The Missouri Pollinator Conservancy Program offers beekeepers new ways to protect hives from pesticide drift.
The group is working with the DriftWatch Specialty Crop Site Registry to help pesticide applicators locate nearby hives before spraying. It also offers real-time weather data to help them decide when to spray. Wind can make pesticides drift from their intended targets.
The program opens talks between farmers, consultants, applicators and beekeepers to protect the more than 400 species of bees in Missouri, says Moneen Jones, University of Missouri entomologist. She works for the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources at the Fisher Delta Center in Portageville.
She encourages beekeepers to register their hives at https://mo.driftwatch.org/. Participation is voluntary, and beekeepers can limit the information that is available for public viewing. Beehive locations are kept confidential, and Jones says beekeepers do not need to worry about their personal information being sold or distributed without consent.
Also, MU Extension offers large yellow "BeeCheck" flags and poles for sale at a discount. The flags alert others that beehives are close. The benefits of the program will outweigh any initial costs, Jones said.
Honeybee colonies in the United States decreased from 5 million in the 1940s to 2.5 million today, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Bee numbers began falling in the 1980s as new pathogens, parasites, pests and nutrition problems hit bees at the same time. USDA estimates that 33 percent of the country's hives were lost each winter from 2006 to 2011.
Honeybees are vital to agriculture. Besides making honey, bees pollinate crops, fruits, nuts and vegetables.
"We can cut economic losses for row-crop farmers and beekeepers by managing row-crop pests and reduce the effect of pesticide drift on beehives," Jones says.
Partners in the program are University of Missouri, Missouri Agricultural Aviation Association, Missouri Department of Agriculture, Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri State Beekeepers Association and the MU Fisher Delta Research Center. DriftWatch Specialty Crop Site Registry was created by Purdue University. The nonprofit FieldWatch Inc. operates the website.
For more information, contact Jones at 573-379-5431 or Anastasia Becker, Missouri Department of Agriculture at 573-526-0837.