March 28, 2018
Since the wider public became aware of colony collapse disorder (CCD) in 2006, various endeavors have taken place to not only discover the source of CCD and other bee-related issues, but to further educate others regarding how honeybee populations can be preserved and protected.
This is crucial given the bees’ vital role in pollinating three quarters of the crops we eat. In the state of Iowa, specifically, a new endeavor is taking place to help enlighten soybean farmers regarding what they can do to save honeybees and other pollinators.
The Honeybee Health Coalition recently revealed possible management plans for growers, with Adam Dolezal, a University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign assistant professor, providing the report’s research. Per Dolezal, there are several known factors that have contributed to extensive bee losses, including CCD, habitat loss, and overuse of pesticides, but farmers and other agriculturists can help to reverse these losses.
"Certainly, there's no question that farming huge amounts of land with one or two crops throughout areas that, you know, used to not be cropland has an impact on pollinators, but I think that farmers are interested in seeing recommendations to try to reduce any impacts that they might have," says Dolezal.
Recommendations for agriculturists include spraying their fields in the evening when honeybees and other pollinators are not as active, avoiding the application of pesticides when plants are blooming, and establishing where bee hives are at any given time.
Considering that Iowa is second only to Illinois in terms of growing soybeans (itself second to only corn in terms of the United States’ top crops), this is a great opportunity for giving pollinators a chance to rebuild after so many years of declining numbers. In 2017 alone, Iowa’s farmers planted over 10 million acres of soybeans—an economically substantial bean and crop.
Given that three quarters of the U.S.’s honeybees spend the summer season in the Midwest, the American Honey Producers Association, specifically its vice president, Chris Hiatt, recommends using commonsense guidelines for keeping honeybees as healthy as possible. "An almond grower here is enjoying strong hives that came from North Dakota in the summer, where a guy didn't spray his weeds or his sunflowers at the wrong time and killed the bees," Hiatt said. "It's all, you know, one big system." With steps like these, beekeepers and farmers can work together to ensure the survival of honeybees as well as other declining pollinators.
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