INDIANAPOLIS — Honeybees and agriculture can coexist,
explained an experienced beekeeper, entomologist and manager of the Bayer Bee
Or rather, he stressed, they must.
“I’ve been a beekeeper a long time — crop protection and
apiculture overlap,” said Richard Rogers at the Corn Belt Seed Conference.
“Healthy honeybees are better pollinators, and efficient and effective
pollination means more effective fertilization.”
He said it is very clear there is a honeybee health problem
emerging from a variety of factors. He mentioned Colony Collapse Disorder, the
name given to the sudden reduction in bees leading to the collapse of their
Rogers said growers, scientists, seed companies and people
involved in agriculture must look for multiple causes of CCD.
“In 2006, we began observing a specific set of symptoms that
became known as CCD,” he said. “Colonies do collapse, and CCD is credited for
many bee deaths, but CCD does not cause all the bee deaths.”
While honeybees themselves are not at risk of becoming
extinct, commercial beekeepers are, Rogers warned.
Beekeepers, like other farmers, are pushing to survive in a
tough economy that limits them from expanding their operation, he added.
Varroa mites and tracheal mites continue to plague
commercial beehives and contribute to bee deaths, and entomologists are planning
and monitoring for the incidence of the Tropilaelaps mite in bee populations, as
well, Rogers said.
Last April, entomologists at Purdue University revealed the
results of studies showing that the neonicotinoid insecticides used in popular
seed coatings were present in the dead bodies of bees and that seed treatments
that remain in the soil from one planting season to the next may be causing bee
With planting season just around the corner, beekeepers and
commercial crop growers likely are wondering what this year will bring in terms
of planting conditions and crop protection products and strategies from
Rogers said an integrated bee management plan is needed,
similar to an integrated pest management plan. This option would include
monitoring, management and control. “Beekeepers are at the mercy of the
landowners, so one good thing growers can do is provide forage, access and
security for honeybees to survive,” Rogers said.
Following the launch of its Bayer Bee Care Program last
February, Bayer CropScience has established Bayer Bee Care Centers — one in
Germany and another in North Carolina, the second of which will open this year,
Scientists at the bee care centers will study management
techniques for breaking the life cycle of the Varroa mite, Rogers said.
The Bayer Bee Care Center in Monheim, Germany, will have a
full-time team of specialists, including two experienced beekeepers.
Additional activities will be rolled out by the Bayer Bee
Care Program, which includes educational projects and bee health promotion
schemes, including the planting of flowers and natural habitat essential for
bees to thrive.
Rogers said integrated bee management will take good
education, for one.
“There is no point in putting bees where nothing is
growing,” he said. “Integration will take a while.”
“This will be a difficult year for beekeepers to recover
from bee losses,” he added.
“I’ve seen bee kills from pesticides. We prefer that growers
use seed treatments rather than foliar sprays since foliar sprays present a much
higher level of chemical drift.”
The bee management strategy will include taking a hard look
at the Varroa mite as an efficient vector of viruses and a harmful pest in the
beekeeping industry, Rogers noted.
Beekeepers, like grain and specialty crop producers, also
are aging, and a younger generation of beekeepers is needed to bring new
perspectives to the industry, he said.
He also recommended that growers provide good forage and
habitat for bees, citing the Xerces Society as a source of information for
bee-friendly plants and seed mixes.