miscellaneous musings pesticides

Science and HoneyBeeSuite

In the past couple of years I’ve spoken to a number of groups about bees, bee habitat, and pesticides. But on Thursday night I was once again invited to present my master’s thesis to a batch of graduate students in the Master of Environmental Studies program at The Evergreen State College.

These students are by far my favorite group to speak to. They get it. They are engaged. Although most of them have no knowledge of bees whatsoever, they quickly grasp the problems associated with bees, pesticides, and the regulatory shortcomings that allow the excessive use of toxic chemicals around bees and bee-pollinated plants.

My thesis is a literature review that explores the world of larval bees and develops the argument that larvae are highly susceptible to the systemic pesticides found in pollen—pollen that has been brought into the hive for the express purpose of raising the young. The paper looks at the way larvae are fed and the possibility that the larvae consume metabolites of the original compounds—chemicals that are often much more toxic than the original products. It also discusses pollen contaminated by preparations (fungicides and herbicides) normally considered safe for adult bees, but which are clearly detrimental to the soft-bodied larval form.

Although the material is highly technical, the MES students follow it with an eagerness that is truly gratifying. After this last session, dozens of questions awaited me at the end of my presentation and I answered one after another until the faculty members finally had to cut them short. The persistent ones gathered around the podium with more questions while I packed my computer and donned my coat.

When I first began writing HoneyBeeSuite, I was warned that too much technical information would turn readers away. But as with the presentations, I find that people really do want to know and want to learn. I try to parcel out the technical stuff in easy to understand bits and pieces, but I never shy away from it. Thursday’s successful talk gave me renewed interest in pursuing even more of these difficult subjects on HoneyBeeSuite.

So while I plan to continue my commentary on day-to-day beekeeping interspersed with attempts at humor, memoir, and the occasional rant, you can expect to see a bit more of the truly scientific. The more we understand the consequences of our environmental actions, the better the choices we can make in the future—for our bees, our food supply, and our planet.




  • Please do include the science. I read several beekeeping blogs, some written by newbies flying by the seat of their pants, and some by people that really know their stuff. Sometimes it’s tough to tell the difference; more science, properly presented, can only further cement your spot in the “knows his/her stuff” column.

  • I fully agree with eggyknap. Being a returning beekeeper (after 30 years) I’m trying to incorporate more of the science of beekeeping to better understand the needs of bees. I enjoy all information I can find and frequently use Google Scholar searches to read abstracts of scientific studies. You may also want to post your research under Google Scholar.

    I look forward to reading your thesis.

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