Johnny Morgan, Pope, Kimberly, Brown, Sebe
BATON ROUGE, La. – Agricultural producers, beekeepers and pesticide applicators are working together in an effort to minimize the damage chemicals may have on honeybee populations in Louisiana.
LSU AgCenter entomologist Sebe Brown said the Louisiana Pollinator Cooperative Conservation Program was created as a way to prevent beekeepers and pollinators from exposure to pesticides from agricultural operations.
“The problem or situation began as a result of a lot of interest generated by EPA and other environmental groups as a result of colony collapse disorder,” Brown said. “This is an umbrella term describing the total mortality of a beehive.”
The EPA has added new label guidelines for insecticides concerning honeybees, but this is not to say insecticides are causing the colony collapse disorder, Brown said.
“What we are doing is being proactive with all of the interested parties and bringing them together to begin dialogue in case we find a problem,” he said.
Brown said no one knows the cause, but colony collapse is believed to be caused by the use of insecticides.
“Essentially, what we’re doing is representing both beekeepers and farmers at the same table,” Brown said. “Since they often have their operations in the same vicinity, we felt a need to have both groups sit down together.”
Insecticides tend to get a black eye when it comes to colony collapse disorder, while nobody really knows the cause, Brown said.
Mississippi has been developing a location identification program that uses a yellow and black flag to indicate where hives are located.
“Their use of the ‘bee aware’ flag is something that we want to pattern after because it creates a unified recognition system that is highly visible to pesticide applicators and farmers,” Brown said.
LSU AgCenter pesticide safety education coordinator Kim Pope said part of her duties is outreach to help increase cooperation and communication among producers, pesticide applicators and beekeepers.
“Communication, communication, communication,” Pope said. “Producers and beekeepers need to create a dialog with each other to know where hives are located so that when pesticide applications are made, we can minimize risk to the hives.”
According to the 2013 Louisiana Summary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, in 2013 an estimated 325 beekeepers produced 1.8 million pounds of honey. That’s up from 322 beekeepers who produced 1.5 million pounds in 2012. The number of hives during that period also increased from 21,443 to 22,628.
Pollination services provided by honeybees are important for producers of vegetables, fruit, nuts, flowers, grasses and other plants that feed wildlife, livestock and people.
The total value of honey production for 2013 was $4.3 million, up from $3.7 million in 2012.