Possible Connection Between Roundup and Colony Collapse Disorder

It turns out that weeds may not be the only thing Roundup is killing. The herbicide could also be a contributing factor to the disappearance of worker bees and the devastating collapse of honey bee colonies.

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has been devastating honeybee colonies across much of the country and world during the past few years. There have been many theories about the cause of this calamity. Research from the University of Montana is leaning toward a combination of viral and fungal factors as the cause, which hasn’t been proven, but is among the many suspects causing CCD. Insecticides have also been pointed to more and more, but perhaps this is not quite the right direction in which we should be looking. Perhaps we should be looking at Roundup, which presently is the most commonly used herbicide in the world.

I have been keeping bees for 55 years, with up to 250 colonies in some years, and producing an average high of 200 pounds of honey per colony. Through selective breeding 20 years ago, I produced a Carniolan/Caucasian strain of honeybees, which seemed to be resistant to mites, wintered well using very little honey, and were gentle and very good honey producers. All of these bees were decimated by sprays in 1996, when planes sprayed neighboring fields of soybeans every three weeks from mid-June to August 20. Thousands of acres were sprayed over a period of four or five days each time, some of these acres within a quarter mile of my yard. There were no dead bees in front of the hives to document the losses; the colonies just collapsed, then would almost recover within three weeks, only to be devastated once more. The colonies were all dead by the end of September. The commercial farmer claimed that his planes were only spraying Roundup, not insecticides, so there should be no damage to my honeybees.

As far as I am concerned, Roundup is causing Colony Collapse Disorder. It has been the major cause of my bee losses for the past 13 years. I explain what Roundup does to a bee colony, think about how your bees have reacted at different times of the spring and summer during the past few years. Perhaps you’ve experienced some of the same problems, but never made any kind of connection between the losses and the spraying of Roundup.

Have you lost good young queens in the middle of a honey flow, or in the spring when the colony was in the midst of expanding? Have you had colonies that didn’t expand during the late spring, even though they had lots of brood every time you looked at them? Have your colonies experienced spring dwindling to such a point they either abscond or die? Have you been forced to feed your colonies to keep them alive? Have you looked into your colonies and seen dead, sealed brood outside the cluster of bees? Have you lost colonies within a period of just a few weeks? When these colonies are gone, is there still sealed brood in the center of the area where the cluster was? Have you put new packages of bees into hives with beautiful used brood comb, only to have the bees abscond or disappear within two weeks after installing them? Do you have an unusually high loss of queens in the spring, either from your packages or from your overwintered hives?  If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you may have been exposed to Roundup!

Twenty years ago, by raising my own queens for years and never bringing in new queens, I developed a strain of honeybees that I think were superior to any I could buy. They were gentle, and I never had to use smoke to take care of them. They had varroa mites, but lived with them without the need for chemicals. The mites were not an economic problem. The hives overwintered using almost no honey, with many of the hives still containing almost a full super of honey (the part of a beehive that is used to collect honey) left in the spring. They were good workers, bringing in as many as 10 to 12 medium supers of extracted honey or 10 supers of Ross Rounds in one season. The bees never swarmed — I lost no swarms from 250 hives for two years in a row — while producing the crops of honey.

Before the first aerial spraying in mid-June of 1996, each colony had 10 deep frames of brood and a bee population filling 2 to 3 supers. A few days after the first Roundup flight, each hive was left with insufficient bees to keep the 10 frames of brood warm, so the outer frames on each side of the cluster would chill and die. In three weeks, enough brood would have hatched, so the colonies would have enough bees to once again cover the 10 frames of brood. The chilled frames of brood would be cleaned out and the queen would be once again filling them with eggs and brood. During this time all of the honey in the supers was used to feed the brood. Three weeks later another aerial spraying would occur, and this time there would only be enough bees left to cover a couple of frames of brood. The other eight frames of brood would be chilled, as we had several cold nights in a row, which is sometimes common in our northern Illinois climate. It seemed that two sprays, which occurred within four weeks, were all it took to kill the whole colony. But the plane kept spraying every three weeks all summer. The bees never had a chance, and all of the hives were dead before winter.

11/19/2013 12:52:53 PM

Hey Fender why are you using this toxic crap, better to use a weed torch or you can use white vinegar than support Monsanto, the culprit behind the demise of the honeybees and other pollinators we rely on.

10/7/2013 2:28:01 AM

Hi, I found your article looking for an explanation for my observation that when I spray my residential property for weeds using Roundup (20ml in 2lt), the bee numbers drop drastically in the following 3 days. My property has many flowering plants this time in Spring that attract wild bees in large numbers. They can easily be seen and heard. I don't know how long it takes for the colonies to recover their numbers, but I will now try to observe this. My application of Roundup is done in short targeted bursts approximately 10cm from the weeds and no where near any flowering plants; mainly the gravel driveway and cracked concrete walkway.



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