MEMPHIS -- The National Cotton Council (NCC) today applauded USDA for holding its "Varroa Mite Summit" saying the forum is a key step for stopping honey bee health decline.
The February 18-19 meeting in Riverdale, MD, resulted from the American Honey Producers Association's urging after it recognized the valid Varroa mite threat. The NCC also recognized the threat and supported the honey producers' summit request by joining 15 other agricultural organizations in October on letters to EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention and USDA's Office of Pest Management Policy. The letters urged them to participate in a Varroa mite summit -- as USDA is charged with the responsibility of bee health research and EPA reviews and registers pesticides.
During the Summit, scientists and stakeholders with significant knowledge about this pest shared insights, reviewed research progress and discussed ideas for developing and implementing an effective Varroa mite management program. The Summit also served as a forum for building collaborative efforts to improve our understanding of what causes bee losses.
Keith Menchey, the NCC's manager, Science and Environmental Issues, attended the Summit and said it was a very timely and logical follow-up to the USDA Agricultural Research Service's Colony Collapse Disorder and Honeybee Health Steering Committee National Stakeholders Meeting on Honey Bee Health in late 2012.
"The NCC also participated in that 2012 meeting and we continue to work closely with USDA, EPA, beekeepers, product registrants and others to find workable solutions to colony collapse disorder and honey bee health decline," Menchey said.
EPA and USDA are struggling to address the massive decline of bee populations since 2006 with EPA focusing on risks to bees and pesticides and USDA seeking to address other factors. Last year the two agencies issued a joint report on honey bee health that blamed a combination of stressors for the population decline, including the Varroa mite, pesticide exposures, lack of genetic diversity, declining forage area and disease. While environmentalists have focused on pesticides' threats to bees in challenging EPA registrations in federal court and in urging legislators to preclude certain uses of neonicotinoids, pesticide manufacturers have pointed to the Varroa mite as a primary culprit in the rapid decline.
Menchey noted that in addition to the risks the parasites pose, USDA says pesticides used to control Varroa mites have adversely affected honey bees and the mites' resistance to those pest control products is growing. He said that while citing an "urgent need" for alternative pest control methods, USDA notes that research into new miticides and other methods for controlling the parasites, such as RNA interference, hold promise.