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By Ryan McGeeneyThe Cooperative Extension ServiceU of A System Division of Agriculture
LITTLE ROCK — Entomologists with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture
are introducing a new program aimed as preserving the health of the state’s honey
The Arkansas Pollinator Stewardship Program, adapted in 2014 from a program modeled
in Mississippi, is now in its statewide rollout phase. The program’s administrators
are seeking to help beekeepers, farmers and pesticide applicators better understand
the needs of the other parties involved, said Gus Lorenz, extension entomologist for
the Division of Agriculture in Lonoke.
“The pollinator stewardship program came about as a way for us to enhance communication
between the beekeeper and the agricultural industry, including farmers, applicators,
consultants, everybody that’s involved in agriculture, and try to minimize bee mortality,”
Jon Zawislak, extension apiculturist for the Division of Agriculture, said he hoped
the program will promote a shared understanding of honey bees’ place in the agricultural
ecosystem, with an eye toward taking steps to reducing potential effects of pesticides
on the insects.
For about a decade, ecologists, entomologists and other experts have voiced increasing
concern over the phenomenon known as “colony collapse disorder,” in which honey bees
and other pollinators have died off in massive numbers in locations around the world.
The phenomenon is widely believed to be linked to parasites, diseases, nutrition and
the extensive use of pesticides in agriculture.
Zawislak said most commercial beekeepers in Arkansas keep their hives on actively
irrigated farmland, because it makes the summers more survivable for the insects,
and because the bees require a large geographical area to forage for nectar. A typical
honey bee colony will forage within a radius as large as three miles, or more than
28 square miles.
Mark Stoll, manager of the apiary section of the Arkansas State Plant Board, said
there are currently about 15 commercial beekeeping operations in Arkansas.
Although the honey bees do not significantly benefit many of the state’s primary crops
— rice, corn, wheat, cotton or soybeans — Zawislak said growers typically appreciate
the fact that they play an important part in the nation’s food production on a different
scale. While some commercial beekeepers use the insects to generate honey for sale,
or sell bees to other beekeepers, others take their bees on the road.
“In February, bees from all over the country are taken to California to help pollinate
the almond crop,” he said. “It takes about 1.5 million bee colonies.”
“Once they’re done with almonds, they’re already out there, so they move them into
a number of other crops as they come into bloom,” Zawislak said. “They may move them
up the coast into Washington, where apples bloom. Some of them go back to New England
for blueberries and cranberries. Some of them go to the Dakotas and Nebraska where
there’s a lot of clover, and they make honey.
“So it’s just this huge circuit that bees are making,” Zawislak said. “While the crops
in Arkansas may not necessarily require bees, our farmlands support bees throughout
part of the year that move off to other states and pollinate all these other crops.
So Arkansas bees help keep food on everybody’s table.”
In addition to distributing pamphlets through county extension offices throughout
the state that outline considerations for beekeepers (hive placement and identification)
and growers (notifying pesticide applicators of the presence of hives, scheduling
applications for as late as possible in the afternoon, and noting wind direction),
the program will also make available Bee Aware flags — large black and yellow flags
on eight-foot fiberglass poles. The concept is similar to the “Flag the Technology”
program already in place, which was developed to prevent the misapplication of herbicides
in sensitive crops, Zawislak said.
“The flags serve as a visual landmark, a constant reminder to farmers and growers
that there are bees present,” Zawislak said. “So every time they drive their tractor
down that turn row and see that flag there, it’s a reminder to be careful when you’re
spraying on the side of the farm, maybe to turn the nozzles off.”
Zawislak said because of cost, the flags are intended for commercial beekeepers with
concerns about pesticide exposure, rather than backyard hobbyists.
The stewardship program is co-sponsored by the Arkansas Beekeepers Association, the
Arkansas Farm Bureau, the Arkansas Agriculture Department, the Arkansas State Plant
Board, the Arkansas Crop Protection Association, the Arkansas Agricultural Aviation
Association and the Agricultural Council of Arkansas.
For more information on the Arkansas Pollinator Stewardship Program, contact Jon Zawislak
at 501-671-2222 or email@example.com, or Gus Lorenz at 501-676-3124 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative
action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need
materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other
appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons
regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin,
religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any
other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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Media Contact: Ryan McGeeneyContent specialist U of A Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) email@example.com