Bjorn Apiaries
This page outlines some of the issues and items many feel are impacting honey bee health as well as other beneficial pollinators. Beekeepers need to be better at explaining issues to those that ask, beyond mere suggestions that chemcials are harming bees. If beekeepers can not explain issues impacting honey bees, how can you expect anyone else to care? 

Chemicals and Bees

There is much discussion in the bee industry concerning GMO, neonicotinoid systemic pesticides, organic, and everything in between. We offer some information for beekeepers to educate themselves. Most beekeepers feel that chemicals, systemic pesticide, herbicide, and fungicides, are effecting the honey bees. But when it comes down to fully understanding the actual details or focusing on individual issue, things become very confusing.


Some Basic Questions and Answers:



What is GM or GMO?

When a gene from one organism is purposely moved to improve or change another organism in a laboratory, the result is a genetically modified organism (GMO). It is also sometimes called "transgenic" for transfer of genes.

There are different ways of moving genes to produce desirable traits. For both plants and animals, one of the more traditional ways is through selective breeding. For example, a plant with a desired trait is chosen and bred to produce more plants with the desirable trait. More recently with the advancement of technology is another technique. This technique is applied in the laboratory where genes that express the desired trait is physically moved or added to a new plant to enhance the trait in that plant. Plants produced with this technology are transgenic. Often, this process is performed on crops to produce insect or herbicide resistant plants, they are referred to as Genetically Modified Crops (GM crops).


How are neonicotinoids associated with GMO?

GMO crops are designed to withstand the chemicals used to control both insects and weeds. GMO corn, as well as other crops, can be sprayed with neonicotinoid systemic pesticide and herbicides, allowing all other plants to be killed except the GMO crop being cultivated. Roundup Ready crops is the best known example.


Systemic pesticides are also applied to the seeds prior to planting. For some crops such as corn, soybean, and cotton, better than 90% of the seeds planted are coated with neonicotinoid system pesticides. While GMO and neonicotinoid applied systemic pesticides are two different issues, from an industry practical application, they are one and the same.


How does systemic pesticides work?

Systemic pesticides are absorbed into the plant as they grow, being soaked up into the root system. This can be demonstrated by the experiment most kids do by placing celery in a bowl of colored water. The pesticides are now in the entire plant. So any pest eating on  the leaves on the treated plant is killed. This is the intended purpose. But those same pesticides are also now in the pollen, which is being collected by the honey bees, beneficial pollinators, and other insects. Neonicotinoid and systemic treated seeds can easily be recognized as seeds with various colors such as purple, pink, green, and blue coatings.

Before watching the videos below, please read this document. It details research and studies, with footnotes and references.



Some of the Problems Suggested With the GMO Industry:


1) The increased use of chemicals.


2) The propogation of super weeds


3)  The suppresssion of any and all opposition to the bio-tech and GMO industry.


4) The unknown long term environmental impact.


5) The monopoly and control of the world's food industry as a result of designer seeds owned, sold, and demanded by the biotech industry.

Education of GMO:

This video is a good basis of the GMO industry. It highlights some of problems that some take issue regarding the GMO industry. For anyone wanting a foundation of why some oppose GMO crops, please watch this video:]GMO

A video discussing GMO, neonicotinoids and monsanto:


Some suggest that biotech companies such as Monsanto are not out to control the worlds food supply by the use of patented seeds. This video suggests otherwise:


Specific Chemicals and Their Effects


Atrazine: Behind roundup, Atrazine is the second largest selling herbicide (weed killer) on the market over the last 20 years. 80 mllion pounds annually are spread in the U.S.  Associated with almost all field corn, as well as many other crops. Has been claimed to harm reproduction in frogs (Click here),  butterflies, and other animals. Now being researched as a cause for the decline of the small mouth bass on the Susquehanna River, due to reproductive issues. Produced by Syngenta, the chemical is not allowed for use in  Switzerland, where it is produced. Click here for Atrazine use map. Of course Syngenta has, like other biotech companies, spent considerable efforts killing any opposition to their product. (Click here)

Clothianidin: A product authorized for use by spray, dust, or soil drench. Chemical is systemic and a neonicotinoid. Used primarily on corn. Produced by Bayer. Toxic to aquatic invertebrates, but not "supposed" to harm fish as stated in application approval paperwork. Thought to not impact honey bees since bees were thought to not work corn pollen. But new research out of Purdue university (click here) has debunked that claim. highly toxic to honey bees. Residue remains in the soils for years being soaked up by dandelions and other crops. For more information, click here.  

