The story about hybrid tobacco and honeybees caught my interest. Nicotine is a potent insecticide, tolerated only by insects which avoid it or have enzymes to detoxify it.
Synthetic nicotine-like compounds (nicotinoids) are one of the prime suspects as a cause of honey- bee colony collapse disorder, which continues to cost the beekeeping and pollination industry millions of dollars.
When they forage, the nectar, pollen and propolis that honeybees gather is known to contain traces of proteins, alkaloids, essential oils and many other chemicals produced by the plants they forage on. That is why eating local honey that has not been heated and strongly filtered is sometimes prescribed by physicians as a remedy for allergies; it works.
It is difficult to understand why anyone would fund research designed to promote any species of tobacco as a honeybee forage plant. Why should we deliberately seek to introduce another risk factor that could cause honey bee mortality? And also, why promote the production of honey that certainly would contain traces of nicotine?
Never miss a local story.
Perhaps we're trying a bit too hard to find new uses for a phase of agriculture whose day has come and gone. Perhaps resources could be reallocated to actually useful projects. If we really are interested in honeybee health, we should minimize pesticide use and plant more useful nectar-producing native plants (tulip trees, basswoods and goldenrods, for example).
Finally, a good beekeeper does not feed sugar or high fructose corn syrup when "things dry up." The best beekeepers make sure that they leave more than ample honey on each colony at all times, taking only the true surplus as a crop. That way, supplementary feeding is rarely necessary.