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November 2014

New Research Study Shows the Value of Neonics

Reports from a new study are providing a comprehensive evaluation of the economic and societal benefits of neonicotinoid insecticides in North America for the first time. Independent agricultural economists and scientists with AgInfomatics, LLC, conducted analyses exploring the answer to the question: What would happen if neonicotinoids were no longer available? Comparing that answer to current product use revealed the value of neonicotinoids to agriculture as well as residential and urban landscapes.

The study evaluated seed treatment, soil and foliar uses of neonicotinoid insecticides in the United States and Canada. Research included commodity crops such as corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, sorghum and canola, specialty crops such as citrus, vegetables and grapes, plus turf, ornamental and landscape uses.

As the largest selling insecticide class in the world, some have questioned the value of neonicotinoids. This study was undertaken to provide reliable, objective evidence of the benefits these products bring to modern pest management systems.

Research results prove that neonicotinoids add billions of dollars to the economy, and benefit entire communities, not just individual growers.

In addition, research shows a loss of neonicotinoids would force growers to rely on a few, older classes of insecticides. More foliar sprays of broad-spectrum insecticides would be used in place of targeted seed or soil treatments. Across selected commodity crops evaluated, the study found that each pound of neonicotinoid lost would be replaced by nearly five pounds of older insecticides. The consequences of this change would result in reduced crop yield and quality, disrupted pest management practices impacting beneficial insects including honey bees and, in some cases, catastrophic damage due to a lack of suitable alternatives to manage invasive pests.

AgInfomatics, LLC, is an agricultural consulting firm established in 1995 by professors from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Washington State University. The research was jointly commissioned by Bayer, Syngenta and Valent, with additional support from Mitsui on the turf and ornamental studies.

Active ingredients in the study included clothianidin, dinotefuran, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam.

Reports from the Study on the Value of Neonicotinoids in North America
A Summary of Grower and Agri-Professional Perspectives from Regional Listening Sessions in the United States and Canada
A Case Study of Neonicotinoid Use in Florida Citrus
A Case Study of Neonicotinoid Use in Mid-South Cotton
Estimated Impact of Neonicotinoid Insecticides on Pest Management Practices and Costs for U.S. Corn, Soybean, Wheat, Cotton and Sorghum Farmers
Methods and Assumptions for Estimating the Impact of Neonicotinoid Insecticides on Pest Management Practices and Costs for U.S. Corn, Soybean, Wheat, Cotton, and Sorghum Farmers
Value of Insect Pest Management to U.S. and Canadian Corn, Soybean and Canola Farmers
Estimating the Economic Value of Neonicotinoid Insecticides on Flowers, Shrubs, Home Lawns, and Trees in the Homescape
A Case Study of Neonicotinoid Use for Controlling Chinch Bug in Florida St. Augustine Grass
A Case Study of Neonicotinoids in the Control of Whiteflies in Ornamentals
The Value of Neonicotinoids to Turf and Ornamental Professionals
A Case Study of Neonicotinoid Use for Controlling Emerald Ash Borer—The Naperville, Illinois Experience
A Meta-Analysis Approach to Estimating the Yield Effects of Neonicotinoids
An Economic Assessment of the Benefits of Nitro-Guanidine Neonicotinoid Insecticides in U.S. Crops

Reports are available at and will continue to be released through December.

Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its own report, "Benefits of Neonicotinoid Seed Treatments to Soybean Production." The EPA report used a limited data set, was incomplete, and undervalues the benefits that modern seed treatments provide to soybean growers and the economy overall. The 60-day comment period closes December 22 regarding limitations EPA is proposing for soy production practices. Find out more and post your comments today.

Bayer Neonic Infographic
This infographic depicts the robust quantitative and qualitative study methods used including econometrics modeling of insecticide use, crop yield data and market impacts; surveys of growers, professional applicators and consumers; regional listening panel sessions; and in-depth case studies.

Think You Want to Be a Beekeeper?

There are beginning beekeepers, recreational beekeepers, commercial beekeepers and all sorts in between. But how do you know if any of it is for you? Here are some questions to ask before diving into the hive.

  1. Is my family supportive? Beekeeping is a family experience. Make sure your family members are on board. In spite of your efforts, more bees will be seen in the yard, by water sources and probably in the garage. Is anyone allergic or hyper sensitive either to stings or suffer from insect phobias?

