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Daisy Burns

The Beeginning of the End?

The decline in honey bee population has caused many to wonder, what would a bee-less future hold?   Hopefully, Managed Pollinator Protection Plans (MP3s) will help us to never find out.  This essay explores what MP3s are, why they’re important, and how they could more effectively protect honey bees from pesticides. 

First, imagine a world without honey bees…

“You can live without bees, I guess, just like you can live without sunlight, and possibly even sleep.  But why would you want to?  Bee-pollinated foods enrich our lives and keep us healthy. You don’t need Einstein to tell you that.”1  Without bees we’d be hand pollinating with paint brushes and cigarette filters, like in China’s Maoxian region, where humans pollinate 100% of fruit trees by hand.2  

NH Beekeeper of the Year, Jodi Turner, said, “Without bees, we’d be eating grain.” 3  “Quite a bit would happen, or rather, not happen, if the bees were gone,” remarked Jim McCart of Pemi Baker Bee Club.4   “Mitigating the effects of pesticides on bees is a high priority for the federal government, as both bee pollination and insect control are essential to the success of agriculture.”5 The estimated economic value of honey bee pollination to agriculture production for human consumption is just under $200 billion per year worldwide.6  Bees pollinate more than $15 billion in US crops and produce about $150 million in honey annually.7  Every spring California almond growers import about 80%  (1.7 million) of US colonies to pollinate their 1.85 – 200 billion pounds of almonds.8  Almonds are only one of about 90 foods pollinated by bees.9  “Without bees and their ilk, almonds simply wouldn’t exist.” 10

            Now that we’ve concluded honey bees are important, we can discuss what’s being done to help them.  In 2014, President Obama presented the concept of Managed Pollinator Protection Plans (MP3s) to the federal government.  The intention of MP3 is to protect pollinators from pesticides.  This is achieved through education and communication especially with key stakeholders (beekeepers, growers, and pesticide applicators).

Before any improvements can be made, MP3s need to be implemented, which has only happened in seven states.11  Thirty nine other states, including NH,12 only have a plan of action.13  “It’s hard to tell how MP3 could be improved, without having it in place,” says David Rousseau,  Director, NH Division of Pesticide Control.14   Maine has had an MP3 since 2015.  “This will be the year we can accurately evaluate the effect MP3 is having,” commented Jennifer Lund, from Maine’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.15  EPA should make MP3s mandatory, and set an implementation deadline.  As Michelle Colopy from Pollinator Stewardship Council said, “Many states won’t start MP3 because it isn’t funded.”16   EPA could allocate funds to those states.

When MP3s’ communication channels are successful, pesticide applicators inform beekeepers 48 hours before spraying.  However, it is still a financial burden for beekeepers to temporarily relocate their colonies.  Not only that, the 48 hour rule is nothing new. As Colopy said, “It has been around since the 1970s and clearly hasn’t solved the problem.”17  Enlarging the 1-2 mile “Pollinator Awareness Zone”18  (PAZ) would also help bees since they travel up to 5 miles to gather pollen. If the pollen collecting bees bring pollen contaminated with pesticides back to their hive, it will kill the bee larva.  Some chemicals are prohibited if there are colonies within the PAZ, even if beekeepers have been notified.19 This needs better enforcement laws.  Maine is creating a Geographical Information System to show where managed hives are located.20 Lund feels this will make it easier for pesticide applicators to keep track of the PAZ.21

 MP3s’ educational materials should better help the public and key stakeholders understand the effects pesticides have on pollinators.   Information should be provided about the negative effects of spraying pesticides “as a protective measure” (when pests are not present), which increases pests’ resistance, and kills many helpful insects.  Only 5% of insects are harmful to humans or crops.22  One study in China found that half of the apple farmers were unaware that pesticides could kill bees.23  Reminders to avoid spraying when a crop is in bloom,  or choosing a pesticide that loses potency quickly and spraying it at night, could make a huge difference in the future of bees.  

Better yet, MP3s could mandate reduction or elimination of pesticides.  Awareness of the effects of pesticides should decrease public consumption.  Lund remarked, “Since MP3 has been in place in Maine (2015) pesticide applicators are more aware of what they can do, and they’re willing to make changes in the right direction.”24  There should defiantly be more public outreach on behalf of pollinators.  MP3s must be tailored to each state’s specific needs. With education and communication, we could prevent the bees from dying.  It doesn’t have to be extremely difficult, but if we wait too long, it will be.  

 However, as effective as all these improvements might make MP3s, we need more than words on paper. We all have a part to play in the solution.  As Colopy put it, “None of these plans will solve the problems bees are facing.  It will take all of us people to come together and agree we want to live in a world with a balanced ecosystem and healthy food.”25  

NH citizens are making an effort.  Nancy Mangion, owner of Bee Keepers Warehouse, said the most important part of her work is to walk new beekeepers through the process.26    Pemi Baker Bee Club mentors youth, and keeps a hive at Squam Lake Science Center in Holderness to educate visitors.27   UNH works with pollinator researchers throughout New England, and has staff available to answers questions via email  (answers@unh.edu) or phone (1-877-398-4769).28 

The bees have helped us survive.  Now it’s our turn to help them and, in turn, help ourselves.  As Turner said, “It’s not too late, but if we don’t make changes, it will be.”29  Let’s continue to work together to ensure we never reach that point where it’s too late.  



