New coalition works to improve honey bee health
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.”