A beekeeper of 58 years wants to know how an unelected state agency, which appears to answer to no one, can come in and destroy years of research, equipment, and bees without due process and even without a search warrant. Has recent loose interpretations of the Constitution and the power of the federal government spilled over into state governments, who now think they can act with impunity and shut down any business that happens to question an agency’s validity, credentials, or findings? Is the era of big bully government upon us? Those are the questions in Illinois right now, and Terrence Ingram would like them answered.
Off The Grid Radio
Released: May 25, 2012
Bill: Welcome indeed to Off the Grid Radio. I’m Bill Heid and my guest host here, Andy Sokolovich. Andy, welcome.
Andy: Good morning, Bill.
Bill: Hey, today we’ve got a very special guest. Our guest today is someone that we’ve been buying bees from since the early ‘80s, Terry Ingram, from Apple Creek Apiaries up in Apple River, not too far from us. So Terry, welcome.
Terry: You’re welcome. Thank you.
Bill: Great to have you on the show today. You’re getting some publicity with respect to what’s happened with your bees. You’re a beekeeper. You have been—as I’ve said—Kim’s grandpa, Warren Parker and I bought bees from you in the early ‘80s so we know you had great bees then. But recently some things have happened and—as I said—started to make some national news. Do you want to tell us a little bit how the story began and just bring us up to date?
Terry: Well, the story actually began last summer when Susan Kivikko was appointed as bee inspector for the state of Illinois. She went up to the Stateline Beekeepers Association picnic in July of last year and I gave her a frame and I asked her to determine what chemical was in that frame that the bees would not even walk on it, would not work on the frame at all. She took the frame and the only thing she found was American foulbrood, which we know that that doesn’t stop bees from walking on it. And I asked her how come she didn’t have it tested for any of the chemicals that I asked her too. “The department didn’t have money enough for that.”
Terry: So then later on that summer she wanted to come up and inspect my bees and I said, “No. No sense in doing that because it’s a waste of taxpayers’ money. You don’t know what you’re looking for.” And so…
Bill: That probably didn’t go over too well with her.
Terry: No, probably not.
Bill: Telling an inspector that they don’t know what they’re doing.
Terry: We did have a hearing on April 4th and at that time I was able to show the court that the inspector and her boss, Steve Chard, a chief apiary inspector in Illinois, there is no requirement that they know anything about bees to be appointed to that position. And that was brought out in the hearing. And so she has had bees. I have given her that much credit. She has worked with bees with her husband, a few colonies, for a few years—maybe eight or ten years—I don’t know exactly how long. But I never heard anything more from her and then in the end of November I got a notice that she had been out to inspect my bees in October and it was on a Sunday when Nancy and I were not home and I found out in the hearing in April that she had been out to inspect the bees four times when I wasn’t here.
Bill: Always when you’re not there.
Terry: Yep. She never came… There was only one time that I found her in the bee yard. Nancy called me down from the office one day, said that she was out there and the temperature was three degrees and we had six inches of snow and she was out inspecting our bees.
Bill: But coming on a Sunday? That’s bizarre. Do you know a lot of governmental employees that work on Sundays, typically?
Terry: Not at all. Our state bee law says that they’re supposed to inspect during regular business hours. Since when is Sunday a regular business hour?
Bill: It would not be a regular business hour. So they’re sneaking around, trying to find something. That’s what it looks like to you.
Terry: That’s right.
Bill: And as the plot thickens what are your suspicions?
Terry: Well, the report was—end of November—was that they had detected foulbrood in some of my hives—not all of them—some of them. But she had the hives because I have the hives numbered to keep records but I painted over all my equipment when it was warm, by fall, before it gets cold. Not knowing that she had been there, I painted all my equipment white for the year because I was planning to have a beginning beekeeping class. That’s one of the things we did this last weekend was number the hives again so beekeepers could see how to number the hives, what to use and how to start to keep the records.
