What is a pollinator, why are pollinator important and why are we hearing so much about them now?
Many plants need help from insects, such as bees, to reproduce and produce seeds and fruit that are part of our diet. There are a variety of other pollinators, including mammals such as bats, birds, reptiles (lizards) and other insects like butterflies.
Most of us have heard, in recent years, about something called colony collapse disorder. In this disorder, worker bees essentially disappear from a colony leaving behind the queen, the food sources and immature bees with a few nurse bees. Historically, there are reports of this phenomenon periodically as far back as the late 1800s, however, in 2006-2007 unusually high losses were being reported with very few dead bees observed near the hives.
Do we know what causes this disorder?
There are several potential reasons that include:
- Other pests such as mites
- Poor nutrition due to loss or change in habitat
- Lack of genetic diversity
- Transport and overwork
- Pesticide usage
What is being done about this problem?
A variety of organizations including non-profit, private and governmental agencies have been involved in working to find causes and solutions for pollinator health issues. In 2014, a US presidential memorandum set the stage for creation of a federal strategy to promote the health of honey bees and other pollinators. The US EPA published documents to provide guidance for risk analysis for pesticides and performance of pollinator health studies.
What part does EPL play in pollinator health studies?
Pollinator studies create new challenges for those involved in assurance that new crop protection products are safe. EPL is a contract analytical laboratory that has been working with others to develop the best analytical capabilities for pollinator health studies. In January 2015, EPL was invited to participate in a pollinator health workshop sponsored jointly by representatives from Syngenta and Bayer. EPL representatives included Sara Sharp, Study Director and Team Lead for AgChem and Fred Claussen, Vice President of EPL. EPL analyzes pollen, nectar and flowers to monitor and quantify the concentration of pesticides and other agrochemicals. The workshop was held in association with the annual meeting of the National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants. Fred presented information related to the variety of matrices involved in these studies. He also talked about some of the analytical challenges and improvements that may be possible in the future such as implementation of high throughput technologies. If you have questions or need analytical support for pollinator health studies, please contact Fred or Sara.