It’s estimated that about a third of every bite of food we eat comes from the pollination activity of pollinators. So protecting them is vital to maintaining our food supply.
That’s a big reason the national Pollinator Week exists – to remind people about the importance of pollinators and the things we can do to protect them. This year, Pollinator Week is June 19-25. The pollinator.org website has lots of information year round, and there’s currently a section for Pollinator Week. In that section, you’ll find even more information and activities. Don’t miss the downloadable toolkit for a tangible summary of the information and ways to be involved.
At the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, there’s a Pollinators page connected to the department’s website – https://www.ncagr.gov/pollinators/ Whether you’re a homeowner, beekeeper or farmer, you’ll find information to help you understand pollinators, particularly honeybees.
Department’s Concerns for Pollinators
Bees and other pollinators are particularly helpful in pollinating lots of specialty crops that are part of North Carolina’s agricultural diversity such as apples, blueberries and many other fruits and vegetables that aren’t grown as row crops.
“They’re a huge contributor to North Carolina agriculture for all the specialty crops,” said Patrick Jones, the director of the Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Division. “Simply put, we need the bees to support North Carolina ag.”
One big way NCDA&CS helps support pollinators is through the Apiary Services program in the Plant Protection Division. The primary function is to help beekeepers discover/identify and handle problems such as pests or diseases that hurt bee colony health.
“The goal is to help the beekeepers protect their bees from losses so that the growers will have sufficient pollinating services for the crops,” said Don Hopkins, who leads the program. “It’s indirectly a service to the growers to make sure that healthy colonies of honey bees that do provide pollination services are up to that task.”
That is why the apiary program is in the Plant Protection Section of the division.
Hopkins said diseases were the problem of concern when the program started, but in the last 25 years pests from other parts of the world have become a bigger issue. Pesticide use can also be a problem, although not as much as pests or disease. As one of the new videos addresses, pesticide use includes treatments the beekeepers use themselves – sometimes with improper products and/or methods. Pesticide use on nearby crops is sometimes a concern also.
It’s the pests that really got the Pesticides program of NCDA&CS more involved with beekeepers though. Jones said that back in the late 80’s and early 90’s when new pests such as the Varroa mite began to appear, the Pesticides program worked to get some treatment products approved with emergency use permits in the state and helped beekeepers get licensed to use them.
“But even when I started 40 years ago, we worked with Apiary Services on bee kills,” Jones said. “So we’ve worked together a long time.”
Because Jones understood some issues and concerns of beekeepers, he worked to get the Bee Check and Field Watch programs going in North Carolina. Bee Check allows beekeepers to register the location of their hives so that farmers or other pesticide applicators know if special care needs to be taken in the surrounding area. Field Watch allows farmers to share when and where they’re applying pesticides, which can benefit other farmers and also beekeepers.
“I can’t say enough good things about the Pesticides Section of the Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Division,” Hopkins said. “They’ll go out and check to see whether a misuse of a pesticide has occurred or not. They have allowed us as bee inspectors to have a better rapport with our beekeepers who can know that their services complement our services.”
How to support and protect pollinators
There’s one other – perhaps surprising – threat to bees aside from pests, diseases and pesticides, Hopkins said. It’s the lack of forage and habitat.
• So Hopkins would like to see homeowners reduce how often they mow their yards or at least how often they cut back weeds. Those plants can be beneficial to bees.
• He also says reducing pesticide use around your home is generally a good idea. “Only use what you need to use, only when you need to use it,” he said.
Anyone who may need an apiary inspection related to the bee colony’s health can contact Hopkins at 919-218-3310.
Team Award for Videos
Employees in the two aforementioned divisions of the department were recently recognized with an award for their work on two videos that appear on the Pollinators page. One video covers the proper use of pesticides to manage beehive pests, and the other video aims to help pesticide inspectors investigate bee kills. The video about bee kill investigations also gives a good overview of beehives for anyone who may want to learn the basics.
The idea for the videos goes back to the spring of 2020 when national pesticide and apiary organizations began discussing widespread improper pesticide use by beekeepers. Some of the ideas beekeepers come up with to treat pests can actually be harmful to hives, but the beekeeping video will help them avoid harmful methods. Meanwhile, the investigation video can help the everyday citizen and help inspectors get to the root of any problems.
By the fall of 2021, Jones led the effort to get the National Pesticide Safety Education Center to shoot and edit the videos. (At the time, Jones was the deputy director for pesticide programs in the Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Division. He was promoted to division director after Jim Burnette retired in May.) A great deal of teamwork followed to complete the videos, and ultimately, the people of North Carolina benefit from all of their work. The videos have been so well received as an educational resource, they will now be translated into French for use in Canada and into Spanish for use with migrant workers and perhaps other countries.
“It was great to see the videos and the team behind them were recognized,” Jones said. “You could tell when we were doing the work it was going to be great because of the great knowledge everyone put in, and it’s nice to see it all come together and be so well received – not just here but across the country and even across borders.”