And so everything was painted white and she testified in court that she could still see the numbers through the white paint. I sure can’t see any numbers through the white paint and everybody that I’ve asked—not one person has been able to see any numbers through the white paint. She testified that she had been here, that I had not mitigated or abated the problem. Well, I don’t have a problem. She is confusing chilled brood, which is common in all my hives because the adult bees are killed by Round-Up and the brood that’s outside the cluster—the cluster has to remain at 80 degrees in order to raise the brood—when you lose enough bees you don’t have enough bees to keep that brood in the cluster and so the brood that’s left outside the cluster will chill over two or three days and die. And I call that chilled brood and that’s what she’s mistaking—and all the inspectors are mistaking that—for American foulbrood.
Bill: That is really interesting.
Terry: I show my beekeeping class, when you have American foulbrood—it’s a disease that hits the brood when the bees are still in the cells, before they become adults—and with the cell sealed, on a healthy brood the cell is going to have a rounded cap on it. When you have American foulbrood, it’s a disease that eats up the young bee inside the cell and that creates a vacuum and pulls the cell down so you have sunken caps. If you’ve got American foulbrood you’re going to have sunken caps on the brood. They’re not going to stay raised up nice and round. This chilled brood stays up nice and round. It will stay up nice and round for five or ten years. I’ve got some frames here. I could show anybody that it stays rounded. It does not sink. So they’re calling this chilled brood foulbrood.
Inside a beehive, it’s one of the cleanest places in the world because the bees lick everything, they clean everything, they wash everything, they varnish everything that’s inside the cluster where the bees are working, where they’re raising their young. And if they find any disease or anything like that that’s not supposed to be there, they cover it over with propolis. Propolis is an antiseptic and it protects the rest of the hive. So this hive can be healthy as can be but it may contain some spores of foulbrood in that comb if the comb is disturbed. She doesn’t know how to inspect the hive for foulbrood. It used to be that inspectors had to take a test and pass a test and know something about bees—not anymore. They don’t have to know anything.
Bill: Before we go on, Terry, have you had different inspectors over the years? This is kind of interesting to me.
Bill: And what’s your record been? I think there is always going to be a little bit of that foulbrood. That’s part of beekeeping.
Terry: Beekeeping, that’s right.
Bill: Yeah, that’s just part of… Anybody that knows anything about bees knows that’s part of the game. So what’s your record been prior to this?
Terry: The first time that I had foulbrood detected was when my wife was secretary of the Stateline Beekeepers Association. The Association members complained at one of the meetings that they had never seen an inspector. So they asked my wife and secretary to send a letter in behalf of the association to the state complaining that none of the beekeepers had seen an inspector—didn’t know who he was.
Bill: So you guys actually wanted an inspector to come?
Terry: And so she sent the letter down and within two weeks I had an inspector at my door. He went out. My hives were stacked up with six, eight, ten supers with honey on them and he wanted to inspect them for foulbrood. So we take the supers off and he went through one out of every ten hives. So he did a sample. And we went down through the… Bring them down, took all the supers off, went into the brood nest and he uncapped probably 1,000 cells of capped brood before he could find one dead. My bees had just been sprayed four days, five days before he was here so I was afraid we’d find lots of dead young ones but he uncapped and killed 1,000 young ones to find one that he said was dead from—he called it—foulbrood.
Bill: When you say your bees were “sprayed,” explain to the listeners what you mean by that.
Terry: The farmers are spraying Round-Up on their corn, their soybeans. When I first experienced it was in ’96. My wife and I were running over 250 hives at that time and they first came out with Round-Up and they sprayed with an airplane. We weren’t home at the time. We were in Canada. I was directing a nature camp in Canada for a week. Before we left, I left three or four supers of room for the bees to put their honey in while I was gone so I wouldn’t have to worry about swarming. I came back from Canada. There were no bees flying. “What in the world? Did they all swarm? I can’t believe they’d all swarm. So I went out and looked at them and every queen was still there and a small amount of brood and a small amount of adults.
