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A stinging lawsuit is raised in Canada

Canadian beekeepers sue Bayer and Syngenta over neonicotinoid pesticides
Class action lawsuit seeks $400 million in damages

Canadian beekeepers are suing the makers of popular crop pesticides for more than $400 million in damages, alleging that their use is causing the deaths of bee colonies.

The proposed class action lawsuit was filed Tuesday in the Ontario Superior Court on behalf of all Canadian beekeepers by Sun Parlor Honey Ltd. and Munro Honey, two of Ontario’s largest honey producers, the Ontario Beekeepers Association announced Wednesday.

“The goal is to stop the use of the neonicotinoids to stop the harm to the bees and the beekeepers,” said Paula Lombardi, a lawyer with London, Ont.-based law firm Siskinds LLP, which is handling the case.

As of Thursday morning, more than 30 beekeepers had signed on to participate in the class action.

Read the statement of claim

The lawsuit alleges that Bayer Cropscience Inc. and Syngenta Canada Inc. and their parent companies were negligent in their design, manufacture, sale and distribution of neonicotinoid pesticides, specifically those containing imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiomethoxam.

The pesticides, which are a neurotoxin to insects, are widely coated on corn, soybean and canola seeds in Canada to protect the plants from pests such as aphids. Studies have shown that bees exposed to the pesticides have smaller colonies, fail to return to their hives, and may have trouble navigating. The pesticides were also found in 70 per cent of dead bees tested by Health Canada in 2013.

Bee researchers raise more warning flags about neonicotinoid pesticides

The European Commission restricted the use of the pesticides for two years and Ontario has indicated it will move toward regulating them, due to concerns over bee health.

Bayer maintains that the risk to bees from the pesticide is low, and it has recommended ways that farmers can minimize bees’ exposure to the pesticide.

Both Bayer and Syngenta told CBC News they wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit because they haven’t yet been served with it.

The lawsuit is seeking more than $400 million in damages, alleging that as a result of neonicotinoid use:

  • The beekeepers’ colonies and breeding stock were damaged or died.
  • Their beeswax, honeycombs and hives were contaminated.
  • Their honey production decreased.

They lost profits and incurred unrecoverable costs, such as increased labour and supply costs. Beekeepers or companies involved in beekeeping services such as honey production, queen bee rearing and pollination who are affected and want to join the lawsuit are asked to contact Lombardi.

The Ontario Beekeepers Association is not directly involved in the lawsuit, but along with the Sierra Club Canada Foundation, helped connect beekeepers with the law firm. The association also helped with the research for the lawsuit.

Atlanta Urban beekeeping on the rise

If it seems that the buzz around bees has picked up volume, that’s because it has. According to the USDA, bees help pollinate one-third of all our food, but recently, a mysterious and destructive honeybee disease called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has been wiping out record numbers of hives across the U.S. Although CCD is a common phenomonom, scientists can’t explain why it’s increasing at such a devastating rate.

Coincidentally, headlines about the crisis combined with a dining culture fixed on a farm-to-table philosophy have pushed urban beekeeping into the spotlight. Once a thing of rural countryside farms, bees are now moving to the city in droves.

Cindy Hodges, an urban beekeeper and president of the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association, says she’s witnessed the skyrocketing interest in all things bees. “When I joined the association [in 2006] we had 40 members. We now have more than 200,” Hodges says. “Urban beekeeping is growing.” According to the Georgia Department of Agriculture, the vast majority of honey now actually comes from small-scale beekeepers with only a few hives worth of bees.

Atlantans, along with the rest of the country, are installing hives on high-rise rooftop gardens and in their own backyards. Hotels like the Four Seasons Atlanta and the Hyatt Regency’s Polaris keep their own bees and use the honey in their restaurants. Hodges helms the rooftop garden beehives for the Polaris alongside executive chef Martin Pfefferkorn, who calls the bees “his girls.” Pfefferkorn relies on the bees for their honey and for pollinating his herb garden.

Bees at Polaris

Ordinances governing urban beekeeping vary from state to state, but if you want to keep bees here in Atlanta, there’s little standing in your way. “There are no rules restricting it in the metro Atlanta area currently,” says Hodges. While there are no official guidelines governing city bees, the association urges beekeepers to use good practices, such as providing bees with a nearby water supply and setting them as far away from your neighbor’s door as possible.

For first-timers looking to get their start, the director of the University of Georgia’s Honey Bee Program, Keith Delaplane, has penned the hobby beekeeper’s bible, First Lessons in Beekeeping. A popular blog by an Atlanta beekeeper, Linda’s Bees, has additional starter info, and the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association holds educational meetings at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

And if you’re thinking bees might still be better suited to the country life, research actually shows the opposite. Master beekeeper Noah Wilson Rich discussed at a recent Ted Talk that the lack of suburban pesticides in cities makes urban bees heartier and more productive than their rural counterparts.

So really, there’s been no better time to start your own hives. Honey and beekeeping helmets are officially hip. As Hodges point out, “it’s not your grandmother’s beekeeping anymore.”

– See more at: http://www.atlantamagazine.com/covereddish/2014/06/16/urban-beekeeping-on-the-rise#sthash.pTbE2Cf8.dpuf

Funny Honey – blue and green honey makes French beekeepers see red

This article appeared in Reuters.

Bees at a cluster of apiaries in northeastern France have been producing honey in mysterious shades of blue and green, alarming their keepers who now believe residue from containers of M&M’s candy processed at a nearby biogas plant is the cause.

Since August, beekeepers around the town of Ribeauville in the region of Alsace have seen bees returning to their hives carrying unidentified colorful substances that have turned their honey unnatural shades.

Mystified, the beekeepers embarked on an investigation and discovered that a biogas plant 4 km (2.5 miles) away has been processing waste from a Mars plant producing M&M’s, bite-sized candies in bright red, blue, green, yellow and brown shells.

Asked about the issue, Mars had no immediate comment.

The unsellable honey is a new headache for around a dozen affected beekeepers already dealing with high bee mortality rates and dwindling honey supplies following a harsh winter, said Alain Frieh, president of the apiculturists’ union.

Agrivalor, the company operating the biogas plant, said it had tried to address the problem after being notified of it by the beekeepers.

“We discovered the problem at the same time they did. We quickly put in place a procedure to stop it,” Philippe Meinrad, co-manager of Agrivalor, told Reuters.

He said the company had cleaned its containers and incoming waste would now be stored in a covered hall.

Mars operates a chocolate factory near Strasbourg, around 100 km (62 miles) away from the affected apiaries.

Bee numbers have been rapidly declining around the world in the last few years and the French government has banned a widely used pesticide, Cruiser OSR, that one study has linked to high mortality rates.

France is one of the largest producers of honey within the European Union, producing some 18,330 tonnes annually, according to a recent audit conducted for national farm agency FranceAgriMer.

Ribeauville, situated on a scenic wine route southwest of Strasbourg, is best known for its vineyards. But living aside winemakers are about 2,400 beekeepers in Alsace who tend some 35,000 colonies and produce about 1,000 tonnes of honey per year, according to the region’s chamber of agriculture.

As for the M&M’s-infused honey, union head Frieh said it might taste like honey, but there the comparison stopped.

“For me, it’s not honey. It’s not sellable.”