Australia’s 4 billion dollar bee industry at imminent risk from locust spraying
    By Helen Barratt | September 19th 2010 03:14 AM | 5 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    Swarms of locusts are predicted across four Australian states in coming months and the sprays used to kill locusts also harm and kill bees, which is a big concern to Australia’s beekeepers.

    The 4 billion dollar bee industry produces honey and pollinates plants for farmers, such as almond, peach, nectarine, cherry, plum, blackcurrant, blueberry, cranberry trees just to mention a few. See for a full list of crops pollinated by bees.

    The bees are moved around from one area and crop to the next to pollinate plants and make honey and apiarist Barry Pobke says that bee keepers need at least 24 hours and preferably 48 hours warning about spraying and time to consider the wind direction at the time of spraying.


    Mr Pobke says keepers are having to look elsewhere to avoid killing off their industry, but he says pollinating other crops such as canola presents a problem, because ‘canola makes bees savage’ and can make them swarm. He is concerned that some farmers might overreact with sprays when the plagues hit, putting the bee industry at risk. See

    Most bee poisoning occurs when insecticides are applied to crops. See

    Other hazards are bees drinking or touching contaminated water on foliage or flowers and bees collecting contaminated pollen or nectar.

    “The most common symptom of bee poisoning is the appearance of excessive numbers of dead bees in front of the hives. Another common symptom is lack of foraging bees. Aggressiveness in bees may be caused by most pesticides. Stupefaction, paralysis, and abnormal activities of bees are commonly caused by chlorinated hydrocarbons and organophosphorus insecticides".

    "Regurgitation of the honey stomach contents is often caused by poisoning with organophosphorus insecticides. Bees may perform abnormal communication dances on the horizontal landing board at the hive entrance while under the influence of insecticide poisoning. Disorganized behavior patterns may lead to lack of recognition of affected field bees by guard bees.”

    Some of the ways that farmers can help reduce bee poisoning are to apply certain chemicals only in late evening, night, or early morning while bees are not actively foraging (generally between 6 p.m. and 7 a.m. in the north and 8:30 p.m. to 4 a.m. in the south).

    "Evening applications are generally less hazardous to bees than early morning applications. When high temperatures cause bees to start foraging earlier or continue later than usual (5:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.) shift time accordingly".

    "Do not dump unused dusts or sprays where they might become a bee poisoning hazard. Sometimes bees collect any type of fine dust material when pollen is not readily available. Under such conditions, they may actually carry pesticide dusts back to the colony".

    "Do not apply insecticides when temperatures are expected to be unusually low following treatment or on nights when dews occur. Residues will remain toxic to bees for a much longer time under such conditions".

    "Contact and ask the beekeeper to remove colonies from the area (or keep the bees confined during the application period) before applying hazardous pesticides when such measures are feasible and of value. Observe State Department of Agriculture regulations aimed at reducing bee poisoning".

    3km-long locust egg beds were ready to hatch last week west
    of Nyngan, in central New South Wales. The Victorian Government says that flooding has not reduced the threat of the anticipated locust plague, and is urging landholders to remain vigilant and to make sure they are prepared to spray the hoppers. (See

    Last Friday September 17th, farmers were on alert as tens of thousands of locusts started hatching west of Nyngan in central western New South Wales. The Livestock Health and Pest Authority (LHPA) says most of the nymphs have been discovered at a property on White Rock Road in the Hermidale area. Spraying will not begin until the locusts start ‘banding’ together at the end of next week.

    Ranger, Lisa Thomas, says the hatchings and egg beds are very dense in the Nyngan district. "We're probably talking I'd say close to 10,000 nymphs per square metre plus. They've been laid probably, each egg pod, probably about three to five centimetres apart and quite an intensity of eggs in each of those pods, so we suggest everyone in that area to be out and vigilantly looking."On Friday there had already been about 60 reports of hatchings in the Bourke area. (see


    That sounds very grim.  There are bee worries back here in Blighty, too.

    Yesterday we were watching a TV programme about the mautam, or 48-year cyclical bamboo death, in the part of India bordering Burma.  An Australian scientist was studying the relationship between that bamboo fruiting and the plague of rats which follows.  The village he was working on managed to get their rice harvested a day before the fourth brood of rats came swarming out from the bamboo forest, but down the road the bamboo had fruited earlier and they lost their entire crop.
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    That's very interesting Robert. I followed your link and found that 'after flowering, the bamboo dies and regenerates from the seeds. The rodents feast on these seeds which are available in plenty. In consequence,  there is a sudden boom in the rat population. The action of the rats is  thought to be an ecological control mechanism. The seeds of any culm of bamboo that might flower off-cycle are all eaten up by rodents, thus reinforcing the rhythm of this extreme version of a mast year. Some experts believe that the flower has a positive effect on the fertility of the rats, as well as on increasing the viable size of a rat litter.'

