Protecting honey bees is a lot like ensuring clean air and clean water. Everybody supports the cause, but the disagreement arises when it comes time to decide how to solve the problem.
Many environmental activists in the United States blame the use of neonicotinoids as a chief culprit for honey bee loss and are calling for their ban despite overwhelming evidence that neonicotinoids cause no harm to honey bee colonies.
More than 100 research studies show that there is no danger to honeybees when neonicotinoids are used as directed. In fact, in a July 17, 2012 memo, the Environmental Protection Agency said it “is not aware of any data that honey bee declines or the incidence of colony collapse disorder in the U.S. is correlated with the use of pesticides in general or with the use of neonicotinoids in particular.”
Overwhelming evidence indicates that the chief cause of honey bee deaths is the vicious varroa mite which was introduced in North America from Asia in the mid-1980s and feeds by sucking the blood of honey bees and reproduces on the developing bee brood. In addition, the varroa mite transmits viruses which may be deadly to honey bees.
Bee keepers are taking precautions to control the varroa mite, including honey bee integrated pest management (IPM) programs. Bayer CropScience markets a miticide to control the pest and is conducting research at its Bee Care Center in Research Triangle Park, N.C. to find other ways to combat the mite.
Through it all, it is important to emphasize that honey bee populations in actuality are not declining. In fact, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service released its honey report for 2014 on March 20 which shows honey bee colonies are up 4 percent from 2013 to 2.74 million colonies.
While their numbers are not declining, honey bees are overworked and under stress. Their number one need is for more foraging options which is where the Feed a Bee initiative, launched by Bayer in March, comes in. Bayer is working with at least 50 government, non-profit and business collaborators to plant thousands of acres of flower-producing crops grown between regular crop production periods for bees.
A major part of the effort is a consumer campaign to plant 50 million wildflowers this year. Through Feed a Bee, Bayer is distributing at least 280,000 free wildflower seed packets to anyone who wants to plant them. People can request free seeds by visiting www.FeedABee.com.
Efforts like Feed a Bee do far more good for honey bees than banning the use of neonicotinoids which are vital to crop protection, pose no danger to honeybees when used correctly and would lead to serious repercussions if they were no longer available. Consumers and farmers alike can make a real difference for honey bee health by planting wild flowers and increasing forage options for the hard working honey bee.