Becky Langer is the project manager for the North American Bayer Bee Care Program. She spoke with California Ag Today recently about the problems that the bee population is facing.
“Bees are continuing to face multiple challenges. People are getting a better grasp of awareness that pests and diseases continue to be a huge problem in beehives,” Langer said.
A big contender in the problem is forage and habitat. Beekeepers are working hard to monitor and control the issue.
“We know that the beekeepers and growers have to continue to communicate with one another and use all those products according to label,” Langer explained.
It is also important for producers to increase the variety or forages around their land to keep bee populations healthy.
If farmers could have something blooming year-round, it would help keep the pollinators healthy.
“They also like diversity in different plant species, different colors, different sizes, flowers,” Langer said. “If the bees are happy and healthy, they will be better pollinators for the crops. You can help keep bees healthy by following the label directions carefully on your sprays and fertilizers.”
The varroa mite is “Public Enemy No. 1” for bees, according to Becky Langer, the North American Bee Care manager for Bayer CropScience. “It’s the giant tick that’s attaching to [bees],” said Langer, “transmitting viruses and bacteria. This mite has to be constantly managed and we’ve seen very high levels. When our bee experts were out visiting with people last fall, people were reporting very high levels of mites. So we anticipate high [bee] losses coming out of this winter because of the cyclic effect of the mite.” Langer explained. “It really re-emphasizes the necessity of controlling that mite—all the time—and staying on top of it.
Commenting on other “Most Wanted Criminals” against bee health, Langer discussed recent research findings that well-fed bees are better able to defend themselves against the notorious nosema, a fungi-related parasite. “They actually found higher counts of nosema in those bees, but the well-fed bees could manage the nosema population—as opposed to not-well-fed bees.”
“That of course ties into Bayer Bee Care Program‘s Feed a BeeProgram and its forage and nutrition initiative,” commented Langer. Launched last year to address the lack of food and habitat for bees Feed a Bee worked with more than 250,000 people and 75 partners to plant 65 million flowers and thousands of acres of forage across the country. “We’ve got to be feeding these bees better,” Langer reinforced.
Langer commented on crop protection products—”the usual suspects”—by stressing the importance for growers to follow labels. “If that’s the case and they are used properly and in the proper settings, there is no long-term effect on colony health,” she said. “Really, where we see colony health problems correlates well with the varroa mite and with forage and habitat issues.”