During the past several decades, the steady loss of pollinators like honey bees, native bees, birds, bats, and butterflies has increasingly threatened agricultural stability and economics. In a presidential memo released last year, Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, the White House stated that this rising loss requires immediate attention in order to "ensure the sustainability of our food production systems, avoid additional economic impact on the agricultural sector, and protect the health of the environment.
Kelly Registration Systems, which is already working with the departments of agriculture in several states, has developed a South Carolina application to map beehives and allow pesticide applicators to notify beekeepers of applications in the area to help prevent the accidental poisoning of honey bees. The official program is available as soon as next month and is being rolled out to other states as well.
Citing recent data on the decrease in pollinator populations, the presidential memo established a Pollinator Health Task Force to be led by the Secretary of Agriculture and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. It reads, "Given the breadth, severity, and persistence of pollinator losses, it is critical to expand federal efforts and take new steps to reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels. The memo calls for a National Pollinator Health Strategy that includes public education, public-private partnerships and the sharing of research and data.
Clemson University picks system
With Kelly Registration Systems, once beekeepers, farmers and pesticide applicators share their information, the program matches hive locations with areas that will receive pesticide applications. And using alerts, it lets applicators know which areas to avoid and helps beekeepers prevent or mitigate potential exposure.
The program is currently being used by The Clemson University Department of Plant Industry and The Clemson University Extension Service to map as many of the estimated 25,000-30,000 hives in South Carolina as possible. It has been designed and developed with the ability to map bee hives, hive registrations, organic farms and vineyards, as well as other sensitive and protected areas.
Beekeepers are able to update GPS locations and submit online applications, while pesticide applicators are able to map multiple layers of data and save field coordinates for re-mapping.
"The challenge of developing pesticides that are not toxic to honey bees is difficult, however, we have the ability to limit the exposure of honey bees to pesticides through education and communication. This program creates an interface between the beekeepers and pesticide applicators and the communication between these groups is key for protecting our honey bees, says Jennifer Tsuruda, Ph.D., apiculture specialist at Clemson University.
One system leads to another
Stuart Edmondson, chief technology officer at Kelly Registration Systems, said "Clemson started using one of our hosted solutions last year to file mobile reports on plant nursery inspections, and we were able to leverage the development of that program to build this application. He added, "We have included a lot of new functionality and hope other states will benefit from the application as well.
The program features email and text notifications to beekeepers and applicators, and it can even keep track of beekeepers' license fees and payments to the state. The system is secure and keeps hive ownership and location information confidential because of their sensitive nature. This information is only made available to the state and to authorized pesticide applicators.Said Edmondson, "From what we have heard in industry meetings and the feedback we've received on the program, we feel this offers a solution for states with voluntary as well as required programs.