    These ecological control mechanisms are fascinating, I think the locust plague is obviously one too. It would be interesting to get together a world wide list of environmental control mechanisms and analyse the benefits and problems associated with them wouldn't it? Also, could there be a fertility drug that could be extracted or created from understanding why these seeds make the rats more fertile, and have larger litters? I expect someone somewhere has already done it, so I'll try and find it through my uni databases when I've got time.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Australian locust plague update. "Helen, The attached contains responses to your original questions which I am happy for you to post on your site. Chris Adriaansen Director, Australian Plague Locust Commission Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry." Question "I wonder if you are also able to shed some light on a few other questions I have regarding the locust plague? I wondered if it is true that banned US neurotoxic insecticides Diazinon, Chlorpyrifos and others have now been used in Australia to protect crops from locusts, with a possible assistance scheme for farmers who choose to use these chemicals as reported at Reply "The Australia Plague Locust Commission (APLC) is using only 3 locust control agents – fipronil, fenitrothion and Green Guard. The pesticides to which you refer are not being used by the APLC in Australia to control locusts. The APLC has no role in the plague locust response schemes run by the state agencies to provide control agents to landholders or to subsidise their use. State authorities should be contacted direct to confirm which chemicals are a part of their schemes". "I would also advise that the whole story regarding overseas chemical registration changes needs to be properly researched before comments are made publicly or attempts are made to draw parallels between Australia and overseas countries. The on-line article you refer to can be very misleading. The US has removed registrations for certain pesticides in certain situations, and the patterns of use of these chemicals in the US are very different from Australia. For example, the on-line article refers to the US report about high levels of chemical in the air 72 feet from the edge of fields. In Australia, the registered use of these chemicals requires a buffer of 1500 metres from any hazard or restricted area including human habitation or activity." "The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority can be contacted to obtain relevant information regarding Australian reviews of these pesticides, how their pattern of use differs between Australia and USA, and the reasons why there are differences between Australia and US registered pesticides." Question "Is it also true that there was not enough Green Guard®, a fungal pathogen (Metarhizium anisopliae) specific to locusts and grasshoppers available for organic farmers and sensitive sites like schools as reported in this article at Reply "The sole Australian manufacturer of Green Guard experienced some production problems in July and August. This has meant that not all of the Green Guard ordered by the APLC and the state agencies in May is being supplied at the originally-specified time. " "Orders received in the past month from individual landholders or chemical suppliers are unlikely to be filled before December. To address this, state agencies have diverted some of their own supplies to make these accessible to organic producers." "The SMH story to which you refer has incorrectly reported that the Australian Government is going to leave individual farmers at risk while protecting national parks and other areas" . "The available supplies of Green Guard are being collectively managed between all state agencies to ensure that priority needs are met, including organic producers, sites of rare and threatened species and biodiversity conservation sites." Question "Is it also true that the 4 billion dollar bee industry is at risk from locust spraying as reported here at ? If so are precautions being taken to advise beekeepers so that they can protect the bees during spraying?" "The APLC and state agencies have worked extensively with the apiculture industry since May to ensure that bee keepers and their hives are not put at risk". "The likely areas of locust control activity have been identified months in advance of the first locust control application so that bee keepers could relocate their hives to other sites, in some cases with direct assistance from government. Bee keepers have been reminded of the need to advise landholders (including the managers of public lands) when they place hives on these lands so that this potential hazard is identified well before controls are applied. If hives are known to be in an area targeted for locust control and the hives cannot be moved, a very large buffer is applied around the hive (5 km in all directions) to eliminate the potential for foraging bees to be affected by the locust control agents." "Unfortunately some bee keepers refuse to advise landholders or government agencies of the locations of their hives, and so it becomes very difficult to implement these risk minimisation measures in some cases."
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
     According to the Avaaz website 'Quietly, globally, billions of bees are being killed off threatening our crops and food. But a global ban of one group of pesticides could save bees from extinction'.

    'Four European countries have begun banning the poisons and bee populations are recovering. But chemical companies are lobbying hard to keep all killer pesticides on the market. A global outcry now for a ban in the US and EU, where debate is raging, could provoke a total ban and a ripple effect around the world'.

    There is a giant global buzz petition here calling for these potentially, dangerous chemicals to be outlawed in the US and EU until and unless they are proved to be safe. The petitions calls for an immediate ban on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides until and unless new independent scientific studies prove they are safe, which seems like a reasonable request to me.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    ‘Just four years is how long Albert Einstein reportedly said the human race would last in a world without bees. For the master of relativity, the equation was relatively simple: no more bees = no more people'. See this article called 'Save the Great British Bee! Why the mysterious disappearance of billions of bees could mean us losing a third of the food we eat' by Valentine Warner. An appropriately named author for Valentine's day I think.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at