Bayer launches bee health education tour

By Sarah Gonzalez

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

ORLANDO, Fla., Feb. 27, 2013- A national Bee Care Tour will encourage growers, beekeepers and researchers to focus on the myriad of factors causing the decline in honey bee populations, said Robyn Kneen, Bayer CropScience's North America Bee Health Project Manager.

Bayer's mobile Bee Care Tour is launching this week in Orlando, Florida, and will travel to university agriculture schools and farm communities across Corn Belt states over the next three months. Tour stops will include The Ohio State University in Wooster; University of Illinois in Urbana; Iowa State University in Ames; The University of Nebraska in Lincoln; and University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

 Together we can feed the Bees

“There's a lot of misinformation out there, and that's why Bayer is taking a proactive approach toward dealing with this issue,” Kneen said, regarding speculation on Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

“That term has been utilized to refer to all honey bee losses,” Kneen said.

However, “researchers have reached a consensus that this is a complex issue.” What is labeled by some as CCD is actually the result of a variety of problems, including poor bee nutrition, varroa mites, fungi and stewardship, that are impacting honey bee colonies, she said.

Epstein noted that colony collapses have been documented as early as 1869, adding that the most detrimental impact to today's honey bee is the varroa mite. According to Kneen, honey bee losses increased since the introduction of the varroa mite in the mid-1980s.

“There is good research to show strong correlation between honey bee health and the mite,” she said.  

Although research suggesting a direct connection to colony collapse is sparse, Epstein noted that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is under increasing public pressure to further regulate or ban insecticides, particularly neonicotinoids.

“There will be changes in the ways labels are on pesticides, as well as best management practices and mitigation strategies that are going to be put forth in next five to ten years,” Epstein predicted.

Although the sharp honey bee decline in 2006 caused widespread speculation and some misinformation in the public, “If there's anything good to come out of this it's that there's been a ton of research since 2006,” Epstein said. “And with the description of the honey bee genome there's been a ton of answers.”

The Bee Care Tour Bayer is launching will attempt to provide some of the new information as well as raise awareness of the health challenges impacting honey bee populations. 

The Bee Care Tour is part of Bayer's overall Bee Care Program, which includes a Bee Care Center research facility, expected to be completed in 2013, at the North American Bayer CropScience Headquarters in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

“Through our mobile Bee Care Tour, Bayer will foster interaction directly with supporters of bee health across the country to heighten discussion, increase awareness regarding good stewardship practices and encourage the sharing of ideas,” Kneen said.


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