Honeybees Getty Images

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Beekeepers need farmers to help feed their bees

One of the best-kept secrets about the pollinator health issue is that beekeepers need farmers as much or more so than growers need bees.

That’s particularly true in the Mid-South where crops like cotton are self-pollinating and don’t require the assistance of honey bees (vs. almonds which do). But drive very far anywhere in the region and you’ll see stacks of beehives along field borders or near wooded areas on farms.

In most cases, the hives represent a concession on the part of a landowner allowing beekeepers to feed their bees on the “forages” in their fields and woodlots. Most beekeepers can’t provide enough blooming plants for large populations of bees unless they own a farm.

David Glover is a Bartlett, Tenn., resident who calls himself the “Bee Whisperer” because he frequently removes hives from homes and commercial buildings where they could cause problems. Glover doesn’t keep hives in his yard because his neighbor’s child is allergic to bee stings. He boards them on farms in Fayette and McNairy Counties in west Tennessee.

I find this interesting because environmental activists often make it sound as if commercial agriculture is the enemy of bees. They contend pesticides, particularly neonicotinoid seed treatments, are causing declines in bee populations when, in fact, chemicals help produce healthy crops needed to support bee populations.

The need for more and more robust bee habitat was one of the factors cited in a White House Blog that was published with the release of the Obama administration’s Pollinator Task Force’s National Strategy to Promote Pollinator Health https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/Pollinator%20Health%20Strategy%202015.pdf on May 19.

“Increasing the quantity and quality of habitat for pollinators is a major part of this effort – with actions ranging from the construction of pollinator gardens at federal buildings to the restoration of millions of acres of federally managed lands and similar actions on private lands,” the strategy reads.

It says the Pollinator Health Task Force will work toward developing a Partnership Action Plan that guides coordination with the many state, local, industry and citizen groups with interests in and capacities to help tackle the challenge facing pollinators. Congress will also be asked for additional resources for more research on pollinator losses.

Researchers at Mid-South land-grant universities are already working in that area, trying to determine if there is a correlation between pesticides and bee declines. So far, research shows very low levels of pesticides at the time bees would be extracting cotton or corn pollen.

Those findings are in direct contrast to activists’ claims that neonics are responsible for declines. Perhaps someone should share this little secret about bee dependence on crops for forage with those activist “experts.”


TAGS: Beef Bees
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