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Honey Bee Health Coalition Ready to Provide Leadership in Implementing National Pollinator Health Strategy

Keystone, Colo. (PRWEB) May 20, 2015

The Honey Bee Health Coalition applauded the announcement of the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and other Pollinators and the accompanying Pollinator Research Action Plan, released today by President Barack Obama’s Pollinator Health Task Force. The Strategy represents a critical step in improving the health of honey bees and other pollinators that support billions of dollars annually in U.S. and Canadian agriculture. The Strategy sets clear goals for pollinator health that underscore the importance of the Honey Bee Health Coalition’s ongoing work. The Honey Bee Health Coalition commends the Task Force for its emphasis on public-private partnerships to improve pollinator health and stands ready to provide coordination and leadership. The Strategy specifically cites the Coalition as an example of a public-private partnership and vehicle for collaboration, outreach, and education.

“The Strategy released by the National Pollinator Health Task Force underscore the importance of pollinator health for agriculture and the environment,” said George Hansen, a commercial beekeeper, past president of the American Beekeeping Federation, and a member of the Coalition’s Steering Committee. “As one of the largest and most diverse public-private partnerships already working to address honey bee health across agriculture, the Honey Bee Health Coalition is eager and ready to support the implementation of the Strategy. In fact, the Coalition is already working to advance collaborative solutions and is poised to drive commitments and positive impacts on the ground.”

Agriculture, healthy lifestyles, and worldwide food security rely on honey bee health. The Honey Bee Health Coalition works at the intersection of honey bee health and agriculture, bringing together stakeholders from across the agricultural supply chain as well as from government, academia, and conservation. The Coalition advances public-private solutions for honey bee health in four priority areas: hive management, forage and nutrition, crop pest management, and outreach, education, and communications.

“The Honey Bee Health Coalition appreciates the Task Force’s comprehensive, multi-factor approach recognizing the need for collective action on multiple fronts as well as the positive role that all stakeholders can play in this effort,” said Julie Shapiro, Coalition facilitator and senior policy director at Keystone Policy Center. “The Strategy accentuates the importance of the work that the Coalition is already undertaking that will help achieve goals related to reducing honey bee colony overwintering losses and restoring and enhancing pollinator habitat. Coalition members look forward to working with the Task Force and other private and public partners in implementing the Strategy to achieve a vision of Healthy Bees, Healthy People, Healthy Planet.”

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Honey Bee Health Coalition Activities Advance the Task Force Strategy and Goals

In June 2014, President Obama established the Task Force to identify essential actions needed in the categories of pollinator research, public education, and public-private partnerships. The Task Force has identified critical goals related to reducing overwintering losses for managed honey bees, restoring and enhancing pollinator habitat, and increasing monarch butterfly populations. The Honey Bee Health Coalition’s public-private partnership activities complement and advance the goals of the Task Force in the following manner:

** The Coalition is working to put the best available tools, techniques, and technologies in the hands of beekeepers so they can better manage their hives. President Obama called for a need for “… expanded collection and sharing of data related to pollinator losses [and] technologies for continuous monitoring of honey bee hive health … and new cost-effective ways to control bee pests and diseases.” The Coalition aims to support on-the-ground efforts underway to provide beekeepers with monitoring and expert advice and analyses to best manage hive health, as well as to promote development of new products and use of best practices for Varroa mite control. These activities will collectively help to reduce overwintering losses of managed honey bee colonies:


The Coalition is raising awareness of and helping to increasing funding for the Bee Informed Partnership’s Tech Transfer Teams to provide essential extension, education, and monitoring to beekeepers at all scales.

The Coalition is working in partnership with the private and public sector to prioritize and accelerate the identification and registration of products to effectively control Varroa destructor mites.

The Coalition is synthesizing best available information from academia, industry, and the public sector and developing first-of-their kind resources for commercial, small scale, and hobbyist beekeepers that bring together, in a single place, information on tools and practices for Varroa mite control.

** Coalition members are collaborating to ensure honey bees — especially those in and around production agriculture — have access to a varied and nutritious diet. Our work aligns with the Pollinator Health Task Force’s goal of restoring and enhancing 7 million acres of pollinator habitat, Federal actions and public-private partnerships. Restoration and enhancement of pollinator forage also supports the goal of reducing overwintering losses of managed honey bees.

