Why Bee Health Matters–Research and Commentary

The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology released a commentary on June 19th titled Why Does Bee Health Matter? The Science Surrounding Honey Bee Health Concerns and What We Can Do About It

To roll out this important research paper, Dr. Marla Spivak, an entomologist and Distinguished McKnight University Professor at the University of Minnesota, spoke at three events in Washington, D.C.:  (1) a morning session with the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, (2) an NC-FAR lunch seminar with staffers from the House of Representatives, and (3) an NC-FAR afternoon seminar with staffers from the Senate.

Full commentary available here–includes a link to Dr. Spivak’s presentation.

The Ag quickCAST one-page version is available here.

This link provides access to Dr. Spivak’s presentation on YouTube.  

The sessions were well attended, and many ag media outlets have promoted the information. AgriPulse reporter Steve Davies used these quotes in his coverage to highlight some of Dr. Spivak’s points: 

“Our greatest challenge going forward is how we protect our pollinators . . . and control our crop pests at the same time,” Spivak said, stressing that it is not an “either-or” proposition. Instead, a “rebalancing” needs to take place so bees can be protected next to corn and soybean fields, but also in apple orchards and almond groves.
“We are in the middle of this glorious pollinator revival, and people, because they’re paying attention to bees and monarch butterflies, they’re starting to realize they can help,” she said.
Spivak said about a third of the human diet, “if you eat lots of fruits and vegetables (as you should), is dependent on bee pollination.” And the CAST commentary said that “pollination services contribute directly to the economy and food security,” citing annual revenues of $11.7 billion from the sale of honey bee-pollinated fruit, vegetable, and nut crops in the United States. “The additional value of pollination services by the thousands of species of native bees that live in the wild throughout the (U.S.) is estimated at $3.4 billion annually, and the total economic value of pollination worldwide, by all bees, was estimated at $216 billion.”


The Importance of Honey Bees (from the press release)

The authors of this commentary examine the state of honey bee health, including recent declines in population. They also explain why the public should be concerned. Honey bee pollination “contributes directly to the economy and food security. Human nutrition depends heavily on honey bees.”

This science-based paper looks at the stressors threatening colony health. The task force authors then offer concrete ways that bees could be protected:

•    Integrated pest management approaches
•    Best management practices such as curtailing
     pesticide drift and preventing off-label use
•    Better record keeping and communication about management and practices
•    Increased availability of high-quality floral nutrition for bees in urban and ag settings
•    Land management activities and policy decisions that are informed through science

Most scientists and beekeepers agree that honey bee health decline is the result of multiple stressors. The authors of this paper believe that solutions will come by increasing pollinator foraging opportunities and enriching the natural habitat. “Careful and appropriate pesticide use, conservation, and sustainable agriculture practices will help ensure the availability of the pollinators needed to secure a stable food supply.”

This CAST Commentary and its companion Ag quickCAST are available online at the CAST website, along with many of CAST’s other scientific publications. CAST Issue Papers, Commentaries, and Ag quickCASTs are FREE.

Task Force Authors:
Marla Spivak (Chair), University of Minnesota, St. Paul
Zac Browning, Commercial Beekeeper, Jamestown, North Dakota
Mike Goblirsch, University of Minnesota, St. Paul
Katie Lee, University of Minnesota, St. Paul
Clint Otto, U.S. Geological Survey, Jamestown, North Dakota
Matthew Smart, U.S. Geological Survey, Jamestown, North Dakota
Judy Wu-Smart, University of Nebraska, Lincoln

Marla Spivak-Phone: 612-624-4798; Email: spiva001@umn.edu  
Kent Schescke-Phone: 515-292-2125, ext. 231; Email: kschescke@cast-science.org

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