Monday, December 20, 2010

Week of December 20, 2010

Efforts to kill invasive plant worry beekeepers

Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) — An effort to fight an invasive plant with insects that eat it has drawn opposition from beekeepers who worry it will leave them without an adequate source of nectar and pollen for their honeybees.

Researchers in Michigan released bugs that feed on spotted knapweed earlier this year. Western states and big honey producers, such as Minnesota and Wisconsin, previously used so-called biological control to help restrain the flowering plant, which produces chemicals that deter the growth of other plants and crowds out native vegetation.

It's not clear why Michigan beekeepers are so worried about knapweed control when those in other states haven't been as much. Some in the industry speculated Michigan beekeepers may rely on knapweed more for nectar and pollen than those in other states. Regardless, Michigan is among the nation's top 10 honey producers and the home of beekeepers who ship hives as far as Florida and California to pollinate orchards and fields. Beekeepers argue that if they're hurt, the farmers who rely on them will suffer too.

"If it wasn't for this plant, we wouldn't even be here," said Kirk Jones, the 57-year-old founder of Sleeping Bear Farms in the northwest Lower Peninsula community of Beulah. If knapweed control efforts prove successful, he said: "It could be detrimental to the future of the beekeeping industry."

The dispute between the state and its beekeepers is happening amid a massive die-off of bees nationwide. Colony collapse disorder has killed about 30 percent of the nation's bees each year since it was recognized in 2006, according to a report the U.S. Department of Agriculture released Friday. The bees are crucial for the production of 130 crops worth more than $15 billion a year, it said.

Michigan officials said they're keenly aware of the importance beekeepers place on knapweed, which blooms in late July and early August when many other plants aren't flowering. As part of the knapweed fight, they're looking at what kinds of native flowers could be planted to replace it — both to sustain bees and improve the diversity of wildflowers statewide.

"It's not an attempt to take away a resource that beekeepers find valuable, but to replace it with one that might have more functionality," said Ken Rauscher, director of the pesticide and plant pest management division for the Michigan Department of Agriculture, which worked with federal officials to oversee the release of knapweed-eating bugs.

Beekeepers, however, are skeptical about other flowers' ability to do the job.

Spotted knapweed, also known as starthistle, was introduced in the U.S. from Europe in the late 1800s. It was brought over accidentally, either in contaminated seed or ships' ballast water, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The plant has been seen in Michigan for at least a century but has spread more vigorously in the past two decades. It thrives in sandy soils, such as dunes, and in former farm fields, along roads and in prairies.

Many beekeepers have set up shop near large expanses of knapweed, said Roger Hoopingarner, president of the Michigan Beekeepers Association. Its loss, and a subsequent loss of bees, would hurt honey production, but the bigger effect would come from not having bees to pollinate fruit and vegetable crops, he said.

Michigan is second only to California in the diversity of crops it produces and is among is among the nation's leaders in the production of red tart cherries, apples and blueberries — all of which need pollination.

"If spotted knapweed goes away and there is nothing that will replace it, then some of these beekeepers . . . will just leave the state," Hoopingarner said. "They go now to California or other states for pollination, and they won't come back because there will be no incentive to come back."

Two knapweed-eating flies were released in Michigan in the 1990s, but those don't appear to have curbed its spread, Rauscher said. So in August, researchers released two types of weevils on state land in five counties. Scientists in other states have found success in killing off knapweed with a combination of flies and weevils.

Michigan officials don't expect to wipe out knapweed; the hope is to pare it back. Doug Landis, a Michigan State University professor who specializes in biological control, is working with the state on the project. He said replacing knapweed with other flowers is a must because of the way Michigan beekeepers use the plant.

"That will maintain the nectar flow," Landis said.

Terry Klein, 70, of TM Klein and Sons Honey in St. Charles, has about 1,000 colonies of bees in central Michigan. He said he fears the economically-troubled state won't have the resources needed to fully replant areas where knapweed is killed off. The burden will be on beekeepers, who will have to raise the prices they charge Michigan farmers for pollination, he said.

"To me, it's a double-whammy," Klein said. "Costing Michigan jobs. Costing our status as a fruit-growing state."

