Research teams are conducting multiple scientific studies in an attempt to determine what is contributing to the decline of the honeybee population. Locally, some public institutions and individuals are making efforts to address the issue in WNC.
AP Environmental Science teacher Kevin Keen believes that despite other contributing factors to the decline of the bee population, pesticides used in modern agriculture have created a large problem for the bee population as a whole.
“This new type of pesticide should be looked at to determine whether it should be used or how much of it should be used,” Keen said.
Keen agrees that bees are extremely important for the pollination of most crops. He believes that if their numbers decline due to factors such as pesticides, then people will have to come up with ways to make sure that pollination can occur.
Although the United States Department of Agriculture has been researching the impact pesticides have on honey bee colony growth and survival, the results of their research will not be released until 2019, aside from annual reports.
Not only are pesticides said to be affecting colony population, but other restricting contributors include parasitic varroa mites, invasive fungi and habitat loss.
For Rick Coor, president of the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association (NCSBA), the act of mono-cropping, or not rotating crops year-round, is simultaneously a large issue for the bee population. Mono-cropping is frequently used in modern farming and during the time where crops are absent, weeds are typically killed. Those free-growth weeds, however, are a major pollen source for the bees.
“Pesticides that are applied to crops kill every bug in the field, as well as dozens of other bugs that could possibly be beneficial to those plants,” Coor, who is a beekeeper himself, said.
According to continual studies, neonicotinoid pesticides, which are commonly used in modern agriculture, affect a honeybee’s nervous system, ultimately leading to its death. Neonicotinoid pesticides have been proven to be easily spread, further contributing to the invasion of the pesticide into hives.
Coor believes that in order to help preserve the bee population, education is the first step. The NCSBA focuses on teaching beekeepers how to maintain their hives and educate their peers on the issue of population decline.
Keen also agrees that education is the first step to take when advocating for change.
“If people see it as a problem and if people realize that bees are important because we rely on them for food, then that would put pressure on lawmakers to regulate it [pesticides] more than they do now,” Keen said.
A press release from the North Carolina Arboretum stated that it will dedicate its 2016 Seasonal Landscape Exhibit program to helping the community create pollinator gardens as well as planting support foods and nesting sites for the local pollinators. The Arboretum was also recently identified as the seventh best education institution affiliated with the Bee Campus USA.
Whitney Smith, the marketing and public relations manager at the Arboretum, said the that they hope to educate members of the community on all of these issues.
“This year, we hope to educate people about the importance of pollinators and how people can take what we are doing with our gardens and implementing them at home. We also want to ensure that there are pollinators supporting plant species in their neighborhood as well,” Smith said.
Unlike the European Union and Canada, the United States of America has yet to phase out the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in farming.