Protecting bees the focus of first pollinator summit

BISMARCK – Farmers, landowners, beekeepers and other stakeholders will exchange ideas on management practices that best protect honeybees during the first North Dakota Pollinator Summit, Wednesday, July 31, in Bismarck.

“The summit is an opportunity to build a dialogue and promote better understanding among beekeepers, growers and applicators,” said Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, who called the summit and who will be the discussion moderator. “We will discuss management practices and issues, such as placement of beehives and prudent use of pesticides, in an effort to reach common ground.”

Goehring said the North Dakota Department of Agriculture (NDDA) will use input from the meeting to draft a state pollinator protection plan.

“By bringing stakeholders together and formulating a plan, North Dakota can deal proactively with the problem on a cooperative, rather than regulatory basis,” he said.

The summit will be held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday, July 31, at the Kelly Inn, 1800 N. 12th St., Bismarck.

Following introductions and Goehring's opening comments, NDDA staff will give presentations on national pesticide/bee issues and North Dakota's current apiary program.

Goehring will then moderate a series of discussion on how beekeepers, landowners and applicators can protect bees from pesticide exposure.

Following a break, participants will discuss proposed best management practices for protecting bees and the next steps in the development of a state plan.

Factors cited in the widespread disappearance of bees, widely referred to as colony collapse disorder, include stress due to environmental changes, malnutrition and migratory beekeeping. A 2012 study also listed multiple causes, including pesticide exposure, parasites, genetics, habitat loss and poor nutrition.

North Dakota has been the nation's leading honey-producing state for the past decade. In 2012, the state produced 34.2 million pounds of honey from 495,000 colonies. The value of the honey crop was $64.6 million.