Instead of having three supers of bees—supers are the boxes that are sitting on top of each other for honey—and instead of having those filled with bees and honey there weren’t even enough bees to cover the young bees in the bottom of the nest. They just started to recover from that and I have determined since then that it takes a super about 40 pounds of honey for a colony to get back on its feet from being sprayed once. So they had just about gotten back on their feet in three weeks and they would hit them with another… The planes would come over and be dropping Round-Up again. They dropped them every three weeks that summer and by the end of the summer I had no bees left.
Bill: That’s pretty amazing. That’s pretty amazing. So that was the first time when the inspectors where there and you had a declining colony. You had colony collapse as a result of what it looks like the spraying.
Terry: Yep. I think there were three hives that he found a cell out of 3,000—one out of every 3,000 cells that he uncapped—might have potential foulbrood and he took those samples on the end of a matchstick and said he’d send it in to have it tested and it came back as positive for foulbrood. And he said that by rights, I should burn all the hives. And he knew I wasn’t going to… when I had 10 supers of honey on each hive? They were healthy as can be. But anyway, he said that by law, they should be burned or you could treat them with Terramycin at that time. And he knew I wasn’t going to do that—take off all my supers of honey, treat them with Terramycin and six weeks later put the supers of honey back on. But just before he left, as he was driving out of the driveway, he said, “You get off my back and I’ll get off yours.”
Bill: Okay, in other words, “Don’t demand that I come here and I won’t”?
Terry: That’s right.
Bill: So what happened then? That was your first… What year was that again?
Terry: That was about ’96… ’96 when we had the first spray of Round-Up.
Bill: And that was the first year that you had an inspector because you actually asked for an inspector.
Bill: Okay, so that’s what kind of started the whole thing.
Bill: I see. So then how many inspectors have you had since that gentleman?
Terry: He inspected two or three years later. Once a year he’d come in and look at a yard and—just random yards. I remember one year I did have a hive with foulbrood and I just left it go for the summer. I wanted to see how many of the other hives nearby would come down with the disease. None of them came down with it. At the end of the summer I got rid of that hive. But one day I came back and there was his card under one of the inner covers saying that he’d been there and that yard was free of foulbrood—when I knew it wasn’t—but he said it was.
Bill: So he had tested… Maybe the testing that he was using wasn’t comprehensive enough or he wasn’t a good inspector or something. I don’t know what that would be.
Terry: Well, I have no idea either because he didn’t look at every hive. He randomly sampled them, I guess.
Bill: But what you’re saying, Terry, in other words is it’s a symptom of how erratic the inspections are.
Terry: That’s right.
Bill: So sometimes they’re on it and sometimes they’re not.
Terry: But since then I’ve never had… I’ve had my hives inspected but I’ve never been here when they’ve inspected them. They don’t come when I’m here.
Bill: And there are laws that say—or at least operating procedures—that say that they’re to come during business hours.
Terry: Business hours and if possible have the owner there. And I do not appreciate anybody going through my bees because I’ve been doing research on them and doing berry experiments with them and to have somebody come in who doesn’t know what I’m doing with the experiments and mess up by looking through the hives.
Bill: Well, it almost would seem to me that someone—and I am maybe trying to invoke too much of a conspiracy theory—but it would almost seem to me that they… Because some Sundays you’re home, right? So…
Terry: Oh, most of the time. My business is here.
Bill: Yeah, someone watching you and then when you leave, they’re coming? Is that…? Do you want to make that statement that that’s what you think is happening?
Terry: The statement I made at the hearing was, “What are you doing? Sitting up in the hill watching when I leave?” And the attorney for the Department of Ag said, “Strike that.”
Andy: Yeah, Terry, it definitely sounds like they were going above and beyond their call of duty and the fact that these inspectors don’t even have to provide any kind of credentials and don’t have to have any kind of… You did say that she had some experience as far as beekeeping goes but did not take a test, does not have anything to present you as far as her educational background and when it comes to beekeeping. But it’s unfortunately this actually happened to you. Now the foulbrood—what would be the adverse effects of that for human consumption? Does that affect the people that buy the honey? Is that why they…?
