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Pollinator Health Threatened: No Simple Solutions

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Pollinators are critical for agricultural production. We hear a lot about declining honey bee populations, sometimes blamed on agricultural use of pesticides.

We always want to find a single cause for a problem, but scientists haven’t been able to do so in the case of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

This year there is a new testing service to allow for better assessment of honey bee health and uncover the large role of diseases in honey bee colony collapse disorder.

Supported by the National Corn Growers Association and the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, the CCD testing service will allow for quicker assessment of diseases, according to Peter Snyder, President and CEO of the National Agricultural Genotyping Center.

“It’s the first time we have a panel of 11 different diseases, the most common diseases found in honeybees in North America and they’re all in one test. Prior to this you could test one disease at a time and wait a long time for the answer. The exciting news is that we can get responses within 30 days, and tell what’s going wrong in your hive.”

Snyder says bee keepers have been focusing on the health of hives for decades, but within the last 20 years there’s been a problem with colony collapse disorder.

“A lot of people have been looking at the cause of that collapse. It’s not a simple answer. Honeybee health is a very complex issue, and state legislature should not be looking at easy answers. Unfortunately, those easy answers fall on the backs of farmers. The problem is the very complex interplay of diseases, parasitic mites, and fungal pathogens are causing the collapse disorder.”

He explains how big of a problem diseases in honey bee hives are. “What’s causing the collapse disorder are caused by the disease. It is indicated that it’s a very complex mosaic of problems that you have mites that are bringing the disease into the hives. It’s very important that we understand the diseases and we need to properly identify them and take remedial action.”

Snyder says proper sanitation can help prevent diseases in bee colonies, but adds that an accurate diagnosis is critical, and the new testing service will help ensure accurate results.

Farmers need to be engaged in bee health because pollinators are critical to success in agriculture. “I would like american farm to take this message out and meet with their local bee clubs and let them know that they aren’t the problem. They are part of the solution.”

To learn more about efforts to address long-term health of honey bees and pollinators, visit http://honeybeehealthcoalition.org.

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