[1] Palmer, Brian.  (November 6, 2015). Assessing our chances of survival without the prodigious pollinator. NRDC.

[2] Pearson, Gwen. ( May  20, 2014).  Will We Still Have Fruit if the Bees Die Off?

[3]   Turner, Jodi.  NH Beekeeper of the year.  Phone interview.  Feb.  6, 2017

[4]   McCart, Jim.   Beekeeper,  Pemi Baker bee club member.   Phone  interview.  Feb. 5, 2017

[5]  Dwinell, Steven  (May 2015). Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. National Strategy to promote the Health of Honey bees and other pollinators.

[6]   United States Department of Agriculture, National Agriculture Statistic Service. ( www.nass.usda.gov ).     

[7]   Chavarria, Gabriela. [1999-2000] Pollinator Conservation, Renewable Resources.

[8]   Rodrigues, Robert.  (Feb. 27, 2015) The Freson Bee. Brandi, Gene.  Vice President American Beekeeper Federation & NPR.

[9]    California Almond Growers.

[10]   Palmer, Brian.  https://www.almonds.com/consumers/about-almonds/bee

[11]   copy-of-state_plan_status-inventory-3  (May 29, 2015)  pollintorstewardship.org

[12]   Rousseau, David &  copy-of-state_plan_status-inventory-3  (May 29, 2015) Pollintorstewardship.org.   Phone interview,  Feb.  8, 2017.

[13]   Lund, Jennifer. Maine Department of Agriculture Conservation and Forestry. Phone interview,  Feb.  8, 2017.

[14]    Rousseau, David. Director of the New Hampshire Division of Pesticide Control. Phone interview,  Feb.  8, 2017.

[15]    Lund,  Jennifer.  Maine Department of Agriculture Conservation and Forestry. Phone interview,  Feb. 8, 2017

[16]     Colopy,  Michelle.  Pollinator Stewardship Council.  Phone interview,  Feb. 6, 2017.

[17]    Colopy,  Michelle.  Pollinator Stewardship Council.  Phone interview,  Feb. 6, 2017.

[18]     Guidance for State Lead Agencies for the Development and  Implementation of Managed Pollinator Protection Plans.  Dec, 4, 2014.

[19]   Guidance for State Lead Agencies for the Development and  Implementation of Managed Pollinator Protection Plans.  Dec, 4, 2014.

[20]   Lund,  Jennifer.  Maine Department of Agriculture Conservation and Forestry. Personal interview,  Feb. 8, 2017

[21]   Lund,  Jennifer. Maine Department of Agriculture Conservation and Forestry. Personal interview, Feb. 8, 2017

[22]    Colopy, Michelle.  Pollinator Stewardship Council.  Phone interview, Feb. 6, 2017.

[23]    Pearson, Gwen.  May 20, 2014 https://membracid.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pesticides.png

[24]    Lund, Jennifer.  Maine Department of Agriculture Conservation and Forestry. Phone interview, Feb. 8, 2017

[25]    Colopy, Michelle.  Pollinator Stewardship Council.  Phone interview, Feb. 6, 2017.

[26]    Mangion, Nancy.   Beekeepers Warehouse.  Personal interview, Jan. 25, 2017.

[27]    McCart, Jim & Pemi Baker Beekeepers Association.  Pemibakerba.org.  Phone interview, Feb. 3, 2017.

[28]  Papineau, Amy.  UNH Cooperative Extension – Merrimack County.  Field Specialist – Food and Agriculture.  Email,  Feb. 9, 2017.   

[29]  Turner, Jodi.  NH Beekeeper of the year.  Phone interview.  Feb.  6, 2017 


Works Cited

Carolina State University.

Delaney, D. and D. Tarpy (2008), “The Role of Honey Bees in Apple Pollination.”

DeLisle, Jeremy.  UNH Cooperative Extension.

Glen Apiaries, phone interview.  January 25 2017

Godville, Gerard & Mary-Ellen.   Email,  Feb.  4, 2017.

Hardman Apiaries, phone interview.  January 25 2017.

Heitkams Apiaries, phone interview.  January 25 2017

Kolodziej, Starsha.  NH Beekeepers Association President.  Email, Feb.  2, 2017

UNEP (2010). “Emerging Issues, Global Honey Bee Colony Disorder and Other Threats to  Insect Pollinators.”  

UNH Cooperative Extension Bee Lab. 

United States Department of Agriculture, National Agriculture Statistic Service  ( www.nass.usda.gov ).

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