Newswise — Honeybee health continues to be a serious concern for beekeepers, fruit and vegetable growers, almond producers, and researchers. As the debate about pesticide use continues, Mississippi farmers and beekeepers, along with other stakeholders, have developed a voluntary program of cooperative standards called the Mississippi Honey Bee Stewardship Program.

“In light of the global decline of honeybee populations, discussions were held to discuss ways to foster a better working dialogue among Mississippi’s row crop farmers and beekeepers, all in the spirit of coexistence and cooperation,” said Jeff Harris, Mississippi State University Extension apiculturist. “The potential for great tension between these two groups exists because some commercial beekeepers keep thousands of colonies near soybean and cotton fields for honey production. These two crops bloom during hot and dry periods, when no other major food source is available. But farmers must manage pest populations to prevent damage to their crops, so there is a relatively high potential for honeybees to be killed accidentally by pesticide applications.”

Angus Catchot, a row crops entomologist with the MSU Extension Service, said he is pleased with the results of the collaboration.

"As this topic has gained attention over the last couple of years, I have been surprised to see how few farmers were aware of the issue. Now that they realize there is a problem, they have seemed more than willing to figure out how to work together,” Catchot said. “With all the negative publicity out there, I am very glad that in Mississippi we have been able to bring all groups together to work on this issue locally. This program will certainly not eliminate all risk, but it will no doubt go a long way to head off future problems with acute bee kills.”

One component of the program is a unified flagging system to be used throughout the state to identify hive locations that are near agricultural fields. Beekeepers will work with farmers to place the black and yellow striped “Bee Aware” flags where they will be visible both on the ground and from the air, to alert pesticide applicators.

“The Mississippi Honey Bee Stewardship Program is setting a precedent by showing there is cooperation and commitment on both sides. They’re willing to work together to minimize the risk of economic losses by both the beekeepers and the farmers,” said Jeff Gore, entomologist with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station and MSU Extension Service. “The Bee Aware flags that resulted from this agreement are an additional tool to help raise everyone’s awareness about pollinator health and protecting pollinators.”

The Mississippi Honeybee Stewardship Program has been adopted by Mississippi Beekeepers Association, Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, Mississippi Agricultural Aviation Association, Mississippi Agricultural Consultants Association, Mississippi Department of Agriculture & Commerce, and the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

The agreement is available online at

The following sources are available for comment:

Dr. Angus Catchot, MSU Extension Service row crops entomologistOffice: 662-325-2085Cell: 662-418-8163Email: [email protected]

Dr. Jeff Harris, MSU Extension Service apiculturistOffice: 662-325-2976Email: [email protected]

Dr. Jeff Gore, MSU Extension Service and MAFES entomologistCell: 662-820-9969Email: [email protected]

Randy Knight, Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation presidentContact Ilene Sumrall for Mr. Knight at: Phone: 601-977-4201 Email: [email protected]