Terry: No, only if people are insects themselves.
Andy: Okay, so…
Terry: They would have to be honeybee insects. It doesn’t effect…
Bill: If those people are bees then it would affect them.
Andy: So it sounds to me like foulbrood would be a major concern of yours because you’re going to lose the bees that produce the honey.
Terry: Well yes. It’s a real major concern. You have to keep your eye on it all the time to watch out. If you see it you’ve got to get rid of it.
Andy: Right, well…
Bill: For people that want to keep bees, Terry, what is the procedure…? You mentioned Terramycin as being a possibility. What are the treatments for that?
Terry: You can dust it but none of the… Any of the chemicals… These diseases, these things become resistant to the chemicals. The bees have mites—tracheal mites, varroa mites—and they get chemicals to kill the mites and so forth but these chemicals get into the comb and pretty soon the chemical residue in the comb builds up and now they’re claiming that their combs can’t be used anymore because of the chemical residue. Well, I don’t use chemicals so it’s not my chemicals that are building up in my combs. But you just watch out for the foulbrood and when you see it you get rid of it.
Bill: And Terry, you’ve always been an advocate for—when we started buying bees from you—you’ve always been an advocate for trying to come up with more natural solutions to problems. I think it’s bizarre that you end up being… You’re at one end of the polar side and then the spraying—the folks that are involved in the spraying—and they’re at the polar opposite side of that. It seems here that those two forces are coming… It’s like a perfect storm. You find yourself right on the battlefield of those two forces.
Terry: That’s right. That’s right.
Bill: You work with eagles, you work with a lot of things and people that know you—you teach beekeeping. It’s not as if this is your first year. You’ve seen inspectors come and go. You could be an inspector and probably would know more than most inspectors.
Terry: I’ve passed the test that we used to have to be an inspector.
Andy: Used to have, yeah.
Terry: But we don’t have that test requirement anymore.
Bill: So when did you first…? You first got this notion in the ‘90s that maybe it was pesticides– or herbicides rather—that were causing the problems with the bees. What has your research been since then to kind of either prove or disprove the theories that you first had when you came back from Canada that year?
Terry: Well, when they killed all the bees that year, every year I’d try to get started. It’s expensive to buy new packages and start over from scratch. I gradually developed a queen that seemed to be resistant to it—to the chemicals. She had survived three summers of spraying. She had survived three winters– like this winter she had made it through the winter using only seven pounds of honey—and that’s what I like in a bee that shuts down—that goes down quick laying eggs when the sun goes across the equinox and they start laying eggs when the sun comes back across the equinox.
Those bees know how to survive the winter. They just close down their metabolic processes and they move slowly because they know they’ve got to live for six months instead of six weeks like they do in the summertime when they’re going, going, going. And so they slow everything down and it is a semi-hibernation type thing. And that’s what really teed me off when she made the comment to the court that my bees were sick and lethargic when she looked at them on October 23rd. She doesn’t even understand honeybees and how they slow down—some species—slow down when it’s coming into winter so they can survive six months.
Bill: Well, so you’ve got this Round-Up ready queen. Is she still alive?
Terry: No, they killed her. That’s one of the hives they destroyed.
Bill: Oh, so all of your… Oh, all of your research and your queen—your Round-Up ready queen! Am I violating a law by saying, “Round-Up ready?”
Terry: Nope, that’s all right.
Bill: Can I say that on the radio? Round-Up ready queen?
Terry: As far as I know.
Bill: Someone will probably… Well, anyway.
Andy: You never know.
Bill: We might take that out.
Terry: Round-Up ready is… That’s what the plants are because they can use Round-Up and the plants survive so a queen that they can use Round-Up and she survives is a Round-Up ready queen.
Bill: I would think that they would almost want you to kind of do that research rather than kill your queen.
Andy: Maybe we should take that out because the next thing you know it will be Round-Up ready queen and that’s the only queen you can have is a Round-Up ready queen.
