- Associated Press - Sunday, May 10, 2015

ST. LOUIS (AP) - The University of Missouri Extension has started a program that is pushing state beekeepers to be more visible as the number of pollinating insects declines.

Called the Missouri Pollinator Conservancy Program, the program urges beekeepers to register their hives online, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (https://bit.ly/1Iry9Rr ) reports. After registering, they can buy bright yellow BeeCheck flags that are used to alert others to the presence of hives. The program also is offering 200 free fiberglass flagpoles, which can be picked up at the Delta Research Center in Portageville or the main extension office in Columbia.

The goal of the extension program is to encourage stronger communication between the agriculture and apiary communities to minimize the risks of pesticides drifting from their intended target areas, often because of strong winds.

“This is not to prevent growers from spraying pesticides. It’s just asking them to be careful,” said Moneen Jones, a University of Missouri entomologist who works at the Portageville office.

But it’s also a proactive move, she said, at a time when pressure is mounting to do more to solve the problem. The prospect is there, she said, for more intrusive involvement from the Environmental Protection Agency.

“We’re showing them we don’t need that type of regulation,” Jones said.

The decline of the nation’s honeybee population started in the 1980s and has been blamed on a variety of factors, including a parasite that may contribute to colony collapse disorder. Today, there are an estimated 2.5 million honeybee colonies in the United States, less than half the population found in the 1940s, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Michele Colopy, a program director with the Pollinator Stewardship Council, a nonprofit group seeking to protect bees from pesticides, said the issue with the program is that the effort is all voluntary.

“When you have a program that has no enforcement whatsoever, there’s going to be a problem,” Colopy said.

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Online:

mo.driftwatch.org

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, https://www.stltoday.com


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