In March 2015, the Coalition submitted recommendations to the Task Force regarding actions to increase and improve forage and habitat for honey bees and other pollinators through USDA conservation programs, public-private partnerships, and research. These recommendations emphasize adopting science-based and stakeholder-informed seed specifications and technical guidelines for USDA conservation programs specific to honey bees to encourage planting greater acreages of more nutritious, affordable, varied forage for honey bees. The recommendations also emphasize the value of public-private partnerships, demonstration projects, and information-sharing for promoting, establishing and evaluating honey bee forage. Finally, the recommendations emphasize the need for research and development to inform seed specifications and the development of nutritional supplements for honey bees when forage is lacking. The Coalition looks forward to working with Task Force members to further discuss and advance these recommendations as it implements the Strategy.

The Coalition is encouraging efforts among members and partners to promote agricultural practices that benefit pollinators. For example, the Coalition is working to help drive awareness and support for public-private forage development efforts like the Honey Bee and Monarch Butterfly Partnership, which offers an excellent example of the kind of public-private partnership called for by the Task Force. The Partnership provides a parallel effort that complements the US Department of Agriculture’s conservation program. These parallel efforts afford key opportunities for partners to raise awareness of and engage landowners in pollinator forage programs, provide monitoring support, and share lessons learned across different programs. These results can also help to inform improvements to future public-private programs and USDA conservation programs.

The Coalition is currently working to integrate more stakeholders and experts into its forage and nutrition discussions as it moves forward to advance the development of forage partnerships and projects as well as the development of pre-competitive solutions for improving honey bee nutrition supplements.

** The Coalition is advancing communication, education, and solution building across diverse stakeholders to control crop pests while safeguarding pollinator health. The Coalition’s activities align with President Obama’s call for “identification of existing and new methods and best practices to reduce pollinator exposure to pesticides” and support overall goals related to honey bee and pollinator health.

The Coalition has developed a quick guide for incident reporting and an accompanying article released in Bee Culture Magazine in May 2015; it is being promoted through Coalition member efforts.

The Coalition is bringing together beekeepers, agricultural producers, crop advisors, University extension, industry, and other stakeholders in the discussion and implementation of science-based pest management practices that are appropriate for the given regions, crops, and other contexts.

The Coalition is determining appropriate ways to support the State Managed Pollinator Protection Plans through engagement with leadership organizations and other key stakeholders. These important, state-led processes can affect wide-scale understanding of pollinator-friendly crop pest management practices.

** The Coalition is promoting outreach, education, and communications to raise awareness of honey bee health challenges and opportunities and to encourage collaboration to improve honey bee health. The Coalition’s activities align with and support the Task Force’s work to develop a public education plan as well as to promote public-private partnerships that will support the Task Force’s three overarching goals.

Coalition members are collaborating to deliver outreach materials about honey bee health and the value of honey bees, the multiple factors that impact honey bee health, the need to improve bee health through a diversity of approaches, the need for public-private collaboration across all stakeholders, and the message that beekeepers and farmers are part of ‘One Agriculture’ system supporting global food security. The Coalition is delivering tools ranging from its public-facing website and newsletter, to honey bee health informational signs for a variety of field settings, to information and messaging for use at conferences, workshops and tradeshows. Visit http://www.honeybeehealthcoalition.org for more resources and information on honey bee health.

Through an innovative Bee Understanding program, Coalition members are also promoting increased stakeholder understanding through supply chain job swaps that help beekeepers and crop producers better understand each other’s operations, decision-making, and mutual concerns related to honey bee health. This effort is just getting started with field-based job swaps occurring this spring. It will continue to engage more stakeholders in on-the-ground learning in the future, while at the same time producing videos and other communications and outreach materials to help stakeholders and the general public gain appreciation for the importance of finding collaborative solutions for honey bee health.

Through these and other efforts, the Coalition looks forward to providing leadership and public-private collaboration in implementing the National Pollinator Health Strategy, supporting and accelerating the Task Force’s goals, and ensuring healthy pollinators, productive agriculture systems, and healthy ecosystems.