Bill: Round-Up ready queen. Maybe they’ll be watching when I leave my house. So what now for you then? What happened at the hearing?
Terry: Well, the decision of the hearing officer was against me—that I violated the state laws by having American foulbrood. Well I don’t have American foulbrood. It can be detected in my equipment. I won’t deny that. But my bees don’t have it and they’re mistaking chilled brood for American foulbrood. The decision of the hearing officer never mentioned the word “chilled brood.” My whole argument was that they can’t tell the difference. So she never listened to what I was saying. That was upset about…
Bill: Were you your own attorney in this case?
Terry: Oh, you have to be because there is no attorney that knows anything about bees.
Bill: Good point.
Terry: He doesn’t know what to argue, what the facts are, what goes on in the beehive.
Andy: Now is there any kind of organization for beekeepers? Recently we interviewed a gentleman who is an attorney for the Farm to Consumer—just would defend people in court that were being tried for raw milk distribution or the illegal selling of raw milk. Is there anything like that for beekeepers?
Terry: Not that I know of.
Bill: I think this is a can of worms here. I think this is the first…
Terry: The first one of… Maybe other beekeepers have had their bees taken and destroyed. I know when I spoke at a state beekeepers meeting in Springfield some years ago—they haven’t invited me back—but I complained then about the inspection service and I complained about beekeepers telling me how they came home from work and found a pile of ashes where the beehives had been. And most people will just give up when that happens and they don’t… If that’s going to be it, they aren’t going to waste any money getting started over again.
Andy: Well Terry, I am sorry this happened to you but… The Round-Up—just for instance, a farm that I’m familiar with—they have horses on it and the farmers spray the adjacent fields and the next thing you know all of our horses have colic and we’re calling a vet out at 7:00 at night and we’re paying that vet bill and the farmers that are doing the spraying—30 mile an hour winds—they’re not held accountable for anything.
Terry: That’s right. That’s right.
Andy: I hate to say it’s… It’s not a losing battle. Definitely there’s got to be some kind of end result here but what’s the next step for everybody that’s affected by not only the Round-Up spray, the herbicides but unfortunately you were on the bad end of this inspection team. It obviously doesn’t sound like they’re qualified nor coming out on a Sunday afternoon doesn’t sound like they’re following protocol as well.
Terry: Well, they weren’t trying to help me. That’s for sure.
Andy: Oh yeah. Yeah, it definitely sounds like somebody had it out for you, Terry.
Terry: It’s a witch-hunt, you know?
Andy: Yeah. No, that’s a good way to put it.
Bill: Terry, did you publish anything about Round-Up or your suspicions? Was that just what you had in your head or was there any attempt to take that public?
Terry: I’ve been trying to do it. I publish a small beekeepers journal. I’ve been doing that for 21 years now and any of the subscribers to that over the years know that I’ve been saying for years that an untrained and unknowledgeable inspector would confuse the two– the chilled brood and foulbrood. They’d call them the same. And so they would come in and accuse me of having foulbrood. And that can be followed through my magazine. I did a paper on Round-Up and its problems and nobody publishes it. The only one I know of—Nature News—but they put it online, not on paper.
Andy: Well, we’ll do our best here to promote your story and if you have a website or anything be sure to give it to us.
Terry: No, I don’t have a website for the beekeeping. No, I’ve got enough problems with eagles and I’ve got our website with eagles that we worry about. Beekeeping is a private thing. It’s just something my wife and I do. You know?
Bill: Yeah, the website is www.eaglenature.com  and that’s one of the other things that Terry does. We’ll talk about that more in a second but I just want to kind of finish up the bee side of it. So what’s the status now? Where do you go from here? What happened at the hearing? You were… They…
Terry: I’ve got 30 days to file… I guess I’m going to ask the hearing officer to reconsider.
Bill: And where is this hearing at?
Bill: Springfield, okay. Is it at…?
Terry: It at Department of Ag.
