poisoning our food supply; those mega corporations deviated away from “capitalism” long ago and are now nothing but libturd backed businesses that lobby government for more subsidies and control over their type of products, and protections from letting the people know the truth about what is in those products and the dangers they pose. It is conservatives that have fought all of the EPA, USDA, FDA, etc. bullshiite rules that have nothing to do with the environment or food safety, but everything to do with trying to prevent people from producing their own food, improving their properties for their livestock and wildlife, using alternative power sources to get off grid, etc. Lets also not forget that the vast majority of hunters are conservatives (considering that libturds hate killing wild animals and are anti-gun, but have no problem eating a domestic animals that someone else killed for them, of course then bitching if it was “mistreated”); and those hunters fund nearly all of the land purchases and wildlife conservation programs that benefit wildlife. When you get your pea-brained head out of your arse you may just see the light! Nah, you’ll always be an idiot!

        1. Thank you for proving one of my points. This is exactly the sort of unhinged, Pavlovian response I was talking about. You can observe the same sort of foam at the mouth fit by using such words as “Donald Trump” on the average college campus. When mentioning “liberal” even in an obtuse, left handed compliment that actually disparages their lack of common sense generates this response, we can see how far down the slippery slope we’ve fallen. My party uber alles! Both sides cherry pick the science, and most so called experts are beholden to political interests and agendas. But it must be true, because ‘my guy’ said so!. Wake up. THERE IS NO LEFT OR RIGHT! These are constructs, bread and circuses intended to keep us peons distracted and fighting amongst ourselves, while the self appointed, self anointed elite who run our financial system, and by extension our government, continue to do as they wish with our wealth. Try applying some common sense, do a little research, and quit buying the party line.

          In this case, the enviro-wackos are right, and I don’t have a problem giving the Devil his due, even while I may not agree with their solutions. You can’t simply spray poison around and not expect collateral damage. The chemical industry and its public sector cronies are doing the same thing here as is the medical industry. The doctor, rather than discovering the underlying cause, throws a pill at your symptoms, which sort of works, but causes some other symptoms, which he then gives you more pills for, and so on until you’re a basket case lugging a pharmacy around with you. But hey, the drug companies and the banks that own them made a fortune, right? Same here with pesticides. They sell you one, it works at first (and also kills off the predators that were keeping your pest problem from getting REALLY bad), but the bugs develop resistance, but never fear, they have a new one! This one causes tumors in your kids, but you have to do something, right? Here’s an idea; God gave us a complex system that is capable of providing what we need without our intervention. It seeks a balance on its own. Maybe we should study what God did, and humbly learn to emulate it.

          As an aside, that’s my real name on my comments. Those who think a cute nickname is going to protect their identity from anyone, let alone government, are deluded. I own what I say. I’m not worried too much about that, as I have found that those who have the courage to challenge my opinions without the insulation of the Internet tend to be intelligent and of strong moral character, regardless of their political stripe. Such people conduct themselves with dignity and common courtesy, rather than lowering themselves to juvenile name calling and personal attacks. Sadly, such people seem to be going the way of the dodo bird.

          Here’s a good discussion of the colony collapse problem: http://strathconabeekeepers.blogspot.com/2014/02/bio-control-of-varroa-mites.html . Pearls before swine, I expect, but perhaps others will consider it.

          1. But he’s right. Libtards made up the biggest environmental hazard of all, global warming, and liberals dictate what we do in the name of preventing warming.
            (Like the elitists whose dozen silent bodyguards listen to them say “guns make us less safe”, the elitists demand reduction of fossil fuels while flying around and being chauffeured in gasoline-powered vehicles.)
            The lib’als crack down on commercial activities to save the tortoise, as if anyone cares about the stupid tortoise. Finally, the ranching they crack down on is actually beneficial for the tortoise. If they really cared about the tortoise, they would encourage ranching.
            These are the people who casually blow off thousands of humans killed in an earthquake, ’cause the real story is the zoo’s pandas were a bit shaken. Woo hoo.

            Now Driessen makes a few good points, but he misses one when he passes up modern transportation. There’s BEE transportation – jet lag – and inbred hives. Pesticides could have been a factor in the other years, too.

      1. The mites are on the bees, when the bees visit flowers, or come into contact with other bees they can be transferred. Drones breeding queens can also transfer them. Mites can be picked up during robbing activities, transferred into a hive by beekeepers reusing “untreated” comb, etc.

        1. I have fields and lots of flowers around the farmstead, anything that I can do? maybe spray some anti-varroa mite solution around?

          1. The only way to target that particular mite is through proper care of hives. Most wild/feral honeybees aren’t as susceptible to the mites because they are smaller and more aggressive. There’s really nothing outside of the hive that can be done.

    2. “A psychic, he adds, claimed she was communicating with domesticated bees, who told her they were tired of being enslaved by humans and were leaving their hives to protest their crowded, inhumane conditions!” and the best part is we let these people vote.

    3. All these PESTICIDES,being sprayed like water is no damn good,they weaken the BEES,& allow these pests to take control of them,look at when these neoncis’s were fast tracked & untested into our food,& when we had the worst BEE die off ever,& then you got big AG taking control of our seeds.I believe you need to take a much better look at what is really going on here,you have no idea if these are safe or what BIG AG real bottom line is.If I control your FOOD,who do I control.

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