- The employees recognized with the team award are:
- Structural Pest Control and Pesticides
- Patrick Jones, the deputy director for Pesticide Programs
- Dwight Seal, an ag program specialist in the Pesticides Section
- Travis Snodgrass, a pesticide specialist the Pesticides Section
- Sydney Ross, an ag program specialist in the Pesticides Section
- Jason Williams, an ag program inspector in the Pesticides Section
- Jamie Frye, the administrative specialist in the Pesticides Section
- Plant Industry
- Don Hopkins, the apiary inspection supervisor
- Lewis Cauble, an apiary inspector
- Structural Pest Control and Pesticides
(Read a copy of the comments from the award ceremony below.)
Comments delivered by Chief Deputy Commissioner David Smith during the “Excellence in Team Accomplishment” award presentation:
- The team I’m recognizing today worked on some educational videos related to beehives and beekeeping.
- This quarter’s Excellence in Team Accomplishment award goes to eight employees in the Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Division and the Plant Industry division.
- The team includes:
- Patrick Jones, the deputy director for Pesticide Programs
- Dwight Seal, an ag program specialist in Pesticides
- Travis Snodgrass, a pesticide specialist
- Don Hopkins, the apiary inspection supervisor in Plant Industry
- Lewis Cauble, an apiary inspector in Plant Industry
- Sydney Ross, an ag program specialist in Pesticides
- Jason Williams, an ag program inspector in Pesticides
- and Jamie Frye, the administrative specialist in Pesticides.
- This team has earned this award because of their work putting together two videos that can be shared nationally.
- One video covers the proper use of pesticides to manage beehive pests, and the other video aims to help pesticide inspectors investigate bee kills.
- The idea for the videos goes back to the spring of 2020. That’s when national pesticide and apiary organizations began discussing widespread improper pesticide use by beekeepers.
- Our department played a big role in developing a formal issue paper that went to the EPA the next year in 2021. That paper asked the EPA to issue a national message to beekeepers, addressing proper use of pesticides to manage beehive pests.
- Well… wouldn’t you know? The EPA sat on it, and nothing happened. So employees in these two divisions took the initiative and picked up the slack.
- By the fall of 2021, they reached out to the National Pesticide Safety Education Center to shoot and edit the videos. Then the collaboration really kicked in.
- By the following spring in 2022, there were contract negotiations and lots of administrative logistics that Jamie worked out. That work laid the foundation for everything else to come.
- Over the next few months, the folks in the Pesticides Section got the apiary inspectors involved. Together, they planned a “shot list” for the videos, and decided on a site in Asheville with several hives in a great location.
- They came together to record in August of last year. The inspectors used their expertise with bees to demonstrate pest detection and identification, as well as proper pest management.
- They showed the video crew exactly what they needed to help tell the story of proper pesticide use and proper investigations.
- But telling an educational story didn’t just involve what to show, but also what to say. That was another big team effort.
- Even more employees got involved as the team worked to figure out scripts for the narrations. They needed to be accurate and informative, but also easy to follow with the videos.
- It was a long and tedious process that sometimes involved day-long meetings over MS Teams.
- The team pulled in input from the Florida Department of Agriculture, national organizations and N.C. State Extension.
- They also tracked down and shared high-resolution photos that were needed to fill some gaps in the videos.
- The process involved research, re-writing, digging up pictures, sharing files, and a real team effort to bring everything together for the final product.
- The first viewing happened in December of last year, and then the finalized videos debuted at the national pesticide officials’ conference this March.
- Obviously, it was years in the making, and ultimately, the people of North Carolina benefit from all of their work.
- Some of the ideas beekeepers come up with to treat pests can actually be harmful to hives, but the beekeeping video will help them avoid harmful methods. And the investigation video will help inspectors get to the root of any problems.
- Since bees are so important to pollinating many of the foods we love, these videos are helping ensure we continue to enjoy those foods.
- In his nomination for this team, division director Jim Burnette said, “We all need to be reminded that one-third of every bite that we eat comes directly from the pollination activities of the vital pollinators.”
- Think of special fruits and vegetables like blueberries, apples, squash and pumpkins. These videos will help hives stay healthy, so growers can have healthy crops.
- Finally, I should mention how the team managed to do all this in a way that saved money and maximized resources.
- By securing and carrying over some FDA funding, no state funds were used for the project. That includes production and travel costs.
- Meeting virtually saved time and travel costs. And finding existing photos or shooting a few additional pieces of video at a local home hive also kept expenses down.
- The EPA funding will even cover the cost to translate the videos into French and Spanish.
- I’ll say that again: translations are in the works. That’s because apiary groups in Canada are interested, and so are Spanish-speaking beekeepers across the country.
- The videos we expected to become a national resource have now gone INTERNATIONAL.
- That’s thanks to this team of employees who worked together for years to make this project a reality.
- I think we should all be thankful for and proud of the work they’ve done.
- Please join me in congratulating these employees on earning this Excellence in Team Accomplishment award.