Honey Bee Health Coalition

Caydee Savinelli of Syngenta spoke at PCBA

Caydee Savinelli of SyngentaI like bugs and want to keep most of them. We (she and husband) are the kind of people that move turtles out of roads. Syngenta’s business is agriculture. We need to find better ways to feed the world and we need pollinators.

Agriculture is America’s top export and we lead the world. 97 percent of 2 million farms in America are owned by families or family businesses. US farmers provide 18 percent of the world’s food supply on 10 percent of the world’s farmland. US consumers spend about 10 percent of their income on food while consumers in other countries spend 13-35 percent. The global value of pollinators is estimated to be between 120 and 220 billion dollars while in the US, the value of honey bee pollination alone is estimated to be $15 billion dollars. Native bees and other pollinators provide $3 billion dollars of pollinator services. Of more than 200,000 US beekeepers, 5 percent are commercial and manage 70 percent of US hives. Another 15 percent are sideliners (attempting to make a profit with fewer than 300 colonies) and 80 percent are hobbyists. Most Person County beekeepers are hobbyists.

Are bees going extinct? Most present agreed with speaker that honey bees are not going extinct though lots of others are worried about it. It’s much harder to study the native bees. Keeping bees healthy IS getting harder pushing up beekeeper costs. Many interacting factors affect bee health: Parasites, diseases, poor bee nutrition (lack of variety in diet and lack of suitable habitat), changing weather patterns, pesticides (both those used in the hive and those used in agriculture), beekeeper management, lack of genetic diversity (weakening resistance to pest and disease), and queen failure. Crop protection products are produced in response to Americans’ need for perfect (not bug-eaten, not even bug-touched) food. Product development, including synthesis and biological screening, field screening and toxicology studies, government and scientific review, launch, marketing and continuing stewardship, takes 9 to 14 years and may cost 250 to 300 million dollars for ONE product.

Neonicotinoids are safer for the people who apply them than the alternatives and they are a good IPM tool, but they are highly toxic to bees so label directions … which are the LAW … prohibit their use during bloom periods when bees might be in the area. And soil-applied neonicotinoids are safer for bees than aerial sprays, for instance. Honey bee venom itself is pretty toxic … at high doses. Too much of anything, from nicotine to caffeine, aspirin, table salt and sugar, can kill you.

The dose makes the poison. Neonicotinoids are helping the Florida citrus growers who are battling the citrus greening diseases carried by introduced Asian Citrus Psyllid. The disease can kill a tree in 7 years that otherwise might be productive for 15 or more years. Canola is the most important crop in western Canada and there is no evidence that neonicotinoid treatments are putting bees at risk. Syngenta considers continuing education about their product an important part of their mission, encouraging users to follow label instructions (which must be approved by EPA) and to consider pollinator health … for instance by spraying late in the day after pollinators quit flying. Their Operation Pollinator tries to create habitat and forage for honeybees and other pollinators. As a result of this project to encourage people to plant more bee forage they have helped create pollinator gardens at AT&T, UNC-G, NC State, the Glencoe Mill Village near Burlington and on more than 100 golf courses in 26 states.

Syngenta is one of the founding members of the Honey Bee Health Coalition, with work groups on nutrition and forage, hive management, crop pest management and cross-industry collaboration. Syngenta is also helping to support the Bee Informed Partnership, working directly with beekeepers to identify best management practices.

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