Miles D. Mathis

“How can MP3 (Managed Pollinator Protection Plan) more effectively protect honey bees from pesticide exposure?”

Bees are crucial to agriculture and feeding the world. Currently, 2% of our population is working hard to feed the other 98% of the entire world!  Bees pollinate over one-third of the world’s crops (Spector, 2013).  USDA (2015) states that 70 of the 100 crop species are pollinated by bees and provide 90% of the world’s food.  In addition, bees pollinate over $15 billion worth of crops in the United States.  The issue is bee populations are declining. Elizabeth Grossman (2013) states that in the past 10 years, beekeepers in the United States and Europe have been reporting annual hive losses of 30 percent or higher. This is substantially more than is considered normal or sustainable. Additionally, both commercial and small-scale beekeepers reported by survey a 44% loss of their honey bee colonies in the United States. The survey also showed summer loss rates were close to winter loss rates. This is alarming information, as summer should be the best time for bees to flourish.

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a major cause of the declining bee populations.  CCD is a dead colony with no adult bees and some dead bee bodies. There is also a live queen and usually young bees and honey are still present. Pesticides such as neonicotinoids are also considered a threat to bee populations and have been linked to CCD.  Pesticides can also kill pollinators for several days after the pesticide is used. Therefore, it is absolutely imperative for all parties involved to understand which pesticides to use, as well as when and how to use them.

Successful agriculture production is essential to feeding our growing world population, and bees are vital to successful agriculture production. Managed Pollinator Protection Plan (MP3) is designed to educate growers, landowners, farmers, beekeepers (commercial and hobbyist), pesticide users and applicators, pest control advisors, pest management professionals, general public, homeowners and gardeners on the best practices associated with pesticide use for agricultural purposes (Dwinell, 2016).

MP3 is not a mandate from the federal government, and there is no federal funding available. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests that states complete a MP3 in order to protect against the decline of bees due to pesticide exposure. Completing a MP3 would ensure accurate bee information on pesticide labels. Colopy (2015) asserts, “Some labels state honey bees will not forage at less than 55 degrees Fahrenheit.  That is incorrect.  Honey bees and native pollinators are known to forage at temperatures as low as 42 degrees Fahrenheit.” Many groups also believe that bees will not forage after 3:00 p.m., which is incorrect.

The Pollinator Stewardship Council suggests that MP3 would encourage stakeholders come together to learn from each other, and educate all citizens on the fact that without bee pollination many of the crops we rely on will not produce. MP3 “facilitators” will need to bring all groups together to listen to needs from each group, and help them agree on and develop effective plans of action. Once each state has an effective Managed Pollinator Protection Plan, the plan can be used by local and state government officials to develop valuable legislative policies that would require the best management practices to be utilized for pesticides to more effectively protect honey bees.

The Pollinator Stewardship organization website states that the current action of Texas for the MP3 is, “Pollinator protection plans are in discussion with appropriate agencies.” This seemed to be the trend for most states. A few states, including Florida, Oregon, and North Dakota, have their MP3 plan developed and published. Dennis Gray with the Coastal Bend Bee Keepers Association was familiar with MP3, but stated, “It's doubtful whether MP3 will offer any real protection to honey bees from pesticide exposure.” I interviewed five different farmers in the Coastal Bend area, as well as multiple beekeepers, and two Ag agents in my area, and unfortunately none of them had heard of the Managed Pollinator Protection Plan.

Dale Scott, TDA coordinator for Pesticide Product Registration and Evaluation laid out the core elements of the MP3 including: stake holder participation, methods to know if managed bees are near a treatment site, methods of communication between growers and beekeepers, best management practices to minimize acute risk of pesticide to bees, a defined plan for public outreach, process to review and modify the plan, and a mechanism to measure the effectiveness of the plan. Certainly, if these elements could successfully reach all the groups involved, MP3 would have a positive impact on protecting honey bees from pesticide exposure. Currently, according to the information I found while researching this topic, it doesn’t seem that this potentially effective program has been marketed successfully.

In conclusion, I believe that MP3 has the potential to make a huge national impact on the protection of honey bees from pesticide exposure. However, while the goal of MP3 is to improve communication between groups, it does not seem that MP3 has been promoted effectively as many stakeholders are unfamiliar with the program. While commodity groups may not initially be interested in modifying pesticide use, it is important for the sustainability of agriculture that these groups come together and communicate with beekeepers to successfully implement the core elements of MP3. Ideally, a national campaign to unite commodity groups and educational sources such as the Extension Service would improve communications, and hopefully create buy-in from stakeholders to help develop individual state plans.  Moving forward, our futures depend on the survival of bee populations. When implemented successfully among all states, MP3 could very effectively protect honey bees from pesticide exposure by initiating communication between major stakeholders and finding common ground that will secure the future of the honey bee and humans!


 

Resources

Colopy, M. (2015). Beekeepers Can Lead: MP3s, research, forage, and more. Retrieved on January 8, 2017 from
http://pollinatorstewardship.org/?p=3246

Dwinell, S. (2016). Managed Pollinator Protection Program – Status Update. Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Retrieved on January 27, 2017 from
http://honeybeehealthcoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/MP3-Overview-Dwinnel.pdf

Grossman, E. (2013). Yale environment 360 Reporting, Analysis, Opinion & Debate: Declining Bee Populations Pose A Threat to Global Agriculture. Retrieved on January 4, 2017 from
http://e360.yale.edu/feature/declining_bee_populations_pose_a_threat_to_global_agriculture/2645

Nation’s Beekeepers Lost 44 Percent of Bees in 2015-16 Retrieved on January 8, 2017 from
https://beeinformed.org/2016/05/10/nations-beekeepers-lost-44-percent-of-bees-in-2015-16/

Smith, R. (2015). Southwest Farm Press. Retrieved on January 8, 2017 from
http://www.southwestfarmpress.com/management/managed-pollinator-protection-plan-seeks-reverse-honey-bee-decline

Spector, D. (2013). Business Insider: What Our World Would Look Like Without Honey Bees. Retrieved on January 4, 2017 from
http://www.businessinsider.com/the-world-without-honeybees-2013-6?op=1

Texas Beekeepers Association (2015). New Beginnings. Retrieved January 8, 2017 from texasbeekeepers.org.

Texas Corn Producers Board (2015) Pollinators in Protection Push from EPA. Retrieved on January 27, 2017 from
http://texascorn.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Kernel_Sept15web.pdf

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service: Insects and Pollinators. Retrieved January 8, 2017 from
http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/national/plantsanimals/pollinate/

4-H Essay question responses from the Pollinator Stewardship Council. Retrieved on January 27, 2017 from
http://polinatorstewardship.org/?page_id=5116

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For further information about the Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees, Inc., please contact the office at:


Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees, Inc.
Regina K. Robuck, Executive Director
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