Bill: Oh, Department of Agriculture. And is it like in an administrative building? An administrative hearing?
Terry: Yep, that’s what it was.
Bill: Okay, so you’re not in some big courtroom. You’re in an office building.
Terry: It was a small room with a table, hearing officer at the end of the table, the inspector around the other side and my wife and I on our side and Steve Chard, the chief inspector, was on the other side of the table.
Bill: So basically you’re just doing this all by yourself. You’re fighting this battle. And what’s the potential penalty? What’s the outcome of this?
Terry: What they want is they want me to pay the $500 fine for having American foulbrood. A person can have American foulbrood. If they abate it there is no problem. In court, she testified that she could read the numbers of the hives through the white paint. Well, I can’t read the numbers so I… Some of the hives were clean. Some of them had been detected as having foulbrood. When they send these… She cuts out samples—a two by two inch sample—to send to Maryland to a lab. There they grind it up and check it in a microscope and if they detect spores of American foulbrood then they call it American foulbrood. Well, you can probably find that in some frames. I don’t know.
But which frames they were that were detected as having foulbrood and which ones are clean, I couldn’t tell because I couldn’t tell which hive numbers and by the time I knew about it, some of those hives had been changed. Some of them had been moved into the honey house, put away for the winter. Others were sitting out there and supers had been moved around from one hive to another. So it was… I wasn’t able to satisfy the requirements that they have of destroying both hives. How do I know which hives to destroy? I’m not going to destroy them all because I had my queens here that had survived Round-Up.
Bill: What percentage, would you say, that among apiaries in America… Could an inspector in any given state basically fine foulbrood if he wanted to, to punish somebody?
Terry: Anybody who has got many hives, they could find it.
Bill: In almost every apiary—almost every yard.
Terry: That’s right. That’s right. If they do it by cutting out a piece of comb—and she took out more than a two by two inch piece and sometimes she took out a six by eight inch piece—that ruins the comb on that frame. You have to throw the whole comb away because if you take a six by eight inch piece out of a comb that’s eight by 16, you’re taking almost a third of the comb, right in the very center.
Bill: And Terry, they’re saying basically that they’re doing this in the name of contagion. They’re saying that basically this disease will spread from one—as Andy had mentioned it poses no threat to humans unless they’re a bee—so they’re saying, ‘We’re doing this to protect bees.” Is that their position?
Terry: That’s their position and they’re saying that I’ve harmed beekeepers for the last 15 years by having American foulbrood up here.
Bill: So you’re bad for the state of Illinois and probably some of southern Wisconsin too, Terry.
Terry: Well, see in Wisconsin the inspectors don’t come out unless they’re requested and some of the states have actually banned the inspection service because of the way that they’re being run.
Bill: Oh, wait a second. So you’re saying there are states that…
Terry: Don’t have any inspection service.
Bill: If it’s such an important thing, why would this not be something that every state would do?
Terry: Because of the way that they were being handled like Illinois is right now. The inspectors didn’t know what they were doing.
Bill: So there is probably precedence in other states similar to yours until it got to the point where it just looked like mischief so much that the legislators in those respective states said, “Hey, this is enough of this.”
Terry: That’s right. That’s right.
Bill: And wiped that out.
Terry: That’s right. In Illinois I am the first one, as far as I know, to stand up and object to what’s happening. Most of the beekeepers that have it happen to just walked away from the business. And I had some beekeepers that have gone through my class call me up and say that when they told the inspector they were keeping bees without chemicals, she just went livid, “You can’t do that. You can’t survive. You’ve got to use chemicals on your bees.” Oh, you don’t have to.
Bill: Sure, sure. This is quite a story and I think it’s typical. You’ve been kind of independent minded your whole life, Terry.
Bill: So you’re not somebody… And the reason this comes to a head is when there is somebody that says, in the line of the old Tom Petty song about backing down, “I ain’t gonna back down”—so you’re going to fight them, how do you see the outcome of this? Do you see yourself winning? If you lose they’ll just get a judgment against you for $500, right?
