INDIANAPOLIS — Honeybees and agriculture can coexist, explained an experienced beekeeper, entomologist and manager of the Bayer Bee Care Center.

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 colony.

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 kills.

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 Bayer.

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, he said.

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.