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Bee Awareness

A plan to save pollinators from drifting chemicals

Recent findings from the Bee Informed Partnership, a USDA-support consortium of universities and research laboratories, indicate that the long-term decline of U.S. honeybee colonies actually accelerated last year, this in spite of numerous efforts to slow the worrying pace of bee die-offs.

While no one can say with certainty what is responsible for colony collapse disorder and other potential contributors to high rates of bee mortality, some bee survival threats are well documented. Reducing one of these, “pesticide drift,” is the target of a new program developed by Moneen Jones, an entomologist at MU’s Fisher Delta Research Center in Portageville, Mo.

Jones’ Missouri Pollinator Conservancy Program (mopollinatorconservancy.com) offers spatial and visual tools — among them highly visible “BeeCheck flags” — that will alert pesticide applicators that hives are nearby. The program’s centerpiece is a database linked to a webpage where pesticide applicators and beekeepers can pool and access information. The site’s trademarked registry tool, dubbed DriftWatch, is a “voluntary communication tool enabling crop producers, beekeepers, and pesticide applicators to work together to protect specialty crops and apiaries” through use of its mapping program. 

Jones says the program is a cost-effective way to avoid an expensive problem — continued losses in a pollination industry worth more than $10 billion annually. “The benefits, such as reduced accidental bee kills, will outweigh any initial costs,” she says.

Bees on a hive

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