For a list of many chemicals & products toxic to honey bees:


Some of the Problems Associated with Neonicotinoid Systemic Pesticides:


1) The approval process (or lack of proper approval) allowing certain pesticides and chemicals on the market.


2) The widespread use of systemic pesticides and the lasting effect on the environment.


3) The false idea that if we remove one chemical, that CCD symptoms and other bee loss will end.

Education on

Systemic Pesticides:

Research  from Purdue University showing the impacts to the honey bees and environment:

How pesticides come on the market without any (or faulty) testing by the bought rubber stamp of the government:

Interesting Fact:

Norman Borlag won the Nobel Peace prize in 1970, (well before GMO seeds and crops were produced) for his efforts in feeding the world's starving population. It has been suggested he saved over 1 billion people from starvation. He took different varieties of rice and other grains, and increased production in many countries around the world. Yet today, the bio-tech industry, and promoters of GMO such as Bill Gates, suggest that the only way to feed the worlds population is by the use of drought resistant GMO crops and the chemicals they depend upon for their limited success. Is it really about teaching foreign countries how to produce for themselves as Norman Borlag had done 50 years earlier, or is about the spread and control of the worlds bread basket (Africa) as it is called? GMO advocates present the idea that the only method, the only seeds, and the only ideology to feed the world, is to increase GMO and chemical use in attempts to increase the worlds food production. Some suggest this points towards the increased control of the worlds food production by biotech and governments around the world.

In the News:

Jan 2013 -  European Agency says insecticides a threat to honey bees. Click Here

Practical Solutions to protect your bees from chemicals, GMO crops, pesticides, herbicide, and other harmful issues.


1) Select the proper location for your bee yards. Whenever possible, stay away from field corn, soybeans, and other heavily sprayed crops. "Location" today is more important than ever.


2) Keep harmful chemicals out of your hive. You can not keep your bees from dragging chemical in from the surrounding countryside. But you can limit or stop the addition of chemicals you place in the hive. Many times, individual chemicals are not the main culprit of killing colonies. It is the compounding of the lethal effect from multiple chemicals inside the hive.


3) Use comb rotation techniques to keep your bees on the cleanest comb possible. Most suggest replacing brood comb (not comb in supers) every 3-5 years.


4) Educate your neighbors, and participate in dialog with farmers based on solutions and understanding. Do not point fingers, make demands, or expect everyone to agree with you.

Expand your veiw outside your own Apiary.

1) If you belong to a bee club, support efforts to do more than get together once a month, sit around and complain, then go home to wait another month to get together and do it all over again. More and more beekeeper are realizing that chemicals are a growing concern, and a growing impact on their beekeeping survival. Most bee clubs have many members who individually feel that chemicals are impacting their beekeeping. But the bee associations lack any real discussions on chemicals used in the community. Bee clubs are constantly focused on thinking if they can just treat their hives better for varroa mites, or with the next new treatment being marketed, that their bees will be saved. (Probably, due to some researchers side stepping any direct blame that chemicals are causing problems, and suggesting beekeepers need to do better job at mite control. "Blame the beekeeper" is the fall back position so they do not step on the toes of those paying for their research. They will not even directly use the terms of "pesticides, chemicals, etc". But instead refer any possible blame or effects of chemicals, for a "lack of clean environment") 

Many associations do not have the knowledge to have a meaningful discussion, or they fear themselves as being "against" farming in some manner. And since some bee association members are the very farmers using these chemicals (That does not make them bad), it is just easier not to deal directly with issues of GMO, systemic neonicotinoids, or other chemicals. But it is time for all bee associations to have healthy discussions and educate themselves with these issues.


2) Educate yourself and step outside the normal box that GMO and chemical discussions normally provide. Biotech companies have spent huge resources attacking the organic movement, paying bloggers to scan the web to discredit any denigratng information or discussions opposing GMO and the biotech industry, in efforts to protect their product, image and secrets. 