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About the Honey Bee Health Coalition

The Honey Bee Health Coalition brings together beekeepers, growers, researchers, government agencies, agribusinesses, conservation groups, manufacturers and brands, and other key partners to improve the health of honey bees and other pollinators. Its mission is to collaboratively implement solutions that will help to achieve a healthy population of honey bees while also supporting healthy populations of native and managed pollinators in the context of productive agricultural systems and thriving ecosystems. The Coalition is focusing on accelerating collective impact to improve honey bee health in four key areas: forage and nutrition, hive management, crop pest management, and communications, outreach and education.

Through its unique network of private and public sector members, the Coalition fosters new partnerships, leverages existing efforts and expertise, and incubates and implements new solutions. The Coalition brings its diverse resources to bear in promoting communication, coordination, collaboration, and investment to strategically and substantively improve honey bee health in North America.







Pesticides Not the Sole Culprit in Honey Bee Colony Declines: UMD Study


(PRWEB) March 18, 2015

Colony declines are a major threat to the world’s honey bees, as well as the many wild plants and crops the bees pollinate. Among the lineup of possible culprits—including parasites, disease, climate stress and malnutrition—many have pointed the finger squarely at insecticides as a prime suspect. However, a new study from the University of Maryland shows that the world’s most common insecticide does not significantly harm honey bee colonies at real-world dosage levels.

The study, which was published March 18, 2015 in the journal PLOS ONE, looked at the effects of the insecticide imidacloprid on honey bee colonies over a three-year period. To see significant negative effects, including a sharp decrease in winter survival rates, the researchers had to expose the colonies to at least four times as much insecticide encountered under normal circumstances. At 20 times the normal exposure levels, the colonies experienced more severe consequences.

The study does not totally absolve imidacloprid of a causative role in honey bee colony declines. Rather, the results indicate that insecticides are but one of many factors causing trouble for the world’s honey bee populations.

“Everyone is pointing the finger at these insecticides. If you pull up a search on the Internet, that’s practically all anyone is talking about,” said Galen Dively, emeritus professor of entomology at UMD and lead author of the study. “This paper says no, it’s not the sole cause. It contributes, but there is a bigger picture.”

Imidacloprid is one of a broad class of insecticides called neonicotinoids, so named because they are chemically derived from nicotine. In tobacco and other related plants, nicotine acts as a deterrent by poisoning would-be herbivores. While nicotine itself was once used as an insecticide, it has fallen out of favor because it is highly toxic to humans and breaks down rapidly in sunlight. Neonicotinoids have been engineered specifically to address these shortcomings.

“Imidacloprid is the most widely used insecticide in the world. It’s not restricted because it is very safe—an order of magnitude safer than organophosphates,” Dively said, drawing a comparison with a class of chemicals known to be highly toxic to nearly all living things.

For the study, Dively and his colleagues fed pollen dosed with imidacloprid to honey bee colonies. The team purposely constructed a worst-case scenario, even at lower exposure levels. For example, they fed the colonies tainted food for up to 12 continuous weeks. This is a much longer exposure than bee colonies would experience in real-world scenarios, because most crops do not bloom for such an extended period of time.

Even at these longer exposure periods, realistic dosage levels of imidacloprid did not cause significant effects in the honey bee colonies. Only at higher levels did the colonies start to have trouble producing healthy offspring and surviving through the winter.

“A lot of attention has been paid to neonicotinoids, but there isn’t a lot of field data. This study is among the first to address that gap,” said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant professor of entomology at UMD who was not involved in the study. “It’s not surprising that higher levels will hurt insects. They’re insecticides after all. But this study is saying that neonicotinoids probably aren’t the sole culprit at lower, real-world doses.”

Dively and vanEngelsdorp both agree that a synergistic combination of many factors is most likely to blame for colony declines. Climate stress could be taking a toll, and malnutrition could be a factor as well. The latter is a particular concern for industrial bee colonies that are rented to large-scale agricultural operations. These bees spend much of their time eating pollen from one or two crops, which throws their diet out of balance.

“Except for the imidacloprid exposure, our test colonies were treated well,” said coauthor David Hawthorne, associate professor of entomology at UMD and director of education at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC). “They weren’t exposed to additional real-world stressors such as malnourishment or multiple pesticides. Colonies coping with these additional pressures may be more sensitive to imidacloprid.”

