Olivia McClure, Brown, Sebe
News Release Distributed 06/10/15
BATON ROUGE, La. – A Louisiana group has developed a plan to protect honeybees in the state by fostering cooperation among farmers, agricultural chemical applicators and beekeepers.
The Louisiana Pollinator Cooperative Conservation Program has been working for the past year to raise awareness of ways the agriculture community can keep bees safe from harmful effects of farm chemicals, said LSU AgCenter entomologist Sebe Brown. The use of pesticides, particularly neonicotinoids that are applied to row crops, has been scrutinized by those concerned about a decline in bee populations that began about a decade ago.
“What we’re doing is bringing stakeholders together, giving them all a seat at the table to increase communication and making common-sense recommendations,” Brown said.
The group includes representatives from the LSU AgCenter, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Louisiana Beekeepers Association and several agriculture organizations.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, some beekeepers have reported losses of 30 to 90 percent of their hives since 2006. The umbrella term of colony collapse disorder was soon coined, Brown said, but it has been difficult to pinpoint specific explanations.
Colony collapse disorder refers to a multitude of factors, including pesticide exposure as well as mites, beetles and illnesses that harm bees, that have contributed to declining honeybee populations.
Neonicotinoids, which are insecticides that affect insects’ nervous systems, have been blamed for hive losses, but data show they are not the sole cause, Brown said.
“They are an insecticide, but because of the delivery system into plants with those treatments, bees don’t pick it up through the pollen or nectar of agricultural plants,” Brown said.
However, bees can die if they are foraging in a field while a neonicotinoid is sprayed over the top.
Many beekeepers place their colonies on or near farms, Brown said, so communication with farmers is critical. Farmers who need to spray their fields, for example, should alert beekeepers so they can move their hives. It is also important for applicators to carefully follow pesticide label instructions.
Other recommendations made by the Louisiana pollinator group include establishing GPS coordinates for hives, applying pesticides late in the afternoon after bees have quit foraging and marking hive locations with high-visibility “bee aware” flags.
“Bees are extremely important for pollinating all of our fruits, vegetables and nuts that every person on the planet enjoys,” Brown said. “Agricultural crops don’t depend on pollinators, but bees are extremely efficient at pollinating horticultural crops. They’re fundamentally important.”