Coralie van Breukelen-Groeneveld

Working Together on Pollinator Health – Five Years On.

Through our Bayer Bee Care Centers, the first of which opened five years ago in Monheim as part of our Bee Care Program, we are reaching out to better connect with a broad range of stakeholders, seeking opportunities to discuss and work together on pollinator health issues.

The Bayer Bee Care Centers were established in Europe and North America to promote and protect pollinator health. Now, five years after the first Bayer Bee Care Center officially opened in 2012, it’s a good time to look back and reflect on where we have come from and take a look at what lies ahead for Bayer with regard to pollinator health.

In setting up the Bee Care Centers, the aim was to provide a platform that would enable us to proactively reach out to various stakeholder groups – including industry partners, scientists, farmers, beekeepers, governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations and representatives of the food value chain. And that is exactly what the centers have allowed for, facilitating the exchange of knowledge and experiences and giving the opportunity to address questions and concerns, offer transparency on our activities and seek opportunities to cooperate in the area of pollinator health via collaborations or partnerships. This has resulted in ways to optimize bee protection and crop protection at the same time, like for instance the ‘dropleg’ technology, modified spray machinery that applies pesticide underneath the crop flowering canopy instead of on top. Or a research project in melons in Northeastern Brazil, looking at how bee health can, in a very practical way, help increase farmers’ profitability.

Coralie van Breukelen-Groeneveld
Coralie van Breukelen-Groeneveld
Coralie van Breukelen-Groeneveld took over as Global Head of Bayer Bee Care in 2015

These are just two examples of the many collaborations we have established in the last few years. Our Bee Care science program will soon comprise more than 30 research projects with scientists at universities and research centers as well as beekeeper organizations around the world. These address some of the main threats and opportunities for pollinators and pollination and require a tailor-made approach corresponding to local and regional differences. As such, these projects look at pollinator ecology, honey bee health, crop pollination efficiency and the safety of pesticides to pollinators.

collaboration with researchers in Brazil
collaboration with researchers in Brazil
Collaboration with researchers, such as here in Brazil, is important to enhance pollinator health

One challenge facing many pollinating insects is the need for sufficient, specific foraging habitat to provide nectar and pollen sources throughout the year. Our first foraging habitat project was in Oberrheingraben, Germany, to see if ecological enhancement measures would benefit wild bee and butterfly diversity. This was followed by a specific Feed a Bee initiative to create forage areas with a diversity of bee-attractant plants for honey bees, which started in the USA in 2015. In the USA today, we have distributed seed to more than 250,000 consumers, to plant more than three billion flowers, and are collaborating with more than 130 agricultural, university, non-profit and other organizations and businesses to provide an abundant diversity of forage for bees and to help in bee forage research and education efforts. In the meantime, we also have Feed a Bee projects running in Japan, Germany, Australia and New Zealand to promote the planting of foraging habitat.

Feed a Bee planting projects
Feed a Bee planting projects
We have established funding to distribute $500,000 by end of 2018 for Feed a Bee planting projects in all 50 US states.

Honey bees are still one of the most important pollinators around the world and we are clearly focused on addressing the specific challenges they face through our activities. These include projects such as monitoring of bee health and influencing factors in Central Chile, together with the Fraunhofer Chile Research Foundation, which revealed that a lot can be gained by improving apiary management and beekeeping practices. Or Healthy Hives 2020 USA initiative, provides up to 1 million US dollars in support and is currently funding ten innovative research projects aimed to improve honey bee health. Pests and diseases are key factors affecting honey bee health, not least the Varroa mite which transmits viruses, causing diseases that can prove deadly to colonies. That is why we are actively searching for ways to support beekeepers in Varroa control.

Like the new Varroa Gate technology, a plastic strip impregnated with a varroacide, affixed to the hive entrance.
Like the new Varroa Gate technology, a plastic strip impregnated with a varroacide, affixed to the hive entrance.
Like the new Varroa Gate technology, a plastic strip impregnated with a varroacide, affixed to the hive entrance.

Looking forward, through the Bee Care Program and Center activities, Bayer will contribute further, with research into alternative pollinators for agricultural crops and optimization of crop pollination to improve crop quality and increase yields. We will also continue searching for ways to combat the Varroa mite, either by control measures or via breeding Varroa-resistant bees. And, we will be keeping an eye on upcoming honey bee threats such as the Small hive beetle, Asian hornet and pathogens, such as Nosema.

I cannot emphasize enough our sustainable commitment with regards to enhancing pollinator health or how important collaboration is in helping us achieve this. As such, the Bayer Bee Care Centers play a key role in enabling this to happen.

Bee Care Center
Bee Care Center
The two Bee Care Centers have, to date, received around 19,000 visitors overall.
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