What's a beekeeper to do? I'm going down but not without a fight. I contacted the EPA who sent two Tennessee Department of Agriculture agents out to "investigate." They questioned me for a bit, and I could tell from their questions that they were looking to pin the losses on me, on varroa mites, on hive beetles...on anything but current agricultural practices. Satisfied that I was not killing my own bees with shoddy beekeeping practices, they concluded that they were "confused."
At my request, they took samples of my honey to test for Roundup, 2,4-D, and imidacloprid (a neonic). This will tell me only whether my honey is contaminated and won't be definitive for what is killing the bees. I checked into having the tests also done by an independent lab, but they charge $100/sample. With dozens of possible suspects, that is beyond my means. If the Tennessee DOA test come back positive, I will quit selling my honey.
Ever the optimist, I provided the Ag agents with copies of university studies and made a very good argument, I thought, for why the agricultural chemicals now in the water, air and soil, and are killing the bees and can't be that good for the rest of us. They stonewalled me and promised to send me the results of the tests. I'm waiting but I'm not holding my breath.
Maybe conventional agriculture will kill itself? The price of corn has bottomed out. More conventional farmers are going out of business, and the only people getting rich are the chemical companies and input sellers. But there is hope. Some conventional farmers are switching over to more organic practices with fewer costly inputs. They're learning that people don't want to eat their pesticide-laced crops no matter how many Monsanto scientists and USDA agents say they're safe. Sure, first we'll have to import enough organic food from places like Denmark and Russia to fill the growing demand, but at some point the lights will go on and the scales will tip. Now, if my bees can only hold out until that sweet day.