Beekeepers, Farmers Should Cooperate to Protect Bees
With the decline in bee populations there is a lot of attention on the importance of bees pollinating a lot of fruit and vegetable crops. Many farmers are planting pollinator seed in some of their CRP acres to try and provide more habitat for the bees. Even homeowners with gardens are planting a small area of pollinator plants. Of course there are those who say farmers using insecticides are responsible for the declining bee populations.
There are some years when I have to spray my beans in August for soybean aphids. If there are bees in the field or nearby they will likely be killed too. So, is there anything we can do to protect bees? I was talking recently with Jeff Schultz, who is a Farm Business Management instructor at the South Central College in Faribault. Early in Jeff's career he was an agronomist for a company in Iowa. In Iowa there was a state law that before you sprayed a field with an insecticide, beekeepers in the area had to be notified.
The Iowa Department of Agriculture had a list of all beekeepers so agronomists could see where they were. Jeff said a day before they were going to spray a field he would call the beekeeper and let them know. The beekeeper would say "OK, thanks for calling. I will keep them locked in the hives for the day." Then Jeff got a job as an agronomist back in Minnesota at Castle Rock. One of his farmers needed to spray an insecticide so Jeff asked about the law requiring notification of beekeepers in the area. Jeff found out there was no such law in Minnesota.
This winter I was at the annual meeting of the Minnesota Corn and Soybean Growers and Commissioner of Agriculture Dave Frederickson was there. I asked Dave why Minnesota did not have a beekeeper law. He said it was brought up but the beekeepers in Minnesota did not support it. Apparently they did not want the state to have their location and contact information available to the public.
Just because Minnesota does not have a law, you can still cooperate with your neighbors. If you are a beekeeper, talk to the farmer who works the land around your beehives. I am sure if you asked him to let you know when he was going to spray a field he would say sure. Give him your cell number and I am sure he would let you know when an insecticide was going to be applied.