The American Floral Endowment (AFE) is funding a new research project to examine the health of honey bees on ornamental plants following treatment with neonicotinoids and other systemic insecticides.

The two-year research project – “Impact and Residual Activity of Systemic Insecticides in Ornamental Plants,” with Clemson University researchers J.C. Chong, Steven Klaine and Jennifer Tsuruda – will document the translocation of systemic insecticides to various plant parts.

Honey bees are valuable to commercial crops and the pollination they provide is appreciated by flower, fruit, vegetable, nut and agriculture growers. But since the early 1950’s, honey bee colonies have declined. The declines have been associated with the presence of the varroa mite that transmits a virus to bees, loss of food sources for the bees, climate change and pesticides.

In recent years, more rapid declines have occurred, which has been referred to as colony collapse disorder (CCD). Use of the systemic pesticide category, neonicotinoids, has been linked to CCD due to the presumed presence of the chemical in pollen and nectar following drench or spray applications.

“This research will expand our knowledge about one of the multiple factors often cited as being related to CCD,” says Terril Nell, Ph.D., Research Coordinator for AFE. “Armed with solid scientific facts, the floral industry can continue to assure consumers that their landscape plants and flowers are safe for honey bees and other pollinators.”

Researchers will examine the pesticide residues in the pollen, nectar and leaves of treated plants following pesticide applications and document the impact on the behavior and health of honey bee colonies.

“This research will allow ornamental plant growers to reexamine their pesticide use patterns and the sustainability of their pest management programs,” says lead researcher J.C. Chong.

In addition to the new research project, a new educational video has also been released that provides information on the horticultural industry’s essential role in bee and pollinator stewardship. The video, called “Protecting Bees & Pollinators: What Horticulture Needs to Know,” serves as a valuable resource to industry professionals by providing an overview of factors affecting bee and pollinator health today.

The video talks about the current state of bee and pollinator health, provides information on factors that impact pollinators and the environment including the use of pesticides, and underscores the beneficial role horticulture plays in providing healthy and nurturing pollinator ecosystems. The video was produced as part of the Horticultural Industry’s Bee & Pollinator Stewardship Initiative.

AFE, in collaboration with the Society of American Florists, AmericanHort and HRI, established this Initiative in 2014 with three primary goals:

  • Convene a task force to develop a bee and pollinator stewardship program, including creation of best management practices for plant production;
  • Identify and fund research that will help answer key science questions and fill gaps needed to design and refine the stewardship program;
  • Collaborate with other groups interested in augmenting pollinator habitat and protection.

To watch the video or learn more about the initiative, click here.