3) Do not think that others will solve your problems. Beekeepers are the ultimate optimists. They think that "Next year will be better" and "Someone is working on these isues...right?". And it is a shame that the public thinks that the leading authority on fundraising and bee research, is an ice cream company. Get involved. While most beekeepers are hobbyists, busy with careers, kids, and a host of other things, you can still do something. Most beekeepers are not happy with the industry as it now sits. They see the increased issue with chemicals, and just a continual yearly loss of their bees. So what are you prepared to do about it?

Our Position at Bjorn Apiaries:

We think that GMO crops and neonicotinoid systemic pesticides are impacting our bee operation. While CCD research has indicated that probably no one individual chemical (pesticide, herbicide, or fungicide) is causing the problems in the bee industry, it is a combination of chemicals and the natural buildup within the hive, that is suppressing overall hive production. It also limits overwintering cluster size, and is causing high winter losses.

Combined with stress, bacterial, viral, and other issues, the chemicals are the final added ingredient dooming bee hive colonies.


Some suggest that "organic" is the only real solution. That somehow if you buy all your food at the local organic store, this will somehow make things better. Beyond a warm fuzzy feeling, it does little else. Shipping in organic produce from half way around the world is not really a solution. (The average tomato in the U.S. travels 1200 miles before it finds the dinner table). The biotech companies want you to believe that it comes down to a choice of either GMO foods, or organics. And they do a great job of attacking the organic food industry and suggesting them as a bunch of nuts. While we have issues within the organic food industry, it does offer an alternative for those wanting to not eat GMO crops. And we simply think that having the biotech industry so vehement opposed to organic or anything else NOT GMO based, makes our eyebrows raise a bit higher.



We have always supported local farming. Working with farmers on issues of pesticides and spray issues has worked well in the past. But as the years pass, it becomes harder and harder to keep bees alive, and not see the obvious impacts of such practices as No-till, the use of GMO, and the increase of systemic neonicotinoids.


We have never thought that the bee industry as fragmented as it is, along with the small resources (money) of the beekeeping industry, could ever win a fight against the biotech industry and the likes of Monsanto. And without widespread support, money, folks willing to get involved, and the public education that is needed, little success will ever be seen.


We think that beekeeping and the overall environment will be impacted by new GMO releases, the increase use of chemicals, and the food industries desire to produce more.


We offer this page to have beekeepers consider the impact of chemicals moving forward. We can show that bee bread dead of beneficial enzymes (killed by chemicals), spells doom for the colony. We know the multiplying lethal effect of multiple chemicals within the hive. We know that certain farming applied chemicals such as Clothianidin is killing bees, after not being fully studied but getting approval for market. We know that bees are impacted for years after the use of neonicotinoid systemic pesticides as the residual chemicals are sucked up by flowers season after season.

What we are not sure about, is how many beekeeper actually care. We have beekeepers contact us and ask "What can we as an industry do?" as they realize what may be killing their hives. Our question to them is "Who do you think "we" is?" Because if your not willing to get involved, support, participate, and willing to do something yourself, then you might as well not even ask.


We are not happy where the bee industry is at this moment in time. We are not happy with the so-called industry leaders who got us to this point, and we are skeptical of efforts moving forward in regards of thinking if we just throw enough money towards research that this will solve problems. In our opinion, the biotech industry has both the research community to some degree, and government, already in their pockets. The biotech industry is a perfect example of dirty politics, based on lobbyists, bought influence, and how profit/money/greed trumps all others.

We do not buy all organic products. And we are not convinced that eating some amount of GMO foods is as bad some suggest. What we are concerned with is the political influence, market domination, increased chemical use, and damage to the environment, and other possible impacts that GMO and the biotech industry may be causing. Biotech companies see themselves as the only solution to food production (and that organic "eat only raw" veggies is the alternative.) And the organic supporters feel the same way that it's either organic, or GMO crops. Both sides want you to think that these are the only two options. We think there are other options.


With GMO, we have issues with certain aspects of the biotech industry. It's like saying "We are not against farming, we are against certain farming practices". But as with any conversations centered around chemical use in the farming industry, farmers will usually think you are attacking their character and business. The same can be seen with any conversations with the GMO industry. It is normal for anyone to have concerns with GMO, that they are labeled as extreme by GMO supporters. Meanwhile, the middle is confused, and ignores the issue. Ignorance is bliss as they say.


Education on these issues is a good thing. Understanding the food industry, the biotech industry, and why some support one side or the other, is a good for all involved. 


Please feel free to contact us with any comments, suggestions, or feedback.