CropLife America (CLA) commends the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for hosting a summit this week that specifically addressed the impacts of the Varroa mite on the health of honey bees. During the summit, which was held Feb. 18 and 19 at USDA facilities in Riverdale, Md., approximately 75 stakeholders representing beekeepers, government, academia, and agriculture shared knowledge and perspectives surrounding the Varroa mite; reviewed research; identified gaps in understanding potential impacts on pollinators; and recommended future research priorities to improve management and mitigation tactics.

The summit builds on the progress of the October 2012 National Stakeholders Meeting on Honey Bee Health, also organized by USDA and EPA. The 2013 report of that Stakeholder Meeting concluded that parasitic Varroa mites are chief among the many factors that may affect pollinator health. The report recognized that “… the Varroa mite is the single most detrimental pest of the honey bee.” Additional adverse bee health factors outlined in the report include various viral and bacterial diseases; nutritional challenges; lack of genetic diversity; misuse of pesticides; and cultural practices. Following the report’s release, stakeholders identified the need to hold a Varroa summit to focus on this parasitic pest.

CLA and member companies were represented at the summit by 10 invitees. Dr. Barb Glenn, CLA’s senior vice president of science and regulatory affairs, delivered remarks on behalf of the crop protection industry. “The crop protection industry recognizes the importance of honey bees and apiculture, and the challenges that they face,” Dr. Glenn noted. “CLA’s member companies are looking ahead to identify new chemistries and biological solutions as we support responsible and legal uses of products to combat Varroa.”

In her presentation, Dr. Glenn emphasized that the crop protection industry is actively pursuing many solutions to the Varroa problem including varroacide discovery, screening, and development; varroacide delivery systems and resistance management; alternatives to chemicals, such as RNA interference; increased stewardship efforts, education, training and awareness; investing in research and development on other parasites and diseases that may affect bees; and other factors that will enhance pollinator health.

Dr. Ray McAllister, CLA’s senior director of regulatory policy, also attended the summit and added, “Pollinators play a significant role in agricultural production in the U.S., and we must look to scientific data in order to understand how we can better support their health. In addition to studying the impacts of the Varroa on bee health, we must address other factors, such as availability of forage as nutrition. CLA and its member companies work closely with USDA, EPA and other groups in pursuit of long-term solutions that will effectively protect our nation’s pollinators.”

For more information about the crop protection industry and pollinator health, visit www.croplifeamerica.org/pesticide-issues/protecting-our-pollinators.