Report examines honeybee health

May 8, 2013 -  By

What is behind the decline of honeybees in this country? A new federal report offers a few clues.

The “Report on the National Stakeholders Conference on Honey Bee Health”–a collaboration between honeybee health experts, the United States Department of Agriculture, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, members of the Colony Collapse Disorder Steering Committee and Pennsylvania State University—point to many reasons for the honeybee decline.

Parasites are the major reason for the loss of bee colonies, as there is resistance to the chemicals used to control them, according to the report. Disease also is a factor. Poor nutrition can make bees more susceptible to deadly diseases and parasites. Additional research on forage, pollen quality, artificial and natural food sources, and food processing and storage in the hive is needed to stop the losses. More attention must be paid to managing parasites and viruses.

Genetic diversity is lacking among honeybees in this country. Variation would improve bee thermoregulation, disease resistance and worker productivity. The report recommends breeding honeybees with favorable traits.

Exposure to certain pesticides has not been ruled out, although the report states additional research is needed to determine their risks to honeybees. Outreach to farmers on managing potential pesticide exposure is needed. Getting beekeepers, crop consultants, pesticide manufacturers, pesticide applicators, state lead agencies and extension agents involved also would help.

Although there are best management practices related to bees and pesticide, members of the crop producing industry do not widely or systematically follow them. Informed and coordinated communication between growers and beekeepers and collaboration between honeybee health experts is needed.

To learn more, read the entire report.


LM Staff

About the Author: