Communication among growers/pesticide applicators, crop advisors, and beekeepers is essential for pollinator health and safety. Everyone benefits from clear communication and willing cooperation. Read this success story from Yuma.
Grower and Commercial Beekeeper Cooperation
When a grower rents colonies for crop pollination, he or she should work with the beekeeper to:
- Develop a written agreement, or contract (see samples below), outlining the period for using the hives and important considerations including details of the beekeeper’s responsibility to provide strong colonies and the grower’s responsibility to safeguard the bees from poisoning. The beekeeper should consent to a grower’s request to see how strong the hives are by opening some hives that the grower selects.
- Review the cropping system and pest management practices in the area before the beehives are delivered.
- Clearly define responsibilities for providing clean water and food sources.
- Place hives away from areas that may be exposed to bee-toxic pesticides during the pollination period.
- Inform neighboring growers and custom applicators operating in the area where hives are located so precautions can be taken when treating nearby fields.
- Where possible, remove hives if bee-toxic pesticides will be applied in the immediate vicinity. If applications of these products near beehives are unavoidable, shield beehives** with wet burlap to confine and protect the bees, but ensure that bees are kept cool at all times.** Moving or covering bees is not a sustainable practice for commercial beekeepers—even if informed in advance—and should not be considered a viable solution for pollinator safety. Moving a colony of bees is much different than moving livestock from one pasture to the next. Bees “remember” where they were yesterday and where the bloom is in relation to the hive. Because they can forage up to 3 miles away, they must be moved a significant distance and moving them in the middle of a honey flow (period of time when nectar is readily available in blooming flowers) disrupts the continuity of life within the hive. As a result the honey crop is lost and the hive is stressed.**
- Post the beekeeper’s name and contact information near the hives. This information should be large enough to read at a distance.
Grower and Aerial Applicator Cooperation
Growers and the aerial applicators they hire, must cooperate when aerial applications are made in areas where beehives are located. Specifically, growers and applicators should work together to:
- Accurately identify the proper site for application. Use GPS coordinates, if the applicator has this capability. Review a sketch of the field and surrounding areas.
- Accurately identify and confirm the location of beehives near the treatment site or in neighboring fields.
- Ensure that weather conditions are appropriate for aerial applications by reviewing the forecast prior to initiating treatments.
- Never make applications when conditions are marginal. Doing so can be illegal and can jeopardize the applicator’s licenses as well as the industry standard for stewardship.
- Make sure aerial applications are done properly, avoiding direct overspray of beehives or off-site movement toward beehives and other sensitive sites.
- Mount the spray boom on the aircraft so as to minimize drift caused by wing tip vortices. The minimum practical boom length should be used and must not exceed 75% of the wingspan or rotor diameter.
- Release spray at the lowest possible height consistent with pest control, and flight safety. Applications more than 10 feet above the crop canopy should be avoided.
Many state pesticide regulatory agencies have partnered with FieldWatch™, Inc., to provide online registry tools to promote communication between producers of pesticide-sensitive crops, beekeepers and pesticide applicators. It is free, but you must create an account to participate in any of the FieldWatch registries. Specialty crop producers with apiaries may enter hive locations using either the DriftWatch® or BeeCheck®. BeeCheck is the registry site for beekeepers. The registries provide site designations including one mile radius boundaries around apiaries. Apiaries registered through BeeCheck may be marked ‘private’ so only applicators in FieldWatch can view them and receive contact information. Beekeepers may update their information at any time.
Participation in this online mapping tool should enhance communication between beekeepers and pesticide applicators with the goal of minimizing exposure of managed bees to applied pesticides.
Compiled by Wayne Buhler, PhD