MOFGA'S Public Policy Teach-In: Where Have All the Bees Gone?
Saturday, September 22, 10:30 a.m.
The Spotlight Stage
Both native species of wild bees and commercially managed European honeybees – the true workhorses of pollination and food production in the world – have suffered dramatic population declines in recent years. On average, 10 years ago about 15 to 20 percent of commercially managed honeybee colonies died off annually; now, it's 30 to 40 percent. In 2006, scientists named one phenomenon – adult honeybees suddenly abandoning their hives – Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD.
Meanwhile, research published last year in the journal PNAS revealed that populations of some species of native bumblebees in North America have declined by as much as 96 percent in two decades, and their geographic range has shrunk by up to 87 percent. As writer John Upton noted in the online journal Grist, "The near disappearance of once-common bumblebees across the nation – and in other parts of the world — doesn’t only jeopardize our food supply. It puts into question the future of nearly every single wild plant that blooms."
Join two beekeepers – Theresa Gaffney of Highland Blueberry Farm in Stockton Springs, Maine, and David Hackenberg of Hackenberg Apiaries in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania – and two scientists – Dr. Frank Drummond of the University of Maine and Dr.
Kimberly Stoner of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station – to discuss the importance of pollinators and explore possible explanations for the CCD mystery.
Tom and Theresa Gaffney’s Highland Blueberry Farm is celebrating its 10th year as a MOFGA-certified organic farm. They manage 25 acres of wild blueberry fields and sell value-added products, including the first “whole plant wild blueberry tea.” Theresa began keeping a beehive for pollinating and honey five years ago to explore solutions that might help large commercial beekeepers contend with mounting challenges to bee health. She describes herself as a "biodynamic" beekeeper, concerned about toxic exposures that she cannot control, fascinated by the question of whether we can "have a healthy bee even in an unhealthy environment."
David Hackenberg has been a commercial beekeeper for half a century. Operating out of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, he trucks his bees from Maine to Florida. In 2007, he lost 75 percent of his 3,200 colonies and was the first to report massive die-offs to Penn State researchers. These losses led him to suspect the impact of pesticides, particularly neonicotinoids. He has testified in Congress about CCD and is featured in the film
Vanishing of the Bees and in various media reports, including 60 Minutes. He is past president of the American Beekeepers Federation and current co-chair of the National Honey Bee Advisory Board.
Dr. Frank Drummond has a Ph.D. from the University of Rhode Island and is a professor of entomology at the University of Maine. His research interests include pollination ecology, integrated pest management of blueberry pests in Maine, and conservation of native bees. He is completing a major collaborative research project following 30 honeybee colonies in each of seven states, exploring links between honeybee pathogens,
pesticide diversity in pollen, foraging area in agriculture and honeybee colony health.
Dr. Kimberly Stoner has a Ph.D. in entomology from Cornell University and is associate agricultural scientist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. Her research focuses on measuring pesticides in pollen and nectar, pollination of pumpkins and squash, and abundance and diversity of native bees on vegetable farms. She has a project measuring pesticides in pollen collected from honeybee hives, and measuring pesticides in the pollen and nectar of squash plants treated with systemic insecticides used in conventional farming.
The panel will be moderated by Sharon Tisher, who teaches environmental law in the University of Maine Ecology and Environmental Sciences Program.