Missouri Program To Protect Bees

missouri program to protect beesMissouri Pollinator Conservancy’s Future Goals

  • Protect bees from pesticide drift problems.
  • Promote dialogue among all industry groups.
  • Specifically protect 400 species of bees in Missouri.
  • Prove that the state can solve the problem by itself.
  • Preserve bees’ contribution to value of crops.

A new program developed by University of Missouri (MU) research entomologist, Moneen Jones, offers beekeepers an opportunity to protect hives from pesticide drift. The Missouri Pollinator Conservancy Program (MPCP) (mopollinatorconservancy.com) gives spatial and visual tools to alert pesticide applicators to nearby beehives.

Missouri has more than 400 species of bees, and they are responsible for pollinating cucumbers, pumpkins, fruit trees, berries, tomatoes, soybeans and corn. One estimate suggests that bees increase the annual value of U.S. crop production by $15 billion. Bees are necessary.

Honeybee colonies have decreased from five million in the 1940s to 2.5 million today, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Bee numbers began going down in the 1980s when new pathogens, parasites, pests and nutrition problems combined. USDA estimates that 33 percent of the country’s hives were lost each year during the winters of 2006 to 2011.

In light of recent declines of honeybee populations worldwide, representatives of Missouri’s agricultural producers and beekeepers have developed a set of standard practices that will encourage cooperation and communication among producers, pesticide applicators and beekeepers.

Honeybees are vital to agriculture. Bees pollinate fruits, nuts, vegetables and crops, and provide honey, according to Jones.

The MPCP is a collaborative effort between the University of Missouri, Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) and non-profit organization, FieldWatch, Inc. The latter operates DriftWatch Specialty Crop Site Registry, an online mapping tool created by researchers at Purdue University’s Agriculture and Biological Engineering Department to facilitate communication among specialty crop producers and applicators.

Anastasia Becker, IPM program manager for the MDA, is responsible for managing hive registration, and FieldWatch, Inc. hosts the DriftWatch infrastructure. Jones is responsible for bridging the communication among all benefactors of the project. The program’s partners hope to open communication among farmers, consultants, pesticide applicators and beekeepers to protect more than 400 species of bees in Missouri.

We want to help reduce economic losses for farmers and beekeepers…” – Dr. Moneen Jones

Registry For Apiary Locations
Missouri beekeepers are not required to register the location of apiaries (places where bees are stored) with the state, but using DriftWatch is a good way to let applicators know the locations of beehives and how to contact hive owners. In addition, a placard listing the hive owner’s name and emergency contact information should be placed in a highly visible and prominent location in the apiary. Jones encourages beekeepers to register their hives (https://fieldwatch.com/).

Participation is voluntary, and beekeepers can limit what information (i.e. map coordinates of beehives) is available through public viewing. Beehive locations are kept confidential by a license agreement between pesticide applicators and use of DriftWatch. Beekeepers don’t need to worry about their personal information being sold or distributed without consent.

BeeCheck Flags
Following beehive registration at DriftWatch, beekeepers are encouraged to purchase large, visible yellow-and-black BeeCheck flags through links on the website that will alert applicators to nearby hives. Fiberglass poles will be available at a discount cost from MU Extension. These flags will serve as a visible reminder to farmers and pesticide applicators that honeybees and other pollinators are present in the area. The benefits of the program (i.e. reduced accidental bee kills) will outweigh any initial costs.

“We want to help reduce economic losses for farmers and beekeepers by managing row-crop pests and lessening the effect of pesticides on honeybee colonies,” Jones says. “We would also like to reduce the likelihood of government mandated registration.”

Partners in the program are Missouri Agricultural Aviation Association, Missouri Department of Agriculture, Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri State Beekeepers Association, Fisher Delta Research Center and MU Extension.

For more information, contact Jones at (573) 379-5431 or jonesmon@missouri.edu or Anastasia Becker at the Missouri Department of Agriculture at (573) 526-0837 or anastasia.becker@mda.mo.gov.

The University of Missouri contributed to this article.

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