National Keep the Hives Alive Tour brings urgency to global pollinator decline
Beekeepers, farmers, farmworkers and scientists unite for pesticide regulation and sustainable agriculture
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Keep the Hives Alive Tour kicks off today to raise awareness about the plight of mass bee die-offs and other pollinators. The tour is organized by beekeepers, farmers, farmworkers, scientists and advocates and will stop in South Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina before and during National Pollinator Week, June 13-23.
James Cook, a Minnesota beekeeper, is driving a bee truck between each stop, with a display of 2.64 million dead bees to help demonstrate beekeeper losses. The tour will end in Washington, D.C. with a Congressional briefing, rally and lobby days to urge the EPA, the USDA and Congress to take action on toxic pesticides and support sustainable agriculture.
“I am doing this because I stood in a holding yard my first year beekeeping and witnessed a massive bee die as a result of seed treated corn being planted. 1500 hives that spring had at least 50% of their adult bees die in front of me. As I work towards being a part of the next generation of beekeepers, I think it is imperative to talk about the issues I seeing happening around me,” said James Cook, beekeeper with Old Mill Honey Company.
U.S. beekeepers have continued to suffer annual hive losses of 40 percent or more, costing over $2 billion each year. Beekeepers, farmers, farmworkers, scientists and advocates across the nation are taking to the road to raise awareness about the plight of pollinators and call for positive changes.
Jeff Anderson, owner Minnesota Honey Farms, says he has personally met with EPA officials to show them the losses. “It’s far past time for the EPA to take urgent action to halt the use of bee-killing pesticides. We hope that this dramatic presentation will raise awareness of this urgent problem.”
“If you want to save the bees, heal the soil. The bee problem is just the tip of the ice berg. This is a biodiversity crisis, and the bees happen to be a very public face for it. Sustainable agriculture can be the solution to the bee crisis. We are losing bees, bats, birds, butterflies, mammals at an alarming rate,” said Jon Lundgren, owner Blue Dasher Farm.
“Bayer is spending millions dollars on its Bee Care Tour — a PR stunt trying to fix its tainted image amongst farmers and beekeepers,” said Angus Wong of SumOfUs.org. “But luckily, thousands of our members chipped in for a counter tour to show what the billion dollar corporation’s pesticide is really doing to our pollinators.”
“What does the death of bees have to do with environmental justice? Here in Detroit, our communities of color have launched an urban farm movement – we are empowered to grow our own food. If the bees die, we can’t grow food, it’s as simple as that. On top of that, low income and underserved communities are already disproportionately impacted by toxic chemicals, so adding pesticides to the mix just makes it worse. We look to those entrusted with protecting us to halt the use of bee killing and community harming pesticides,” says Guy Williams, President and CEO, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice.
“What do bees and farmworkers have in common? Both are regularly exposed to pesticides that impact their and their offsprings’ health,” said Jeannie Economos, pesticide health and safety project coordinator of the Farmworker Association of Florida. “The risks and consequences of pesticide exposure are experienced first and foremost by the men, women and even children working in agriculture, planting, harvesting, cultivating, and packing the products that the rest of us use and consume. We must work together to protect the health of farmworkers, pollinators and the planet. We all depend on it.”
“By harming pollinators like bees and butterflies, and natural pest control agents like birds and beneficial insects, pesticides are sabotaging the very organisms on which farmers depend,” said Cynthia Palmer, Director of Pesticides Science and Regulation at American Bird Conservancy. “These chemicals are blanketing croplands, contaminating watersheds, poisoning pollinators, and even showing up in the foods we eat: Our laboratory analyses revealed neonicotinoids in 91 percent of foods tested in the US House and Senate dining halls.”
“Given the facts we have at hand about the links between neonics and bee die-offs, officials should move boldly and swiftly to stop any and all uses of these dangerous chemicals,” said Anna Aurilio, the director of the Washington, D.C., office of Environment America. “That’s why our canvassers are talking to hundreds of thousands of Americans this summer, letting them know that for the sake of the bees and our food supply, there’s no time to waste.”
The Keep the Hives Alive Tour is supported by American Bird Conservancy, Beyond Pesticides, Blue Dasher Farm, California-Minnesota Honey Farm, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, CURE (Clean Up the River Environment), Earthjustice, Endangered Species Coalition, Environment America, Farmworker Association of Florida, Friends of the Earth, Green America, Hackenburg Apiaries, National Family Farm Coalition, Land Stewardship Project , League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Old Mill Honey Company, Organic Consumers Association, Pesticide Action Network North America, Pollinate Minnesota, Pollinator Stewardship Council, SumofUs, The Ecology Center, Toxic Free North Carolina, and Washtenaw County Food Policy Council
More information on bee, butterfly and bird declines, tour stops and coalition policy demands is available at keephivesalive.org.