  2. Have you talked with your neighbors? While you may not need their permission, it will NOT improve relationships if you don't ask for their input, especially if they have negative concerns. This will be your bees' neighborhood and it should be environmentally friendly.

  3. Have you checked regarding local ordinances? Municipalities have different rules and regulations about beekeeping. Review local requirements carefully. There may be requirements of registration, identification and location.

  4. How do I keep people safe from stings near my hive? Create walking paths, planting paths and play paths that steer away from the hive.

  5. How do I pick a good location for the hive? Like us, bees need water and a diverse diet of pollen and nectar in order to be healthy. You must have a nearby water source. Bees need a variety of continuous flowering plants to provide nectar and pollen. Bees will forage for about 2 miles from the hive (unless they need to travel farther to find what they need), so you have to consider what is around you. Bees like sunny spots protected from the wind.

  6. How long before I can harvest honey? Be patient and don't harvest your hive's honey the first year. Bees make honey so that they don't starve during the winter months.

  7. How much will it cost? Beekeeping is not a hands off hobby nor inexpensive. While the major costs are up front i.e. suit, smoker, boxes and bees, there will be continuous costs associated with caring for your bees. The short answer? Between $500 and $600. (See chart.)

  8. How much time will it take to keep bees? The answer depends on where you live, what food is available and the time of year. The first year is the most time intensive because the bees don't have any established food stores, so their diet needs to be supplemented with sugar water and that can be time consuming.

    Item Cost*
     Hive (including cover, inner cover, body, shallow, frames, screened bottom) $203
     Smoker $35
     Bee Suit
     Hive Tool
     Gloves $10
     Mite Treatment
     Bees $105-150
     Total $515-560
    *Start-up costs from Bayer beekeeper Veldon Sorenson

If your answers to the questions above have led you to conclude that maybe beekeeping isn't for you, don't worry! There are many ways for you to support honey bees. Consider planting a garden with bee attractant flowers or simply sharing the story of how our food is pollinated by honey bees and the stressors that they currently face. See upcoming editions of the Bayer Bee Care Buzz newsletter and website for more ideas.

The Most Heavily Traveled Livestock in the World Heads West

This is travel season for commercially-kept bees. Beginning in mid-October and through mid-February, about 1.6 to 2 million colonies of honey bees are placed in California almond orchards for pollination services. Other bees travel to Texas for overwintering.

Even though almond trees blossom from February to March, many of the commercially-kept honey bees travel to the San Joaquin Valley early because their home climate is too cold to keep them active for the winter.

When the honey bees arrive, there will be no blooms and drought conditions. "I know beekeepers who have hit catastrophes out there and gone out of business," said commercial beekeeper Dave Shenefield. He was preparing 2,000 hives for the 2,300-mile journey from Indiana to California in mid-November. He will feed his bees protein patties and check on them two to three times during their visit to the almond orchards.

Beekeepers are paid $100-$200 per hive depending on the hive's condition and other factors, according to Shenefield, although he looks at $150-$175 pricing for his eight-frame hives that are well populated. It costs about $35 per hive for him to ship the bees and another $25 per hive goes to his broker.

The Almond Board of California recently released a set of Honey Bee Best Management Practices (BMPs) that outlines practical steps that almond growers and pesticide applicators can take together with beekeepers to protect and promote bee health.

Shenefield participates in Bayer's Sentinel Hive program designed to investigate causes of poor bee health.

And Where the Bees Go, So Go Their People

Bayer Bee Care will host an exhibit at each of the conferences below.

Almond Board Conference
December 9-11, 2014
Sacramento, CA

North American Beekeeping (ABF) Conference & Tradeshow
January 6-10, 2015
Disneyland Hotel
Anaheim, CA

American Honey Producers Association (AHPA) Convention & Tradeshow
January 6-10
Manhattan Beach Marriott
Manhattan Beach, CA

About Those Fruits and Veggies

We often hear that about one-third of the human diet is reliant on animal population. In some cases, such as almonds and canola, the plants would not produce fruit without pollination services meaning that they are "self-incompatible" and need cross-pollination to produce a crop.

In other cases, pollination is needed for proper fruit and seed set, yield, and quality.

For cucumbers and melons, pollination makes the difference between fruit that is marketable and fruit that is not. Check out photos of improper seed set on Penn State's extension website.

