Pesticides Impacting PA's Honeybee Population

By Ali Ingersoll

Published 07/09 2014 05:10PM

Updated 07/09 2014 11:19PM

Nationwide, the honeybee population if dying off.  In Pennsylvania, the impact is greater - with 44% of the bees dying within the last year.

Researchers say the cold winter was a factor but something man-made is playing a big role, too.

"I think one of the key factors is the heavy use of pesticides," says Marianne Frazier, a senior extension associate at Penn State. "We're losing a lot of foreage area for the bees."

At the bee lab, she and her lab technicians are researching how pesticides impact the bees.

"We'll test their colony demographics," says Ryan Reynolds, one of the lab technicians.  "Then we'll just tease it apart and see which pesticides and which formulants led to different results."

"We're trying to find ways to be effective in ways of controlling pests, protecting pollinators and using less pesticides so we have unlimited food," says Frazier.

Marck MacDonald owns BeeTree Berry Farm.  He says the reason why he doesn't use pesticides is simple.

"I live here," says MacDonald.  "I eat here."

He says bees are essential to success for his farm.

"We use bees as pollinators," says MacDonald.  "They do a great job with the flowers; they're vital for our crops. Not just honeybees but native bees too; they're all important."

Frazier and MacDonald say the decline in the honeybee population impacts everyone.

"They do the job in pollinating those crops," says Frazier.  "If we don't have those pollinators, worst case scenario is we don't have those foods or we have a shortage."

"Look what's going on with this insect that is constantly traveling into our neighborhood, where we eat, where we produce, where we live," says MacDonald.  "Look what's happening to it.  Maybe the same thing is happening to us and we just don't know it."

Frazier says people at home can play their part by reducing the amount of herbicides they use on their lawn.  She says a good compromise is keeping your front lawn kept and the back full with clover and dandelions which produce pollen for the honeybees.

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