A plan meant to protect honeybees across the commonwealth has been finalized.
The “Voluntary Plan to Mitigate the Risk of Pesticides to Managed Pollinators” went into effect in June, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced recently.
“Here in Virginia and across the nation, people are concerned about the loss of honey bees,” Sandy Adams, VDACS commissioner, was quoted as saying in a news release. “And we have developed a plan that focuses on communication between pesticide applicators and beekeepers and the use of best management practices by farmers, beekeepers and pesticide applicators to protect our pollinators.”
The agency took more than a year to write the plan. Public input, including the work of a 21-member committee of stakeholder representatives, was a major part of the drafting process. The plan was written and will be overseen by VDACS because the agency is responsible for pesticide regulation in Virginia.
The document consists mostly of recommended best practices for the use of outdoor agricultural and commercial pesticides to minimize honeybee losses, but does not strengthen pesticide regulations.
It mainly encourages beekeepers and pesticide applicators to communicate more effectively about the location of hives and the dates and times of pesticide spraying.
The plan outlines an online registry and communication tool for beekeepers, landowners and pesticide applicators. Participation is voluntary.
Initial setup of an online communication tool could cost up to $24,000, VDACS spokeswoman Elaine Lidholm has said. Some pesticide-related funding might be available from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help pay for it, she added.
Lidholm wrote in an email on Friday that VDACS has not yet established a registry and, “at this point, don’t have a target date for completion.”
Honeybee pollination is a major contributor to agricultural production, which remains Virginia’s largest economic sector.
The state plan stems from a 2014 Obama administration directive calling for a national strategy to safeguard pollinators and, thereby, boost food security. Most states agreed to formulate plans to guide pollinator protection.
In Virginia, as in other states, honeybee colonies have over the past 20 years been dying at a high rate. Nationally, researchers are still working to understand the combination of factors that may be responsible.
Pesticides have in some cases been implicated in bee losses, particularly in acute kills stemming from spraying.
Historically, fewer than 10 percent of the commonwealth’s hives died annually, state apiarist Keith Tignor has said.
Statewide, 46 percent of colonies died in 2015, Tignor said.