Raise awareness of environmental health issues in order to better protect our children and future generations.

08 July 2012

Environmental Poisoning of Bees in Switzerland

The Swiss advocacy group, Association romande alerte aux ondes électromagnétiques (www.alerte.ch) has posted on its site, a model letter enabling beekeepers in the French-speaking part of Switzerland to file a criminal complaint addressed to the investigating judge (juge d'instruction) against persons unknown for the keepers’ loss of bee colonies.  See article in full here in French.
The English translation of the full text follows:

Re : Loss of bee colonies during the 2011-2012 winter

Madam, Sir :

Two years ago, I hesitated to file a complaint relating to the very important losses of hives during the 2009-2010 winter (11 out of 18 colonies). I did not do this, because I had attributed it to the capriciousness of the weather or the pressure of varroa mites on my bee colonies, which nevertheless had been treated correctly against this parasite.

This spring (2012), I noticed that I lost 14 out of 18 hives at my apiary in ….. (VD). Such a level of loss is itself unacceptable. I have been practicing apiculture since 1986 and I cannot say that I have ever known comparable losses.

In the past, each year I would lose one out of ten hives, even as many as two maximum. Last year, as every year, I maintained my colonies well. I wintered 18 strong colonies, provided all the prescribed treatment (formic acid from August and oxalic acid in December) and during August, fed them correctly. With the approach of winter, my hives still had important food reserves, were not soiled (by dysentery due to nosema) and did not present any signs of foulbrood bacteria (European or American).

At the beginning of spring 2012, 14 of my hives were empty of bees. A few bees remained in the four other hives.

The loss of a colony for a beekeeper costs the following :

1. Cost of a colony 300 francs (colony with a queen on 10 built frames, filled with food, pollen and brood)
2. Loss of the year’s harvest, that is, about 25 kg, at 24 francs a kilo: 600 francs
3. Work of the beekeeper, around 10 hours: 1,000 francs
4. Equals a total of 1,900 per colony.

My damage this year thus equals about 26,600 francs. That is the compensation that I am requesting on the part of the responsible persons for this loss or on the part of the State to the extent that it has been remiss in its duty to ensure a healthy environment.

I am aware that the apiculture authorities are making all efforts, with the support of the cantonal and federal authorities, to fight against these excessive colony deaths. I also know that the causes are complex and multifactorial. I notice, however, the following:

In January 2012, when the apiculture season had long been terminated, I heard, in some of my colonies, the queen bees singing! It is a phenomenon absolutely without precedent at this time of year! Normally, queen bees sing during the spring in order to announce natural swarming of the colonies, with half the bees remaining in the hive with the new queen. However in January, my colonies were totally emptied in the space of one or two days: there were no more bees, and there were no bodies of dead bees neither in the hive nor in the immediate surroundings.

I have heard about similar happenings from fellow apiarists. After having requested information from bee-keeping advisers on what could have been the cause of these surprising disappearances during winter, I learned that one of the potential causes could be due to the deleterious effects of mobile telephony.

In effect, the media highlighted a scientific publication submitted for peer review to Apidology on the results of work carried out with mobile phones placed near bees (“Mobile phone-induced honeybee worker piping”; volume 42, numéro 3 (2011), pages 270-279, DOI: 10.1007/s13592-011-0016-x). This scientific work demonstrates the following: bees are perturbed by the waves of mobile telephony, leading to a change in the behavior of bees, inducing the signal to swarm through worker piping.

In the Swiss Review of Apiculture from November 2011, it was suggested that the bees are perturbed not only in the presence of mobile phones near the hives, but also when there is intense electromagnetic pollution such as that which takes place during New Year’s Eve (no. 1330, pages 24-26).

I would like a serious and independent investigation to be conducted. The electromagnetic values of mobile telephony near my hive at various times of the year and also from the end of October until March should be verified. This should be carried out with appropriate measuring devices such as a device which records the entire electromagnetic spectrum on an ongoing basis, and the results obtained should be compared with the loss of bee colonies (such a device exists, for example the Satimo EME spy 140 which does not require the permanent presence of a technician near the device).

Evidently, the agricultural practices and treatments (pesticides, insecticides, green manures etc.) around my hive should be equally investigated, because I want to be sure that it is not from polluting agricultural practices that my bees have died. I thus wonder whether a precise analysis of the methods used on crops, as well as the potential harmful consequences of the use of green manures, could be carried out.

In my view, a Rule of Law should ensure the security and quality of life of its people. In this case, I have suffered quite exceptional consequential damages. This type of damage has been detectable for the last five to six years but before did not exist. For 20 years, the losses were normal and this, despite the varroa parasite which we have known since around 1985. I am thus appealing to the legal authorities to advance this file with the help of the political authorities.

I thus file, by the present letter, a criminal complaint against X for environmental poisoning of my colonies, within the context of Articles 684 CC (damage to the environment) and 41 CO (damages) and request a quality investigation. Given the importance of maintaining the domestic bee in our ecosystem, a refusal on the part of the authorities (for lack of time, money or reliable scientific data) will in my opinion be inadmissible.

I refuse to keep hearing the same old discourse from the Liebefeld federal apiculture service, which has been regurgitating over and over for years the same arguments on the subject of loss of bee colonies, due according to them principally to varroa and associated viral and bacterial diseases. These are biological causes linked to the loss of bee colonies. There are other causes which I would qualify as anthropic, among them those from electromagnetic waves of mobile telephony and pesticides. It is unacceptable, quite simply disgusting, that today’s stakeholders are striving, often thanks to the passivity of the authorities, even with impunity, to pollute our living environment. Even if there are enormous interests to keep the pesticide and mobile telephone industries financially profitable, the principle of safeguard of the living heritage is in my view superior to financial interests.

I am informing different persons concerned about this initiative: apiculture authorities, politicians, and the media.

I thank you for the seriousness that you will grant this initiative,

Yours truly,

Copy for information :
Cantonal inspector of beehives (VD), Cantonal veterinarian
Apiculture authorities
Swiss Journal of Apiculture
Government: Conseil fédéral, Conseil d’Etat vaudois
Press : Le Temps, 24Heures, Tribune de Genève

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