A program developed by Moneen Jones, University of Missouri research entomologist at the Fisher Delta Research Center in Portageville, is offering beekeepers new ways to reduce bee kills due to pesticide drift.
The Missouri Pollinator Conservancy Program offers spatial and visual tools to alert pesticide applicators to nearby beehives. With the information, applicators can avoid spraying pesticides near the hives.
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.
A Central Location for Communication
The centerpiece of the program is a database web page where pesticide applicators and beekeepers can pool and access information. Jones is encouraging beekeepers to register their hives through links on the program’s website.
Participation is voluntary. Beekeepers can limit what information, such as 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 do not need to worry about their personal information being sold or distributed without consent, Jones said.
DriftWatch Specialty Crop Site Registry website offers real-time information for pesticide applicators to consider before applying chemicals to fields near beehives, Jones continued. Diffused pesticides can “drift” from the intended target in one area to another.
Flags for Fliers
Following beehive registration at DriftWatch™, beekeepers are encouraged to purchase large, visible BeeCheck flags through links on the website that will alert applicators, such as aerial applicators, to nearby hives. Fiberglass mounting poles will be available at a discount cost from MU Extension.
“The benefits of the program, such as reduced accidental bee kills, will outweigh any initial costs,” Jones said.
The program’s partners hope to open communications between farmers, consultants, applicators and beekeepers to protect the more than 400 species of bees in Missouri.
Hoping to Stop a Decline
Honeybees are vital to agriculture, Jones said. Bees pollinate fruits, nuts, vegetables and crops, and provide honey.
Honeybee colonies have decreased from 5 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 2006-2011.
“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 said.