The pilot project will be evaluated over the next year or two, and Michigan officials don't expect to release more insects until that is done, Rauscher said. Even if the project is expanded, it could be 10 to 15 years before the bugs have a substantial impact on the presence of knapweed, leaving time for beekeepers to adjust, he said.

And, the Michigan Beekeepers' Hoopingarner added, even if Michigan doesn't introduce more bugs, they could eventually spread there from surrounding states where they're used to control knapweed.

Read the article at link.



Anonymous said...

Even though NY ballast water laws do not go into effect until 2012 (probably with a pass to delay installation if they can show they were not able) and our presidents national military delay plan not suppose to address the issue until sometime in the middle of 2011, shipping interest are already starting to put pressure on NY's future governor to not implement the only meaningful regulations ever created that protect all the Great Lakes States equally. These regulations would prevent further destruction while also adequately protecting against human bacteria and virus. Those who hailed NY'S laws and believed, the huge expense endured by NY state as a results of this administrations failure to address ballast water with adequate regulation during these times of economic crisis may find once again just wasted tax dollars. We can only hope and pray Governor is not weak and caves in to the enormous political pressure that the lobby from the shipping industry is going to apply, as it has just started. The shipping industry has been out to kill state regulation from the beginning as was evident during their formulations when industry web articles referred to them as a "pipe dream". They know as the military millennium report for the states international regulations will be slow coming and easily disregarded.
Unfortunately those who care about our countries environment, human health and the economic domination that foreign shipping has over our country because of globalization, will not be able to lobby with the economic clout that the foreign shipping industry has, and with our president and secretary of state being globalist, the pressure on governor Coumo will be enormous. NY laws are not just about NY or the Great Lakes, but they effect the economy of our whole country and are probably the last meaningful impediment to our presidents military plan coinciding with the global plan for ballast water. Without NY 'S geographic position providing equal regulation, individual state laws of other Great Lakes States will not provide equal economic status between ports when dealing with foreign economic interest.

When I started mailing letters to politicians several years ago the best advice I received was from a lady at the post office, who did not know the issue I was trying to address, but realized I was trying to work for "change", she said "remember a politician will never do anything unless it benefits themselves" It will be interesting to see if Governor Coumo cares more about his career or real long term "change" for America. Regardless of what happens, being the President ask Governor Patterson to step aside environmentalist should remember Governor Paterson despite the cost, monetarily and politically, did the right thing for all Americans on the issue of ballast water.

With 911 and The Department of Homeland Security acknowledging by their web site, their need to be involved with ballast water, Americans should have realized we need to "change" the way we do business in the world.

Anonymous said...

At the end of 2008 when the demise of h.r.2830 was assured for the start of this administration, all of the states rattle their swords with a predictable response to create meaningful legislation for ballast water, but the foreign shipping industry knew, and said, it was just a “pipe dream” as they knew they had won and a policy following an international approach,in favor of their economic business interest would prevail, instead of any enforceable, meaningful American law to protect all American waters equally. Now Wisconsin one of the last of the Great Lakes States with a loud bark is considering a policy to be the first to cater to foreign shipping. NY ballast water laws will be the last wasted money this administration will need to create with pressure to cave in favor of a weak military plan. Then this administration can proceed with a slow military delay program helping ease the economic pain to foreign shipping, forever giving up the opportunity to put America on a level playing field in manufacturing cost.
California laws, although tough have historically already, been shown ineffective, because of the cost to make them meaningful through enforcement. This is obvious as the environmentalist, still are fighting for protection, from the ballast water problems that lurk beneath the sea. Unfortunately invasive s, human bacteria and virus, introduction will also be delayed for the whole world with a slow Federal policy or an international plan. As we continue to wait until sometime in the middle of 2011 for the military delay plan, watch NY and their laws, as it will be the tell, to the future, of any “change” in the way America dose business in the world.
Unless comprehensive Federal policy (preferably law) is created directing the Coast Guard to enforce strong regulation, (law) the historic attitude of disinterest the Coast Guard has displayed will continue considering this an International Maritime Organization problem, allowing international shipping to circumvent compliance with environmental agreements, as is noted in the military millennium report discussing environmental international agreements and the compliance. The idea the EPA will enforce anything without an infrastructure, is a joke as was illustrated by their lack of enforcement for tar balls in Lake Pontchartrain and at Texas beach’s has already shown.