Pollinator Week Highlights the Importance of Honey Bee Health to Farmers
June 20-27, 2016 is Pollinator Week. The Honey Bee Health Coalition hopes to draw attention to the importance of honey bees to many agricultural crops and the increased stresses that have been reducing populations in overwintering bees over the last decade. The National Corn Growers Association is one of nearly 40 organizations involved in the Honey Bee Health Coalition trying to achieve a healthy population of honey bees and other pollinators.
“Corn does not require pollination by honey bees, but NCGA recognizes the integral role they play in a productive agriculture system. We are committed to improving the health and viability of pollinators as part of our overall sustainability efforts,” said Chip Bowling, NCGA president and Newburg, Maryland farmer. “We are also engaged to assure steps being taken to help pollinators are well researched and based on science.”
The activist community has been spearheading efforts to blame neonicotinoid seed treatments as a primary factor in bee colony collapse despite a lack of credible evidence documenting the connection. The Honey Bee Health Coalition is approaching the problem in a more holistic manner looking at a broad range of stresses potentially responsible for bee deaths.
“What we know so far is that there are a handful of issues that can cause problems for bees. Severe weather, pests and disease, lack of forage and nutrition, lack of genetic diversity and incidental pesticide exposure may all be causing problems,” said Carson Klosterman, a farmer from Wyndmere, North Dakota and member of NCGA’s Production and Stewardship Action Team.
Klosterman says neonicotinoid seed treatments are actually a good way to limit incidental pesticide exposure because of how and when they are used. For instance, farmers are switching to a pinpoint treatment of insecticide on seed at planting time, rather than a broad spectrum treatment later in the growing season when bees are more active.
The neonicotinoids had three other distinct advantages:
- They are much safer for humans to use.
- They are absorbed by plants and translocated via the vascular system, giving effective control of sap sucking and boring insects which other sprayed insecticides might not contact.
- They can be applied as seed treatments, so the accurate placement allows less insecticide to be used which is better for the environment.
Klosterman urge farmers to be proactive by being more aware of bees and getting to know local beekeepers. Proactive communication between growers, applicators and beekeepers is essential to protect honey bees from unintended pesticide exposure. Beekeeper and landowner cooperation based on mutual interests is important to mitigate risks of pesticide exposure to pollinators and to assure continued access to important tools used by farmers.
The Honey Bee Coalition aims to provide the best available tools and resources for improving honey bee health and they are coordinating distribution to a variety of audiences free of charge. You can learn more on the web site http://honeybeehealthcoalition.org/ or at www.ncga.com.
Click here to learn about the Grower’s and Beekeeper’s roles.