Good Fruit Grower

March 15

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N eonicotinoids are under international focus for their impact on honeybees, but not all the blame for declin- ing bee populations can be placed on that pesticide class. Honeybee decline is real and is a major concern, says Dr. Timothy Lawrence, Washington State University exten- sion educator. Since 2006, European and U.S. beekeepers have reported dramatic declines in honeybee colo- nies, a phenomenon that's gained international attention. The cause of the decline, named colony col- lapse disorder, has been the subject of numerous studies. Of late, researchers have been looking for a connection between chronic exposure of bees to neonicotinoids in nectar and pollen and plant water picked up by foraging bees and brought back to hives. Lawrence has been involved with the bee industry for more than 50 years, starting with his first beehive when he was 12 years old. He's worked in all aspects of the bee industry, from beekeeper to research associate in WSU's Honey Bee Health Program. Since 2010, he's been director of Island County WSU Extension, based in Coupeville. The decline is concerning, he said, because the U.S. bee industry has grown into a billion-dollar business and provides important polli- nation services for orchardists and other growers. The almond industry is particularly dependent on pollination. More than half of the nation's honeybee colonies are trucked into Califor- nia each February to pollinate some 800,000 acres of almonds, a crop that uses up to 2 million colonies annually, according to Lawrence. California's ever-increasing almond acreage and the recent harsh winter conditions will put a squeeze on bee- hive supply in 2014 for almond pollination. Almond growers reportedly pay up to $200 in rent for each hive. Toxic world Factors relating to colony decline are varied and include lack of genetic diversity in the queen breeding lines, farm monocul- ture, loss of habitat, selenium toxicity, supplemental honeybee feed sources, air pollution, pesticides, and more. From the eyes of a honeybee, the modern world is toxic. "There are more than 60 variables associated with CCD, none of which is a definitive cause," Lawrence said during the Cherry Institute meeting in January in Yakima, Washington. Honeybees experience numerous environmental and chemical stresses, some from their own keepers. "In my opinion, the biggest issue playing a role in CCD is Var- roa mite (Varroa destructor)," he said, explaining that the para- sitic mite is directly and indirectly responsible for the loss of tens of thousands of honeybee colonies each year. The tiny mite feeds on the circulatory fluid of honeybee adults, pupae, and larvae. "If beekeepers don't treat their colonies for Varroa mite, the bees are guaranteed to be dead within two years." Beekeepers are in a difficult position. To combat the mite, many treat their hives with pesticides like fluvalinate, 24 MARCH 15, 2014 GOOD FRUIT GROWER T o learn more, download the WSU Extension fact sheet Neonicotinoids and Honey Bees at CEPublications/FS122E/FS122E.pdf. Pollination Bees live in Planting more flowers would help solve honeybee decline. by Melissa Hansen Beekeeper Justin Vincett of Ellensburg, Washington, holds a frame of honeybees. A frame of honeybees.

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