May 2, 2013
Report: Multiple factors for honeybee declines

USDA and EPA have released a comprehensive scientific report on honeybee health. The report states that there are multiple factors playing a role in honeybee colony declines, including parasites and disease, genetics, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure.

“There is an important link between the health of American agriculture and the health of our honeybees for our country’s long-term agricultural productivity,” said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan in a news release. “The forces impacting honeybee health are complex and USDA, our research partners, and key stakeholders will be engaged in addressing this challenge.”

“The decline in honeybee health is a complex problem caused by a combination of stressors, and at EPA we are committed to continuing our work with USDA, researchers, beekeepers, growers and the public to address this challenge,” said Acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe.

In October 2012, a National Stakeholders Conference on Honey Bee Health, led by federal researchers and managers, along with Pennsylvania State University, was convened to synthesize the current state of knowledge regarding the primary factors that scientists believe have the greatest impact on managed bee health.

Key findings include:
–The parasitic varroa mite is recognized as the major factor underlying colony loss in the United States and other countries. There is widespread resistance to the chemicals beekeepers use to control mites within the hive. New virus species have been found in the United States, and several of these have been associated with Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

–U.S. honeybee colonies need increased genetic diversity. Genetic variation improves bees’ thermoregulation (the ability to keep body temperature steady even if the surrounding environment is different), disease resistance and worker productivity.

–Honeybee breeding should emphasize traits, such as hygienic behavior, that confer improved resistance to varroa mites and diseases (such as American foulbrood).
–Nutrition has a major impact on individual bee and colony longevity. A nutrition-poor diet can make bees more susceptible to harm from disease and parasites. Bees need better forage and a variety of plants to support colony health.
–Federal and state partners should consider actions affecting land management to maximize available nutritional forage to promote and enhance good bee health and to protect bees by keeping them away from pesticide-treated fields.

The report also emphasized a need for improved collaboration and information sharing, including timely bee kill incident reporting, monitoring and enforcement.

It was also stressed that additional research is needed to determine risks associated with pesticide use.

“Best management practices associated with bees and pesticide use exist, but are not widely or systematically followed by members of the crop-producing industry,” the report stated. “There is a need for informed and coordinated communication between growers and beekeepers and effective collaboration between stakeholders on practices to protect bees from pesticides.”

Find the report here.




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