Live from the Hive

Beekeeper Sarah Myers removes the inner cover before pulling frames to inspect the beehive at the Bayer Bee Care Center
Beekeeper Sarah Myers removes the inner cover before pulling frames to inspect the beehive. The hive was last opened October 30 and will not be opened again until warm weather this spring. It's important to monitor for mites — and treat accordingly — before bees begin overwintering. The demonstration hive was treated for mites this past spring and an alcohol wash monitoring showed a healthy hive not needing further treatment.
The Bayer Bee Care demonstration hive is doing well as we approach winter. The queen's egg-laying has greatly declined and her movements have changed since summer. In fact, our beekeepers couldn't find her for a couple of weeks. (Without a queen, workers start laying eggs and since they lay only male eggs, it's a dead end for the colony.)

The bees are consuming some of their spring/summer food stores and are collecting pollen from a variety of plants that are currently in bloom, although foraging has slowed with cooler temperatures. (Bees will not fly outside the hive when outside temperatures are below 55 degrees F as their flight muscles cannot warm up enough for flying activity.)

The bees are also consuming extra sugar water to boost their honey stores for winter. There are about four frames of mixed brood in all stages of development which means the queen is doing well and continuing her egg laying, even though it has greatly slowed. The adult bees that emerged in October will live throughout the winter months, much longer than their spring/summer sisters who only live four to six weeks.

During the summer, the Bee Center demonstration hive did so well that our beekeepers split it into two more colonies. (A split is when half of the bees are put into a new hive with a queen cell which will soon emerge into an adult queen or queens are sometimes purchased.) Our beekeepers didn't have any queen cells or queens available when they did the split, so they took frames with 1-3 day old eggs and used those as a way to entice the two new splits to raise a queen. The first split raised a queen successfully. The second split did not raise a queen after multiple attempts, so they combined them with a weaker colony that had a queen but could use extra workers. The bees from both of the split hives are now doing well and residing at our Eastern Bee Care Technology Station in Clayton, N.C. The demonstration hive still resides at the Bee Care Center with the queen who emerged on the Center's grand opening day April 15.

CLA Recognizes Bee Care Tour

CropLife America's Stewardship First program recently recognized Bayer's Bee Care Tour that brought honey bee health to the forefront with a coast to coast tour covering more than 5,600 miles and outreach to 29,000 bee colonies in 2014. The purpose was to foster collaboration among growers, beekeepers, researchers, media, consumers and other stakeholders and to raise awareness of the health challenges impacting honey bees.

Grad Student Investigates Oxidative Stress In Bees

Jen Williams, a graduate student at Virginia Tech, is conducting research on oxidative stress in bees at the Bayer Bee Care Center
Virginia Tech graduate student Jen Williams enjoys both lab and field work. "I've worked with bees for a couple of years and I really, really like them so I'd like to keep working with them if at all possible. Their social structure is what drew me to them. It's incredible that an individual bee is so small and seemingly insignificant, but together they form this huge societal structure that works together so well. They're just like machines. They have this perfect society and work extremely hard only to benefit the colony." She will graduate in March with a master's degree in entomology.
Jen Williams, a graduate student at Virginia Tech, is conducting research on oxidative stress in bees at the Bayer Bee Care Center. Since May, she has been looking at bee samples brought in through the Sentinel Hive program to determine prevalence of diseases, such as Deformed Wing Virus, and the relationship of disease to antioxidant levels.

The health of queen and worker bees, like the health of all living organisms, is affected by their capacity to minimize oxidative stress. All aerobic organisms contain a built-in mechanism to combat oxidative stress in the form of antioxidants, and may acquire additional antioxidants through their diet. The link between oxidative stress and the aging process has long encouraged people to seek antioxidants in the form of dark chocolate, red wine, blueberries and various skin treatments. Pollen is the food-derived antioxidant source for bees.

A small amount of oxidants in bees primes the immune system and keeps the body on alert. But once oxidants accumulate in the system, there is a tipping point. That's where antioxidants kick in, but there's only so much they can do before health declines.

As worker bees age, their job within the hive changes. Young bees clean, build wax and comb, nurse, collect pollen from foragers, fan and guard the hive. Their last job is to forage for pollen and nectar. They use the muscles in their thorax for their flight, which can be for miles depending on the nutritional availability in their nearby habitat. During this part of their life, oxidative stress becomes acute. This could also help explain why queen bees (who don't forage) are more resistant to oxidative stress than workers and live much longer.

This project will investigate whether the various stressors of honey bee colonies induce oxidative stress and will attempt to quantify this through assaying the total antioxidant capacity of the bees.

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