Dively, Hawthorne and their colleagues found some evidence for at least one synergistic combination. At the highest dosage levels (20 times the realistic dosage) colonies became more susceptible to Varroa mites, parasites that target honey bee colonies. A mite infestation can cause a whole variety of problems, including viral infections and an increased need for other pesticides to control the mites.

“It’s a multifactorial issue, with lots of stress factors,” Dively said. “Honey bees have a lot of pests and diseases to deal with. Insecticide exposure is one factor among many. It’s not the lone villain.”

In addition to Dively and Hawthorne, study authors included UMD technician Michael Embrey, Alaa Kamel of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Jeffery Pettis of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.







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Honey Bee Health Coalition Releases Bee Healthy Roadmap to Improve Honey Bee Health


Keystone, Colorado (PRWEB) October 16, 2014

The Honey Bee Health Coalition, a coalition of more than 30 organizations and agencies from across food, agriculture, government and conservation, today released Bee Healthy, a roadmap to improve honey bee health through collective action that will accomplish more than any one group can achieve on its own. Facing unacceptable declines in honey bee health, the Coalition’s Bee Healthy Roadmap lays out specific priorities and actions that it will take to reverse these declines and improve the health of honey bees and other pollinators. The Roadmap also provides a framework for ongoing collaboration inviting anyone with a vested interest in honey bee health to work together to achieve its vision of Healthy Honey Bees, Healthy People, Healthy Planet.

Coalition establishes science-based platform for cross-industry coordination on four priority areas

“The Bee Healthy Roadmap lays out a specific set of priorities through which the Coalition will achieve its core mission,” said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland’s Department of Entomology and a member of the Coalition’s Steering Committee. “By collaboratively implementing solutions through partnerships across food, agriculture, government, and conservation partners,” he continued, “we can achieve a healthy population of honey bees and healthy populations of native and managed pollinators, productive agriculture systems, and thriving ecosystems.” The Coalition is committed to developing explicit goals, milestones and metrics to measure improvements in honey bee health. Knowing that the Coalition can’t improve honey bee health on its own, the Bee Healthy Roadmap identifies four priority areas that need immediate and consistent action from partners across the landscape. These include improving Hive Management, Forage & Nutrition, Crop Pest Management, and Cross-Industry Education, Outreach and Coordination. For each priority, the Bee Healthy Roadmap sets out specific actions the Coalition and its members will take and invites others to join forces or take steps on their own to improve pollinator health.

Improving honey bee health takes better management, technology, and innovation backed by science

Hive Management

“The Coalition is actively working to address major challenges to honey bee health, including poor nutrition and the need to protect bee health while controlling crop pests. One of the biggest threats is the Varroa destructor mite and even the best beekeepers could use help controlling it,” said George Hansen, Past President of the American Beekeeping Federation and a member of the Coalition’s Steering Committee and its Hive Management Working Group. “The Bee Healthy Roadmap invests in gathering and then transferring specific know-how and technologies to beekeepers to improve hive monitoring and training to control varroa mites and other pests and pathogens.” The Coalition also identified gaps in existing hive management research and will promote science-based innovations to close those gaps, including the development and registration of new products to address the varroa mite. In 2014 and 2015 the Coalition will help increase funding for “tech transfer teams” to go into the field and collect data and directly monitor bee health while also providing beekeepers with important information to inform management practices. The Coalition will also undertake the creation of a best practices guide for beekeepers for managing varroa mites.

Forage & Nutrition

“Bees, like most species, need a healthy, diverse habitat for their foraging diet,” said Peter Berthelsen, Director of Habitat Partnerships for Pheasants Forever, Inc., a member of the Coalition’s Steering Committee and Forage & Nutrition Working Group. “Which is why the Bee Healthy Roadmap focuses on building strategies to promote improved nutrition for honey bees through several important initiatives that can also benefit a broad range of other species’ foraging and habitat needs.” The Bee Healthy Roadmap calls for the development of high-quality, bee-friendly landscapes in places and seasons when bees can most use them — like flowers planted on transportation corridors or in and around farms, ranches and other production agriculture areas. Nutritional requirements vary from region to region, so the Coalition will begin this year by identifying strategies for meeting forage and nutrition needs in the agricultural lands of the American Upper Midwest and will later identify strategies in other regions of North America. The Coalition has also begun work to identify and promote the planting of bee-healthy forage along transportation corridors and rights-of-way and will continue to look at other opportunities for forage in private and public lands. The Coalition will also encourage the development of supplemental nutrition options for bees and the planting of bee-friendly cover crops. All of these solutions aim to create win-win solutions for bees, other species, agriculture producers, and other land owners.

