Oakhurst resident speaks out against Bayer bee muralOakhurst beekeeper Deborah Palmer stands in front of a new mural in Oakhurst. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt
Deborah Palmer isn’t happy about a new mural that appeared in her Oakhurst neighborhood.
The mural is part of the “Feed a Bee” public service announcement and depicts happy pictures of people, flowers and, of course, bees. It’s part of an initiative by Bayer, a company that’s been accused of creating a pesticide that’s killed off honeybee populations. A press release from the city of Decatur says the project’s mission is “to bring awareness to the decline in bee populations.” The company also planted flowers in front of the mural.
The mural has angered some in the Oakhurst community who, like Palmer, think the ad paints a happy picture to obscure an ugly truth. The Feed a Bee Campaign is an initiative of the Bayer Bee Care Center in North Carolina, according to a spokesperson. The New York Times reported in 2013 that, “Bayer is one of the major producers of a type of pesticide that the European Union linked to the large-scale die-offs of honey bee populations in North America and Western Europe.” To read the full story, click here.
Palmer said the mural is an attempt to gloss over the bad press the company has received over its pesticide.
“As a beekeeper and longtime resident of Oakhurst, I am deeply concerned about the funding by Bayer Corporation of the mural promoting ‘saving bees’ which is being installed this week in Oakhurst village,” Palmer said.
Bayer contends that the evidence doesn’t support claims that its products are killing bees.
Company spokesperson Bill Marks said, “While some contend that neonicotinoids, a class of agricultural pesticide made by Bayer and other companies, are affecting honey bees, the facts don’t support this. Extensive research has shown that colony decline correlates well with the presence of parasitic mites, particularly the Varroa mite and diseases, but not with the use of ‘neonics.'”
On Saturday, Feb. 20, she donned her beekeeping suit and stood near the mural, which is on the outside wall of a building that houses the Oakhurst Market and One Step at a Time shoe store.
Palmer handed out information sheets regarding Bayer to people passing by.
“In my opinion, it is dishonest and deceitful that a company that kills bees has a public relations campaign for saving them,” Palmer’s information sheet says.
Marks said the company has a proven track record of protecting bees.
“Bayer has been supporting bee health for nearly 30 years,” Marks said. “The company created some of the earliest miticides to control mites in honey bee hives. Bayer has long recognized the critical intersection between apiculture and agriculture because honey bees pollinate many of the foods we eat. In fact, Bayer is one of the largest purchasers of honey bees in Canada to pollinate the company’s canola crop.”
Here is the full statement from the company:
Bayer has been supporting bee health for nearly 30 years. The company created some of the earliest miticides to control mites in honey bee hives. Bayer has long recognized the critical intersection between apiculture and agriculture because honey bees pollinate many of the foods we eat. In fact, Bayer is one of the largest purchasers of honey bees in Canada to pollinate the company’s canola crop.
Bayer has invested millions of dollars in supporting bee health including constructing a 6,000 square-foot Bee Care Center in Raleigh, N.C., staffed by beekeepers, and focused on bee health research, education and collaboration. Last year, Bayer held a Healthy Hives 2020 summit focused on finding tangible ways to improve honey bee health by the end of 2020. The summit was attended by some of the country’s prominent stakeholders in bee health. Bayer recently announced a research RFP for projects to improve honey bee health. (I have attached a press release).
Feed a Bee is another major initiative of Bayer’s North American Bee Care Program to provide more forage areas for honey bees and other pollinators, consistent with the President’s National Pollinator Strategy. Honey bees are being impacted by a critical lack of suitable forage. Feed a Bee is partnering with more than 70 organizations including Project Apis m., the North Carolina Department of Transportation and American Agri-Women to plant bee- attractant flowers across the country. Last year, Feed A Bee engaged more than 250,000 consumers and received pledges to plant 65 million flowers. Our plans are to leave the planters we used in the video and fill them with pollinator-friendly flowers that should last thru most of the spring.
According to the latest report from the USDA, honey bee colonies are actually increasing globally and in the United States. In 2014, there were 2.7 million honey bee colonies in the U.S., the highest number reported in the last 20 years. Honey bees are being impacted by a wide range of factors including disease, parasites, and genetic diversity issues. (Here is link to a National Review story that might provide you with some additional background: http://www.nationalreview.com/ article/419391/bee-colony- collapse-is-overhyped-shawn- regan )
And, while some contend that neonicotinoids, a class of agricultural pesticide made by Bayer and other companies, are affecting honey bees, the facts don’t support this. Extensive research has shown that colony decline correlates well with the presence of parasitic mites, particularly the Varroa mite and diseases, but not with the use of “neonics”. A comprehensive review published in 2016 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) found that most uses of neonics pose minimal risk to honey bees and other pollinators. We know more about neonics and honey bees than any other pesticide and science tells us these products are not responsible for colony decline. Neonics require less treatment and are more environmentally favorable than the older products they replaced. That is why they are widely used to protect our crops, homes, recreational spaces, and even pets from destructive pests.