Mississippi bee expert explains what research is saying about honey bee risk

In Delta Farm Press

Although the controversy over the role of pesticides in Colony Collapse Disorder is still going strong, “I’ve seen no data, or metadata, linking huge losses of honey bees in the U.S. to any single insecticide, neonicotinoid or otherwise,” says Jeff Harris, Mississippi State University Extension/Research Apiculturist.

“Certainly, you can do experiments in the lab or in semi-field plot tests to show these materials kill bees, or adversely affect their physiology,” says Harris, who spent 15 years as a bee breeder and researcher at the USDA Honey Bee Laboratory at Baton Rouge, La., before coming to MSU three years ago.

The bigger question, he says, is what’s happening in the field?

“Anytime there has been a really good experiment with field-relevant dosing, they haven’t been able to kill bees with neonics. There have been university studies in which researchers killed honey bees with neonics, but they did it by inflating the field-relevant dose —they cranked up the dose 10 times or more and finally killed the bees. Then it hit the headlines that neonics kill honey bees. But it wasn’t at field relevance.”

Between a colored flag program that identifies the locations of hives on a farm and communication from farmers that lets beekeepers know when they’re treating their crops, Mississippi has had very few beekeepers complain about bee kills in the last several years.

Harris says that certain applications of pesticides can put bees at greater risk, but these can be prevented.

Read the rest of the story at Delta Farm Press.

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