Managing Crop Pests

“To feed a hungry planet we need to simultaneously manage agricultural pests while ensuring the health of bees and native pollinators,” said Gregory Sekulic, Agronomy Specialist at Canola Council of Canada and a member of the Coalition’s Crop Pest Management Working Group. “This Roadmap lays out plans for promoting crop- and product-specific pest management practices that enable us to do both.” To achieve this goal the Coalition will work to accelerate the adoption and use of the best known crop pest management practices, also known as Best Management Practices (BMPs). These BMPs include promoting and improving communication and coordination between beekeepers and producers to avoid honey bee losses, and also promoting better understanding and reporting of incidents of honey bee losses that impact bee health when they do occur.

Cross-Industry Collaboration

“The Coalition itself is a cross-sector collaborative platform and the success of our efforts depends on effective communication, outreach, and education across all stakeholders,” said Bill Kuckuck, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for CropLife America and a member of the Coalition’s Steering Committee and Outreach, Education and Communication Working Group. “That’s why the Bee Healthy Roadmap lays out specific plans for improving collaboration and communication throughout the food chain and with the general public.” The Coalition is building a set of tools to support its work and accelerate the adoption of best practices and technologies and will promote understanding across stakeholders.

In all of its efforts, the Coalition emphasizes the need for partners to join together in taking collective action that will achieve more than any one partner can accomplish on its own.

“The Coalition’s Bee Healthy Roadmap is very ambitious,” said The Keystone Center’s Julie Shapiro, the Coalition’s facilitator, “but by building off of the excellent collaboration among Coalition members to date, and with the help and support of new partners, we can achieve our goal of substantially improving honey bee health.”

To get involved in the Coalition or to learn how you can take action, please visit http://www.honeybeehealthcoalition.org.

About the Honey Bee Health Coalition

The Honey Bee Health Coalition brings together beekeepers, growers, researchers, government agencies, agribusinesses, conservation groups, manufacturers and brands, and other key partners to improve the health of honey bees and other pollinators. Our mission is to collaboratively implement solutions that will help to achieve a healthy population of honey bees while also supporting healthy populations of native and managed pollinators in the context of productive agricultural systems and thriving ecosystems. The Coalition is focusing on accelerating collective impact to improve honey bee health in four key areas: forage and nutrition, hive management, crop pest management, and communications, outreach and education.

Through its unique network of private and public sector members, the Coalition fosters new partnerships, leverages existing efforts and expertise, and incubates and implements new solutions. The Coalition brings its diverse resources to bear in promoting communication, coordination, collaboration, and investment to strategically and substantively improve honey bee health in North America.

Coalition members currently include Agricultural Retailers Association, Almond Board of California, American Beekeeping Federation, American Honey Producers Association, American Seed Trade Association, Bayer CropScience, Browning Honey Company, Canadian Honey Council, Canola Council of Canada, CropLife America, CropLife Canada, Ducks Unlimited, DuPont, Eastern Missouri Beekeepers Association, Land O’Lakes, Inc., Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, Monsanto Company, Oregon State Beekeepers Association, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Corn Growers Association, Pheasants Forever, Pollinator Stewardship Council, Project Apis m., Saint Louis Zoo’s WildCare Institute Center for Native Pollinator Conservation, Syngenta, Unilever, United Soybean Board, University of Maryland’s Department of Entomology, U.S. Canola Association, and Western Apicultural Society. The Coalition also includes ex officio participation from U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

About The Keystone Center

The Honey Bee Health Coalition is facilitated by The Keystone Center, an independent, non-profit organization specializing in collaborative decision-making processes for agriculture, environment, education, energy, and health policy issues.







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