CHICAGO — Pollinators are important due to their interaction
Pollination occurs in several ways, including with wind,
water and self pollination.
“It also happens through animal assist and not just honey
bees,” said Laurie Adams, executive director of the Pollinator Partnership. “It
occurs through a variety of animal pollinators.”
“Seventy percent of all flowering plants rely on animals for
their pollination, and the value of this is $217 billion,” said Adams at the
American Seed Trade Association’s CSS 2013 and Seed Expo. “One out of every
three bites of food comes to you from a pollinator.”
Pollinator Partnership is the largest organization in the
world that deals exclusively with pollinator issues, Adams said.
“We do policy, education, research, restoration and
conservation,” she explained. “We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and we
work collaboratively for pollinators.”
Globally, Adams reported, there is a decline in pollinators.
“There are a variety of reasons — it’s not just pesticides,”
“Particularly, it’s a loss of habitat — we’re losing land in
production agriculture, and we’re losing land in habitat, as well,” she said.
“They’re also suffering from a great deal of disease, parasite invasive species
and climate change is difficult for pollinators.”
Pesticides will kill pollinators given the right dose or
situation. And, Adams said, pesticides also will not kill pollinators given the
proper use and right situation.
The Colony Collapse Disorder has caused bee die-offs.
“This has been identified by the U.S. Department of
Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency in their reports as
something that is a multi-factorial problem,” Adams said.
“Pesticides are particularly difficult to deal with because
there are so many points of impact with pollinators,” she noted. “There are a
variety of ways that pesticides provide residues and there are different forms
of applications and different applicators.”
Policy regarding pesticides and pollinators is somewhat
driven by science, Adams said.
“But we know science can be ambiguous and sometimes not as
precise and clear director as we would like it to be,” she added.
“Policy is also driven by emotion and economics,” she said.
“All these are factors you have to consider as you as you look at the pollinator
landscape currently in the U.S. and across the globe.”
To reduce the impact on pollinators, Pollinator Partnership
works with groups including regulatory agencies, manufacturers, certified
applicators, farmers, homeowners and consumers.
“We have produced 33 guides that give recipes in all 48
lower states and Hawaii on how you can help pollinators,” Adams said.
“Our mission is to support the health of pollinators through
constructive management with everyone,” she said. “We don’t expect our partners
to agree with one another. We expect them to agree with what we’re trying to
The view of pesticides by the Pollinator Partnership is to
avoid pest problems in the first place.
“Then you need to meet the pest threshold, diagnosis the
problem accurately, use IPM and only when these measures fail, carefully select
a pesticide and application method,” Adams said. “That’s a different message
than let’s get rid of pesticides.”
However, she said, that worked well before the use of
prophylactic systemic pesticides.
“That solved some problems and potentially created others
because the decision is made to use the pesticide before there is evidence of
the problem,” she said. “Ninety percent of U.S. agriculture is in this system,
so it’s a new world, and we’re looking at how we can deal with that new
“We’ve found 134 different chemicals in bee colonies and 4.3
chemicals per bee,” she reported.
Although corn does not need animal pollinators to reproduce,
Adams said, honey bees are attracted to corn pollen and they take it back to the
The North American Pollinator Protection Campaign has
provided 35 grants over the last five years focusing on bee health and a variety
of problems, including genetics, nutrition, best practices, pathogens, parasites
The current issue involves the corn planting period.
One of these grants went to Christian Krupke, associate
professor at Purdue University.
“He found the dust that was created by the lubricant inside
the hopper of the planter was quite volatile,” Adams said. “That lubricant is
used to insure uniform planting.”
“I compliment Bayer CropScience. They stepped forward and
said let’s do something about this and, thus, the Corn Dust Research Consortium
was born,” she said.
The consortium now includes a variety of stakeholders
including the seed treatment industry, pesticide industry, farmers, equipment
manufacturers and beekeepers.
In February 2013, a research project was awarded to three
institutions — Iowa State University, The Ohio State University and the
University of Guelph and the Grain Farmers of Ontario.
This research is focused on two questions: What are the
foraging conditions around cornfields at planting time? And how does the new
alternatives to current lubricants compare?
“Hopefully, by January, we’ll have some kind of report to
help during corn planting, but this is only the first year,” Adams said. “We’ve
received research funding for the second year from some of our partners.”
This issue is going to have to be addressed by everyone, she
“There is no one thing we can do to solve this problem,” she
“We’re working in a way that is rare,” she added. “I’m eager
to report the results.”
For more information about the Pollinator Partnership visit,