Overwinter Pests and New Pesticide Regulations Near Schools

A Focus on Overwintering Pests and New Spray Regulations Near Schools

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

California Ag Today recently spoke with Ryan Jacobsen, CEO and executive director of the Fresno County Farm Bureau, about pest pressures in Fresno county as well as new pesticide regulations that were put put in place around K-12 schools and licensed daycare centers beginning Jan 1.

“When you talk about pest pressure, the warmer temperatures that we saw last year because of the multiple storms that were rolling through helped help many pests get through the season and start in greater numbers earlier in the year, and that’s what we saw happen. We have had many warm days so far this winter, and it will be interesting to see if pests respond to that in the coming spring,” Jacobsen said.

“There definitely this time of year when it comes to so many of our different other crops that folks are doing all their different cultural practices to make sure that they are doing what they can in vineyards, orchards and open grounds to reduce those pest pressures for the upcoming year and hopefully you get through the season,” Jacobsen explained.

And there are new regulations that farmers will have to follow when spraying within a quarter mile of schools and licensed daycare centers between 6am and 6pm. But Jacobson says that this won’t be a big change for farmers, as Central Valley farmers had been following regulations like this for many years.

“Most of these have been in practice by these growers in south Joaquin Valley for years. Our kids are going to those same schools, and we’re trying to be the best neighbors and stewards of the land next to these schools as possible,” Jacobsen said. “Nevertheless, every time you get to government involved, obviously there’s going to be some difficulties and some paperwork or regulatory red tape that’s going to be added to the process there. And I think that’s what you’re seeing with these current rules here in Fresno County.”

“And I know where our agricultural commissioner’s office has worked hand-in-hand with local growers regarding spraying near schools,” he said. “But in anticipation of these rules, and just even before they were even discussed, the industry did what they could to make sure that these applications that were next to schools were done appropriately successfully and that there was no issue.

Bee Loss Update

Below Average Winter Bee Loss for U.S. Honey Bees

Edited by Patrick Cavanaugh, CalAgToday

There are still questions about how best to measure colony losses over winter months, during the spring through fall period, and on an annual basis. The USDA winter survey has been conducted only since 2006 and is based on beekeeper self-reporting. Since the survey’s inception, winter losses have averaged approximately 30 percent. Prior to the introduction of the parasitic Varroa Mite and other pests and disorders in the mid-1980s, losses in cold northern states  were typically the 0-15% range. Since then, colony losses over winter have been much higher. In warm southern states, honey bees seldom need to cluster, so they can continue brood rearing and foraging for most of the year. Therefore, it is important to define what is meant by winter, and these distinctions further complicate winter loss determination and calculation.

The latest report from the USDA is good news for all who care about the health of honey bee colonies. For the second year in a row, winter losses of U.S. honey bee colonies were well below the historic 30 percent average. More importantly, the long-term trend of overwintering losses continues to show improvement due to greater awareness of factors affecting honey bee health, particularly the varroa mite, and better pest management, including extensive use of the highly effective Varroacide, Apivar.

This report follows shortly after the USDA released its annual Honey Report, which showed that the number of U.S. honey bee colonies grew to 2.74 million in 2014, the highest level in many years, continuing a 10-year trend of steady growth.

Summer losses are expected and common, however, because of Varroa, other disorders, queen issues, and pesticide residues in hives, especially extremely high residues of bee-protecting Varroacides, beekeepers do face a challenge to keep these losses to a minimum. It is apparent that in recent years, beekeepers are doing a much better job of managing honey bees and the problems they face because colony numbers in the U.S. continue to grow. Some states, have seen substantial increases in colony numbers. Florida, for example has more than doubled the number of colonies since 2006.

Feed-a-Bee
Feed a Bee, Bayer CropScience

Even with this good news about overwintering trends, we must continue to focus on the challenges facing bee health. Bayer CropScience is developing new solutions to the problems caused by the invasive Varroa mite and is working to tackle another major issue facing pollinators today – lack of forage – through the Feed a Bee initiative. And we recently announced our Healthy Hives 2020 research collaboration with honey bee experts to identify tangible actions to help improve the health of honey bee colonies over the next five years. Although there is much work yet to do, this report validates the efforts of many stakeholders who are working to protect bees and promote sustainable agriculture.

Useful Links: Feed a Bee, Bee Health, Varroacides, Healthy Hives 2020