Update on Honey Bee Health Progress

By Jerry Hayes

Monsanto's Bee Health Lead

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In 2013 the Honey Bee Advisory Council and Project Apis m. held the first Honey Bee Health Summit in St. Louis. At this meeting Monsanto pledged, with all of the summit participants, to improve honey bee health and joined the newly-formed Honey Bee Health Coalition.

The Coalition is a first-of-its kind to support the beekeeping industry in a collaborative partnering model comprised of more than 30 diverse organizations and agencies to bring together beekeepers, farmers, researchers, government agencies, agribusinesses, conservation groups, manufacturers, and consumer brands together to explore honey bee health solutions by working together for a common sustainable goal. The Honey Bee Health Coalition focuses on honey bee health through active Working Groups focused on these four key areas:

  • Forage and nutrition: promote improved nutrition for honey bees and other pollinators by developing bee-friendly, high-quality, spatially- and temporally-relevant landscapes as well as supplemental honey bee nutrition.
  • Hive management: put the best available tools, techniques, and technologies in the hands of beekeepers so they can best manage their hives.
  • Crop pest management: Work to develop crop- and product-specific integrated pest management (IPM) practices and messaging to improve bee and pollinator safety; promote communication and understanding among stakeholders to raise awareness of crop pest management issues for bee health; disseminate existing information; create a network to address emerging issues in a collaborative environment; and support region and crop-specific best management practices (BMPs).
  • Outreach, education and communications: create tools, resources, and hands-on experiences that accelerate understanding and the adoption of proven practices and new innovations that directly improve honey bee health.

In a very short time, the Honey Bee Health Coalition has made significant strides in providing tools that beekeepers, farmers and the general public can use to connect to and improve honey bee health in a variety of ways, including releasing a variety of helpful guides:

  • The Tools for Varroa Management Guide” explains the most effective practical methods based on current knowledge that beekeepers can use to measure and address Varroa mite infestations in their hives. The Varroa mite is a parasite that was accidentally introduced from Asia and is the No. 1 recognized health threat to honey bees.
  • “The Grower’s and Beekeeper’s Role in Ensuring Honey Bee Health on Working Agricultural Lands Guide” is a proactive, essential communication among growers, applicators, and beekeepers, which can help protect honey bees from unintended pesticide exposure. Beekeeper and landowner cooperation based on mutual interests is important to mitigate risks of pesticide exposure to pollinators.
  • The “Incident Reporting Guide” implements Coalition efforts to promote and improve beekeeper incident reporting regarding crop pest management-related bee health incidents.
  • The “Focus on Forage Series” highlights how the Honey Bee Health Coalition, its members, and other partners are working on the ground and leading innovative efforts to create honey bee and pollinator forage. Bee forage creates multiple benefits for pollinators, crop production, biodiversity, soil health, water quality, and other agricultural interests.

The Coalition also continues to support public-private partnerships, such as the Wright-Bee Flyers, which allowed Ohio beekepeers to install hives at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio.

In an effort to encourage collaboration, the 2016 Commodity Classic hosted a screening of the Bee Understanding Project film, which features a corn grower in North Dakota and a commercial beekeeper from Texas who “swap jobs” to get a better understanding of the challenges facing each other’s business and how they can help each other.

Monsanto has not been hesitant to jump in and become part of the Honey Bee Health Coalition, and like all the other members, get out of our comfort zone to participate in working toward a common goal to help honey bee health, which in turn can help sustain our food supply and strengthen the environment. Please join us.

For ways you can help improve the health of honey bees, visit honeybeehealthcoalition.org.

More stories about bees:
Almond bloom brings the bees
Supporting honey bee health and the monarchs
Why do farmers need beekeepers?
Learn more about bees, monarchs and other pollinators

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