New coalition works to improve honey bee health

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click image to zoomPresent (from left to right) were Rich Joost, director of Research for the United Soybean Board; Brittany Vester-Boler, small animal research scientist at Purina Animal Nutrition LLC, representing Land O’Lakes, Inc.; Jerry Hayes,honey bee health lead for Monsanto; Julie Shapiro, senior associate, The Keystone Center; Ed Spevak, Saint Louis Zoo curator for invertebrates and director of the WildCare Institute Center for Native Pollinator Conservation; and Randy Verhoek, president of the American Honey Producers Association. At the Saint Louis Zoo’s Annual Pollinator Dinner, The Keystone Center announced the formation of a new Honey Bee Health Coalition. Recognizing that declines in honey bee and pollinator health have put agriculture, healthy ecosystems, and worldwide food security at risk, this diverse coalition was formed to promote collaborative solutions.

Ed Spevak of the Saint Louis Zoo’s WildCare Institute Center for Native Pollinator Conservation and the Zoo’s Curator of Invertebrates introduced the Honey Bee Health Coalition, noting that it brings together beekeepers, growers, researchers, government agencies, agribusinesses, conservation groups, manufacturers and consumer brands, and other key partners in the U.S. and Canada to improve the health of honey bees and other pollinators, ecosystems, and the security of our food supply. Approximately 80% of flowering plants rely on the honey bee and other native and managed pollinators; these plants include crops like almonds, apples, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, squashes, tomatoes, and alfalfa among many others.

“We helped found this Coalition because honey bees support approximately $18 billion of United States food production annually,” said Randy Verhoek, President of the American Honey Producers Association. “In the United States, approximately 30% of managed honey bees now die each winter,” he continued, “compared to around 15% that beekeepers consider acceptable. This makes it increasingly difficult for beekeepers to stay in business, hurting not only the beekeepers and their families but also the farmers and agricultural communities that rely on those bees to pollinate crops.”

“If we do not act collaboratively to find solutions that work for all involved, honey bee health, the ability to produce fruits, nuts and vegetables, and the ability to sustain ecosystems and the economy will all be impacted,” said Jerry Hayes, Honey Bee Health Lead for Monsanto. “A healthy bee population is imperative for our industry and for our supply chain, and we need collaboration across stakeholders. This coalition is a great step in this direction.”

“The Coalition has already made important progress in identifying critical areas for collaboration, including bee forage and nutrition, crop pest management, hive management, and outreach, education and communications,” said Richard Joost, Director of Research for the United Soybean Board. “The Coalition will address these critical areas by building consensus on key strategies, creating a platform for collaboration, and funding partnerships, pilots, and programs.”

The idea for the Coalition first took shape as part of a Clinton Global Initiative Commitment in 2013. In a very short period of time the coalition members have turned that idea into a reality.

Coalition members currently include the Agricultural Retailers Association, the Almond Board of California, the American Beekeeping Federation, the American Honey Producers Association, the American Seed Trade Association, Bayer CropScience, Browning Honey Company, the Canadian Honey Council, CropLife America, CropLife Canada, Ducks Unlimited, DuPont, Eastern Missouri Beekeepers Association, Land O’Lakes, Inc., Monsanto Company, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, Pheasants Forever, Project Apis m., the Saint Louis Zoo’s WildCare Institute Center for Native Pollinator Conservation, Syngenta, Unilever, United Soybean Board, the University of Maryland’s Department of Entomology, and the U.S. Canola Association. The Coalition also includes ex officio participation from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Funding has been provided by the Agricultural Retailers Association, the American Honey Producers Association, Bayer CropScience, CropLife America, DuPont, Eastern Missouri Beekeepers Association, Land O’Lakes, Inc., Monsanto, Syngenta, Unilever, and the United Soybean Board.


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