The Bee-pocalypse That Wasn’t

“Environmental activism, which owes more to zealotry than evidence, has spawned a nasty perversion — let’s call it the Pseudo-Scientific Method.  As employed by environmental campaigners and the activist scientists who enable them, it has little to do with scientific discovery or the accumulation of knowledge; rather, it is “advocacy research” that creates “evidence” to support a pre-determined public policy — usually, inappropriate regulation or even bans.”  Henry I. Miller, molecular biologist, Pacific Research Institute

The target of the pseudo-scientific method is usually an ideologically disfavored industry or product thereof, such as nuclear power, genetic engineering or pesticides.   The results are flawed public policy and the ever-deepening corruption of the scientific community.

Take the Great Bee Hoax, for example. If you’re relying on the left-wing media for your information you probably believe that honeybee populations are crashing worldwide, that without bees to pollinate our crops we’ll all starve, and that we’re in this sorry state because evil pesticide companies are reaping huge profits and despoiling the environment, while crony regulators look the other way.  

The USDA’s beehive census is one of the main sources of evidence that refutes all these claims.  According to the USDA count, honeybee populations, far from plummeting, have actually risen by about 150,000 hives in the last twenty years.  Honeybee populations are also rising in foreign countries.

No “plummeting,” anywhere.  So where did the impending bee-pocalypse originate?  –   In the same pseudo-scientific halls as the global warming scam.  You create the scenario you want and then design shoddy experiments to prove the lie.  Then you organize a big media and social media blitz, being sure to include all the scary photos you can find, and ta da the environmental world weeps at your feet.  And if your lie is really successful you get an article, such as TIME magazine’s cover story in 2013, “A World Without Bees”?

That gets us to the supposed scourge of the bee world — the class of pesticides called neonicotinoids (neonics for short).  Nicotine is a potent natural insecticide used in organic agriculture, and synthetic neonics replaced far more harmful organophosphate insecticides three decades ago.  It is the most widely used pesticide in much of the world and is highly regarded by farmers for its safety and efficacy.

So how did all this bee anxiety get started?  Anti-pesticide zealots and activists, with more than a little assistance and encouragement from the organic agriculture industry wanted to ban neonics because they were threatened by the yield advantage it gave over organic farming. 

Neonic pesticides which have become widely used and hailed as a major environmental safety innovation since their introduction in the mid 1990’s, are highly effective in controlling crop pests and improving yields.  It is benign to the environment since it is normally applied as seed treatments targeted to individual plants which reduces the need for foliar spraying.   They are much safer for non-target species, such as bees, because they control only pests that feed on the neonic-treated crops.  They are also vastly safer for farm workers who apply them. 

However, the truth is rarely, if ever, mentioned in coverage by the left-wing media.  But honeybees were dying, right? 

The 1987 arrival of Varroa destructor mites from Asia intensified the spread of known honeybee diseases and caused an almost immediate plunge in colonies.  And, of course, no one mentions that this happened a decade before the introduction of neonics.  Neither do they report that with the arrival of neonics the U.S. honeybee population stabilized around 2.5 million hives, where it remains today.

Again, in 2006, some beekeepers noticed a mysterious phenomenon, later dubbed “Colony Collapse Disorder” (CCD) which was marked by worker bees deserting seemingly healthy hives and leaving their queen behind.  This caused a temporary and relatively minor dip in bee numbers from which they have more than recovered.

But before CCD could be thoroughly researched, anti-pesticide activists, abetted by pseudo-scientists, concocted the narrative that this was a never-before seen catastrophe, created by a lethal class of pesticides, namely neonics, which must be banned immediately before it drove the honeybees to extinction.  In hindsight, this was a clear case of Winston Churchill’s aphorism, “A lie gets half way around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”

After several years of research, it turns out that CCD wasn’t exactly new.  In fact, it could be traced back to ancient Egypt and over the many centuries had recurred unpredictably in many locales across Europe, the British Isles, North America and Australia. 

Meanwhile, with headlines blaring warnings of a global catastrophe, the time was clearly ripe for university researchers to start applying for grant money to investigate the issue and for government and other “socially relevant” grant-makers to start writing the checks.  Inevitably, the scientific papers followed the activist, media-leveraged narrative with an avalanche of shoddy studies. Most experiments used “caged bees” that were massively overdosed with neonics and, not surprisingly, so-called researchers found negative effects on the bees. Such studies have little scientific value as it is hardly surprising that directly administering huge doses of insecticides to insects will cause adverse reactions.

It is a well-known fact that honeybee colonies that feed almost exclusively on Alberta’s massive fields of neonic treated canola crops thrive; and the overwhelming majority of large scale field studies that replicate real-world conditions have borne out the safety of neonic seed treatments to pollinators.

But field studies demand an expertise most academics didn’t have, not to mention that they are expensive and time consuming whereas lab force-feeding studies are easy and relatively cheap and quick to produce.  The early bird catches the worm so to speak. 

And even when the research was exposed for what it was – mostly lies, the pseudo-scientists never bothered to correct the record.  In fact, they just created another lie that it was the wild honeybees that were facing extinction, and then proceeded to plant the next lie that all the insect species in the world will soon die out because of neonics.

“But the most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over. Here, as so often in this world, persistence is the first and most important requirement for success.”   Mein Kempt, “das Grosse Luge” (The Big Lie)

Source:  Apocalypse Not! How Science Is Distorted To Serve The Activist Agenda by Henry I. Miller, Issues and Insights

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