USDA Forage and Nutrition Summit, held Oct. 20-21, 2014

1) The abundance and affordability of the food supply is at stake because it is predicted that widespread food shortages will occur as the world population grows to more than 9 billion people by 2050. At least one third of crop species depend on the services of .

2) The decline of honey was targeted as a major initiative by the president in his 2014 memorandum, “Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators.”

3) One of the possible reasons why bees are in decline is that, in general, there is a lack of understanding about where food comes from and the role of bees in pollinator-dependent fruits, vegetables and nut crops and in maintaining viable crop yields. In addition, honey bees provide essential ecosystem services that are important for maintaining biodiversity and habitat for plants as natural resources.

4) (Summit group members believe) the public hasn’t sufficiently voiced their concerns to policy makers and legislators to adequately support activities that promote pollinator health.

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USDA-Agricultural Research Service research scientists examine colonies of Russian bees, hoping to create bees resistant to colony collapse.

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USDA-Agricultural Research Service research scientists isolate a Russian queen from her colony.

Corn and Soy Digest:

1) Australian researchers have demonstrated yield increases of 10 percent to 40 percent in honeybee-pollinated soybeans, compared to self-pollinated beans.

2) In 2005, a Brazilian research project compared soybean seed production with and without honey bee colonies by raising plants in cages, and reported 50-percent-higher yields when bees were present.

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Bees drink nectar in soybean fields at a much higher rate than previously known. Studies have suggested bees can raise soybean yield by as much as 50 percent.


The Ohio State University: Ron Hammond, Andy Michel

1) As we come close to soybeans flowering across the state – growth stages R1-R2 – we need to bring up an important issue related not specifically to honey bees, but to pollinators in general, though honey bees in soybeans are still a concern.

2) Although soybeans are a self-pollinated crop, generalist pollinators such as bumblebees and other solitary bees do visit soybean fields regularly during the crop’s flowering stage. These pollinators will also visit other nearby sites, offering pollinating services to other plants including flowers and if present, vegetable crops.

3) Research out of Iowa State University indicates that many generalist pollinators make regular visits to soybeans and are at danger from insecticide sprays.

4) Little insecticide should be sprayed at flowering because a treatment application, as we all know, should only be applied when needed, when a threshold is reached, and not applied as a preventive application.

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Bees visit agricultural-crop fields even if they don’t them. U.S. Department of Agriculture warns to take care with when crops are flowering.


Iowa State University, Dr. Matt O’Neal, entomologist

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1) Bees appear to play a big role in pollinating soybeans, and more native bees are being found in crop fields than ever expected.

2) There is evidence that when soybeans are exposed to bees – most of the evidence is for honeybees – soybean yields are increased in a range of 10 percent to 30 percent. This is a bit shocking as soybeans are self-fertilized very quickly in the lifetime of the flowers. Furthermore, we do not find a lot of honeybees in soybean fields, yet many report that the honey made by them is mostly from nectar collected from soybeans.

3) Because native bees make up the majority of the bees we find in soybean fields, we are trying to quantify this phenomenon with the native bee community of Iowa. Efforts to study this phenomenon are challenging, as it requires timing the field studies just right.

4) Currently we are identifying which of the more than 20 species of bees found in soybean fields are most often found with soybean pollen. It will be what we focus on in the future.


Journal of Applied Ecology

1) Study conducted last year shows planting wildflowers next to crop fields increases the abundance of wild pollinators during crop bloom, and enhances pollination and yield.

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Wildflowers planted next to fields can enhance pollination and yield.

Fact Sheet: The Economic Challenge Posed by Declining Pollinator Populations

1) Pollinators contribute substantially to the economy of the United States and are vital to keeping fruits, nuts and vegetables in our diets… The problem is serious and poses a significant challenge that needs to be addressed to ensure the sustainability of our food-production systems, avoid additional economic impacts on the agricultural sector, and protect the health of the environment.

2) Insect pollination is integral to food security in the United States. Honey bees enable the production of at least 90 commercially grown crops in North America. Globally, 87 of the leading 115 food crops evaluated are dependent on animal pollinators, contributing 35 percent of global food production.

3) Pollinators contribute more than 24 billion dollars to the United States economy, of which honey bees account for more than 15 billion dollars through their vital role in keeping fruits, nuts and vegetables in our diets.

4) The number of managed honey bee colonies in the United States has declined steadily over the past 60 years, from 6 million colonies – beehives – in 1947 to 4 million in 1970, 3 million in 1990, and just 2.5 million today. Given the heavy dependence of certain crops on commercial pollination, reduced honey bee populations pose a real threat to domestic agriculture.







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