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Taking this pollinator thing seriously

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It’s been some time now since the honey bee crisis issue has been baffling all concerned. What I've learned lately:


 * First, this issue is a very big deal. Last winter, half of U.S. hives were lost, according to some sources. That’s a much higher number than in recent years, which have averaged 33%--already an unsustainable level.


* A third of what we eat and drink depends on the contribution of pollinators. And in some places and at certain times of the year, the creatures are now in very short supply—blueberries in Maine and almonds in California suffered last year as a result of honey bee shortages, for example.


* We don’t seem to know all that much finally about what’s going on in the bee world.  A new report from USDA and EPA found no “smoking gun” in the honey bee health crisis. You can’t blame the whole problem on increased insecticide use, as some would like. Many factors apparently are in play—weather, parasites, nutrition, lack of genetic diversity…. But corn production is getting a hard look for its use of insecticide-treated seed and destruction of pollinator habitat.


* Bees participate in corn and soybean agriculture. In a recent interview, Matt O'Neal, an Iowa State University researcher, told me that soybean yields may get a 10 to 30 percent boost as a result of bee activity.  He says that researchers in Ames have found up to two dozen types of pollinators active in corn and soybean fields.


The impacts of row crops on pollinators likely will get increased scrutiny as time goes by. Making the world safe for corn has its tradeoffs, some of which people may find are not always worth making.


It’s Pollinator Week—of all things--and I’m going to recognize it by attending a field day in Nebraska to see what I can learn. I’m also going to see how our pollinator habitat plans out there are faring. We’re preparing an 8-acre planting in a patch of CRP that’s just been re-enrolled for seven years.


There are things every farmer can do to contribute to solving this pollinator problem. Here are a few resources:


Pollinator Partnership (Info about Pollinator Week and useful resources for farmers and ranchers) (A group promoting native bees in agriculture)

Bee careful out there (A slideshow summarizing pollinator issues)

No smoking gun in bee health crisis (News summary of recent bee health report)


I'll defer to the bulk of scientific opinion on the matter that says that neonic insecticides aren't the complete answer but that they deserve close scrutiny.


OK, then, about the neonic seed treatments and Purdue entomologist Christian Krupke's study of bee exposure due to the combination of those treatments and the prevalence of air planters.


I'm bouncing around here but I note that one piece of promotional literature for one of those products claims a 10 bpa corn yield advantage over checks.


Sooo.... with those products now being used on most corn acres, why is the corn yield trend line flattening out over the same timeframe as those products have steadily increased in use?


Surely there is randomness in weather that affects corn yield over the course of a few years, just like there was probably a run of decent weather back when we were assured that we were on a perpetually  accelerated yield trend.


But I'm of the opinion that we may have been sold a bill of goods about the aggregate benefit of "technology" and thus that brings into question the net cost/benefit ratio. 


Costs are hard to account for and as I suggested, so are benefits, at least in the aggregate.  But there are costs.


However, don't try selling the idea to a farmer who just wrote a check for $250,000 for a semi load of gazillion stacked, super treated seed.



Senior Advisor

John - this is a very big problem - I looked at the links you posted  - but then that only helps to get my blood pressure up .

As this post stated - there are many things going on here  like


why are city people able to go  to Wal-Mart , Lowes , HomeDepot and others - And can buy seven ? or other produces that I have to have a personal Applicator permit OR my Cat. 1 Peticide Applicator License for ?  Lets face it here - there are alot more flowers - plants in the city that bees like -- then give somebody a hand sprayer full of seven and they go ape chit spraying - hey if it calls for a oz. then 4 or 5 would be better right ?


Totally agree on the lawn services- almost the same deal - not all of them but it only takes one to screw it up .


Then how about the fert. plants themselfs ?? Hey Joe you need to spray your corn with a fungicide - and while were at it how about adding some insecticide / hey if  we have to come back in , we will have to charge you another app. and it only costs 2. 75 extra if we do it now -- I have seen this song and  dance -- first hand .


Then there's the good old chemical companies , they are now saying how we need to use there product - ways to  help out -- dam funny they didn't say anything about this years ago when the product came out , they had  to know this product could kill off target pest's - and now they  are considered ? well heck yes they are - they could lose billons on sells if it was to get pulled !


And back on things we can do - like cleaning the planter out so it won't hurt the bees -- Talk about trying to pass the buck here -- NOW it's farmers ??  You have to be kidding me here -  they sell a product - have trouble -- then say they need to help US out or to train us better  _ I could go into a bad word fit here -- But - trying to do better at that -- Smiley Wink


Yes my friends theres alot of problems for Mr. bee and most of it can not be fixed the way things are today - big business won't let it happen .


BTW john -- thanks for your hard work to bring these subjects to light here .