Project Apis m. Funds Dr. Judy Wu-Smart to investigate the impacts of pesticide-treated seed recycling in Nebraska.
Beekeepers have been re-locating their apiaries from Nebraska for years. Well before the public became aware of an ethanol plant producing pesticide-laden by-products, there had already been a concerning trend of beekeepers leaving Nebraska.
Dr. Marion Ellis, head of the Bee Lab at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) saw the pattern begin during his tenure. Beekeepers were migrating out of the state as more pastureland in the area was planted with corn, and especially when that corn was treated with organophosphate insecticides to control corn rootworm. Organophosphate insecticides are persistent in the environment and are highly toxic to bees, but beekeepers were reluctant to complain to friends and family who farmed the land. As Ellis said, “It became really hard to keep bees in the Corn Belt.”
More recently, large-scale career beekeepers with thousands of colonies have continued that exodus from Nebraska because they cannot afford the high bee losses year after year.1 A new publication representing a major collaboration across state and federal organizations puts some concerning data behind the trends. It highlights that bees in Nebraska are dealing with a disproportionately high number of pesticides detected at higher levels than most other states and the neonicotinoids clothianidin and thiamethoxam contributed significantly to the hazard quotient (the risk) posed to bees in Nebraska.2
"Pesticide risk assessment has not kept pace with new generations of crop protection products, but biologists, veterinarians, and farmers can all work together to understand the bigger picture... with pesticides, ultimately the dose makes the poison. If we can keep doses in a safe range, it’s ok for pesticides and beekeeping to co-exist. We just need to manage the dose.” - PhD Scholar Sarah Wood. Wood's research is helping to pave the way for better understanding and better practices.