Drift from the weedkiller dicamba, in vogue again because Roundup has created resistant “superweeds,” has damaged thousands of crop acres—among them, American buckwheat, a critical food source for honeybees. Beekeepers are being forced to close their businesses or relocate.
“This dicamba is the absolute worst problem we’ve ever had,” said Ray Nabors, a 40-year beekeeper in southeast Missouri’s Bootheel region. “It’s going to kill everything that puts on a flower that bees can eat.”
The Bootheel region and northern Arkansas are home to many large commercial beekeepers. Coy’s Honey Farm is the largest in Arkansas; co-owner Richard Coy noticed dicamba damage in 2015, the year Monsanto introduced dicamba-tolerant seeds. Seventy percent of buckwheat has died; 60 percent of Coy’s honey comes from that plant. He has lost $1.1 million in honey sales and from bees too weak to ship out for pollination.
A 2015 Penn State University study implicated dicamba drift in reduced and delayed flowering, resulting in decreased honeybee visits. Neal Bergman of Delta Bee Co., the largest commercial bee company in Missouri, says honey production is down two-thirds from 15 years ago.
The Environmental Protection Agency renewed dicamba’s registration last month, promising “no adverse impacts to bees or other pollinators.”
Nabors insists the industry is in trouble. “We’re losing commercial beekeepers like swatting flies, and we need the commercial guys because they’re the ones who do most of the pollination. Do we really want to give up [bees] over dicamba?”
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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