Pollinator Protection

Massachusetts is in the process of putting together a pollinator protection plan and so far what they have is not very protective of our pollinators. Here is the link to the final draft,  http://www.mass.gov/eea/docs/agr/farmproducts/docs/mdar-pollinator-plan-final-draft.pdf. We have until April 30th to email MDAR (Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources) supporting the use of the Pollinator Protection Plan Framework put together by 8 county beekeeper associations.
The “Pesticide Enforcement Program” only addresses large agriculture pesticide application. They do not at all address neonicotinoids and the use of them. Nor do they address small scale pesticide use or private residential pesticide use. Pesticide applicators are “encouraged” to obtain proper licensure from MDAR prior to the application of pesticides. They are also “encouraged” to seek training about pollinators and the best management practices.
The section titled “The Role of Beekeepers” states that beekeepers have the main responsibility for the overall health and welfare of the bees. It seems to me that the people writing this draft must not understand that honey bees are wild animals. We may “keep” the bees in hives that we provide, but they do their own thing. Beekeepers have no control over what and how things effect the bees. There is only so much that beekeepers can do or should do.
Then they go on to tell the beekeepers that we need to “prevent swarming by colonies”.What? Swarming is a natural, reproductive process of a healthy colony. Measures used to prevent swarming can be harmful to colonies and can leave a colony queen less. Beekeepers can try to make splits of their hives, but that is not always a successful way of preventing swarming of a colony. Again, honey bees are wild animals and they need to do what is best for their colony.
There is a little coverage of the need for forage and water for the bees. This is put in under the land managers and farmers section. They also touch on the role of nurseries and landscapers, but there is very little information there. At the end they mention that MDAR will periodically review and modify their plan to “ensure that is meets the needs of the stakeholders”. I have a feeling that the largest number of “stakeholders” is in big agriculture and not those who are really concerned about the welfare of the pollinators.
In response to the plan drafted by MDAR, eight Massachusetts county beekeepers associations came together to write a plan that would focus more on actually protecting the pollinators. Here is the link, http://www.plymouthcountybeekeepers.org/beekeepers-pollinator-protection-plan-framework/.
They emphasized a need to have all involved working together, but that Massachusetts beekeepers will have the majority vote.
Under the regulatory section there is a focus on training of inspectors and strengthening the state apiary inspection program. They also requested having information in electronic format and open to the public in the annual Pollinator Health Report. Beekeepers are requesting that the people that do use pesticides, do so at night when flowers are not in bloom and bees are not out foraging. Neonicotinoids are address in this plan and they ask to restrict the use of them in order to protect the pollinators.
The section for beekeepers encourages continuing education and continuing the activities that are being put on by the various beekeeping associations in the state. They want to see a continuation of hands on trainings to help beekeepers understand what to look for in their hives. There is also a request that the state inspectors educate the beekeepers on any problems that they find in their hives in a timely manner.
The pesticide applicator section focuses on educating the applicators about the chemicals that they are using and how they effect our pollinators, as well as educating them about local forage that is utilized by the pollinators. They put in guidelines as to when pesticides should be used to have the least effect on the bees. There is mention of beekeepers and pesticide applicators needing to be aware of each other’s activities and information on when and where pesticides are being sprayed.
The beekeepers plan also addresses improvement of forage, as well as expansion of it. They encourage research into the health and wellbeing of the bees. There is a push to set up queen rearing initiatives in Massachusetts. They plan to have the stakeholders meeting quarterly and as I said, the beekeepers will be the majority vote. This plan is much more open to communication and change as it needs to happen.
If you are in the state of Massachusetts you can send an email letting MDAR know that you are not satisfied with their plan and that you would like to see them implement the plan put together by the beekeepers. You can go to http://salsa4.salsalabs.com/o/51103/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=17988 to send a letter the state apiarist. You can also send a letter to John Lebeaux at john.lebeaux@state.ma.us, it is requested that you refer to the document as “The Eight County President’s Beekeepers Pollinator Protection Plan Framework. That way it is not confused with the protection plan that was submitted by farm bureau.
Reading through both of these plans, I don’t agree completely with either of them. The MDAR plan is not written to provide protection for the pollinators. The beekeeper’s plan does better, but it could do more. I still have a lot of learning to do around the politics. What I do know is that our pollinators are very important to us and if we don’t protect them there will be negative consequences for everyone. Let’s work together to make things better for our pollinators. 

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