Terry: That’s right. That’s right.
Bill: And then you’ll have to pay…
Terry: If they win then they will be free to move on and do this over and over and over again for other people.
Bill: So you have precedent law being set?
Terry: That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to stop this whole thing from ever occurring again.
Bill: Are you sure you don’t want—and don’t get mad at me for saying this—are you sure you don’t want to get an attorney?
Terry: Well, at some point.
Bill: That could at least help you in this case.
Terry: It costs money and I don’t have the money. My money has gone into the Eagle Nature Foundation so I don’t have anything left that I can use for an attorney.
Bill: Yeah, which is the advantage that they have. They have your money, Terry.
Terry: Oh, I know.
Bill: You pay taxes in Illinois and they’re going to use your tax money as a club to bludgeon you with.
Terry: That’s right. That’s right.
Bill: Yeah, that’s a common thing.
Terry: What I need is… I’m looking for an attorney that would be willing to take on the Department of Ag for a percentage—contingency or whatever.
Bill: Okay, if anybody… How would they contact you if an attorney that might fit that qualification is listening, how would he contact you?
Terry: Telephone number is 815-594-2592.
Bill: Okay, we’ll put that word out and the best of luck to you on that. Obviously, I was going to call you anyway because I’m looking for some bees this year myself and it’s too bad you didn’t have Round-Up ready bees for me because the neighbors on our property spray too. We’ll pray for you on that deal, Terry, but let’s talk a little bit. Before we pack it up, let’s talk a little bit about your work with eagles. I think that’s a pretty cool thing. There are a lot of eagles. We’re in Thompson Illinois. There are eagles all over here. You’ve been sort of champion for that for a long time. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that?
Terry: I’m head of the Eagle Nature Foundation and we’re basically the only organization in the nation that continuously works for the eagle wherever it’s being threatened. We’re involved in fights throughout the state, within Minnesota and Wisconsin and in Ohio and Florida. I’m getting emails constantly from people across the nation that eagle habitat is being destroyed, being threatened or whatever. Last fall I was called up to Minnesota because of a proposed wind farm was coming in up there and they asked me if I could come up and look at the eagle nests that are within the footprint. Well, the footprint… Wind farms are out in the country. Wind farms aren’t sitting by the river. I went up and took pictures of six eagle nests within the footprint—six bald eagle nests within the footprint of the wind farm.
The problem with a wind farm is the fact these blades—the tip of the blades—moving at about 200 miles an hour and so an eagle would be unsuspecting. Any bird… It’s moving faster than they can comprehend and so they would be subject, if they’re flying at that altitude—and eagles definitely fly in that altitude—so I went up there. They had a hearing this year but they used the fact that I had been there documenting the bald eagles and the studies that had been done for the wind farm did not show… The only thing it showed was one potential eagle that might be there but they couldn’t document it. Well, I documented it.
Bill: Sure, sure, and I think you get the wind farms… We’re interested in alternative energy as well but I think you get these wind farms as a result of government policy. In other words, the…
Terry: Oh, the Department is supporting them.
Bill: Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. You wouldn’t get this threat to the eagle if it weren’t for the subsidies of the wind farms.
Terry: That’s right. The government is subsidizing all the wind farms pretty heavily and that’s why the big money is coming in and putting in the wind farms because they’re being subsidized. I would be all for wind farms if you do it on your own. A developer puts a wind farm up, he’s responsible for the cost and everything but when he’s doing it to get our tax dollar that really bugs me.
Bill: Yeah, sure.
Terry: I feel there is a place for wind farms but let’s look at the location. And laying strip mines—there is a place for strip mines but let’s look at the location. You don’t have a strip mine in the bottomland that’s going to be flooded in an area that’s a wintering area for bald eagles where they’re nesting and roosting and feeding. These are not the proper locations for strip mines.
