Pennsylvania Apiculture, a 501(c) non-profit, has organized National Honey Bee Day, which falls on Saturday, August 17th, this year. The theme of this year's day is "Beekeeping: Ask me how to get started." The group urges individuals to visit beekeepers and enjoy local honey, which can be found in the Lehigh Valley at the Easton Farmers Market. Local vendors selling at the farmers market include Tassot Apiaries Inc. (Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.) and Stagecoach Orchard Apiary (Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.).
In addition to supporting local apiaries, consumers of honey and any bee-pollinated produce are urged to read a new report by non-profits Friends of the Earth and Bee Action entitled "Gardeners Beware." The report warns that nurseries and retailers such as Lowe's and Home Depot frequently sell flowering garden plants pre-treated with neonicotinoids, defeating the pollinator attraction intentions of the plant purchasers. The advocacy group Center for Food Safety invites bee supporters to sign its petition to Home Depot and Lowe's in order to reduce the spread of neonicotinoids.
Neonicotinoids are a class of insecticides that are toxic to honeybees. A recent die-off in Oregon -- caused by the insecticide Safari -- ended with 50,000 bees dead. Safari, which contains a neonicotinoid called dinotefuran, is just one of many neonicotinoids in use in agriculture, home gardening, and pest control; the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recently instituted a ban on three other types of neonicotinoids (clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam) because of their detrimental effects on honeybee populations. In particular, the EFSA noted that "field studies show an acute effect on honey bees exposed to the substance [thiamethoxam] through guttation fluid [sap droplets, in this case from neonicotinoid-treated corn]."
Developed by Syngenta, Thiamethoxam is the trade name for 3-(2-Chloro-5-thiazolylmethyl)tetrahydro-5-methyl-N-nitro-4H-1,3,5-oxadiazin-4-imine. Although Syngenta markets Thiamethoxam for "soil application" in its Vigor product, it is difficult to see how this use is not contraindicated by the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for Thiamethoxam, which contains the hazard statement "Very toxic to aquatic life with long-lasting effects," the caution statement "Avoid release to the environment," and the further advice "Caution - substance not yet tested completely." It is hard to imagine a situation in which a substance could be applied to soil, yet not released to the environment. (The EPA defines "release" as any "...spilling, leaking, pumping, pouring, emitting, emptying, discharing, injecting, escaping, leaching, dumping, or disposing into the environment," and defines "environment" as a number of items including "land surface or subsurface strata ... within the United States or under the jurisdiction of the United States.")
In any case, home gardeners can avoid the accidental release of neonicotinoids on their own property by verifying that any plants they buy from nurseries are not pre-treated with these bee-killing insecticides.