Bill: And Terry, what is the status? We see there are an awful lot of eagles. We’re down here near Lock and Dam #13. Of course in the wintertime we go down there and hang out and watch the eagles because that becomes a place where they come and fish—one of the only open water spots.
Terry: How many young ones did that nest raise this year?
Bill: Well, I think that that… I think Sierra would… at least the one that was on the camera… Didn’t we lose both chicks from that one?
Terry: That’s right. That’s right. On our website, EagleNature.com , we’ve got 10 or 12 webcams from across the nation, from Maine to California, West Virginia, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois—all across the nation we get some and it’s a sampling of the population. At least two of the nests so far this year, young ones have died in the first week after hatching. A couple of the nests, the birds never even came back to the nest or came back and never laid any eggs.
There is something happening out there and I believe it’s tied up with the– maybe Round-Up—with the chemicals that we are losing in the environment. I feel that the fish, the feed that the birds are feeding on, is not healthy and the young eagles are not being raised—dying for some reason. Our midwinter eagle count—I’ve been participating in it for over 50 years and I coordinate it now—but this eagle count, it’s a one-day count from northern Minnesota down to Tennessee. I have hundreds of volunteers that are going out and that one-day, in basically a two hour period, counting the birds from northern Minnesota down to Tennessee and we’re finding few immatures.
Fish and Wildlife Service keeps telling us every year is a record number of young. Well, if we have every year as a record number of young, it takes four years before the birds become adults. If the last four years we’ve had a record number of young, we should have a record number of young in the population and we’re not seeing that. Something is happening to the immatures before they become adults. The population has improved from what it used to be. I know—I was studying the eagle back in the early ‘60s when it was at a slow point. But in ’64 I sat on the bluff in the Mississippi River—or was it ’65? —on one day in February and we watched over 450 eagles fly by in that one day. There have been very few days since then that’s been possible. But that’s when the bird was “at its low point.”
Bill: Well Terry, it seems like during that period of time I was in school. In ’65 I was pretty young but we were trained in school that DDT was causing a thickness of the eggs—that the eggs were becoming too thin and it was causing problems with… And so that was the… The government was actually kind of working against DDT at that time. That might be an interesting study to see who owned the rights to DDT and if there were patent issues and so forth and then what did we use when we stopped using DDT? Who owned the patent rights to those chemicals? —and how that all happened. Because a lot of times what these big companies will do is they’ll hire a lot of lobbyists. They’ll hire protesters. They’ll hire social agents to change things so that their new chemical becomes the preeminent, widely used chemical.
Terry: Yep. Well see, when Rachel Carson came out with her book, Silent Spring, the Fish and Wildlife Service was one of the most adamant against her. Now they all brag about her but at that time they were running her down and saying that she did not have qualifications to make these statements. If you read her book, the first chapter is a hypothetical situation when the birds don’t come back and we’re getting that all the time as more birds—no matter what kind—are not coming back. There are other chemicals out there besides DDT and I think they’re working into the environment. I think they’re getting into our systems and I think our young eagles, our young birds of any kind are not being raised properly. How many robin nests have four young ones anymore? Used to be that was a common thing that the pair of robins could raise four. Now if they’re lucky, they raise one.
Bill: Yeah, I was going to say I usually see a couple eggs in a robin nest—two maybe. I don’t think I’ve ever seen four eggs in a robin nest, probably in the last 15-20 years.
Terry: There is something happening to our environment and I think it’s all tied up to the chemical industry.
Bill: Yeah. Well, any final words, Terry, as we kind of wind this down, as we both get on our ways? Do you have anything else that you’d like to…?
Terry: I will continue to fight for the beekeepers and for the bees.
Bill: Keep it up and we’d love to have you back, maybe down the line and if you could hold on, we’re going to close the show here with a little music. If you could hold on, I just want to chat with you just a second because I actually need to pick up some bees and I want to talk to you about that. Okay, thank you very much, everybody, for listening. We know your time is valuable. Ours certainly is and we really appreciate the fact that you’ve spent some of it with us here today. We look forward to talking to you again.