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Michigan Soybean Growers Urged to Save the Bees

There are more than 10,000 soybean producing farms in Michigan. (
There are more than 10,000 soybean producing farms in Michigan. (
March 12, 2018

DETROIT -- A major endeavor is under way to educate soybean farmers about helping to save honeybees.

The Honey Bee Health Coalition this month unveiled a management plan for growers. Adam Dolezal, assistant professor at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, conducted the research for the report. He said several factors have led to massive bee die-offs, including pesticide use and loss of habitat.

"Certainly there's no question that farming huge amounts of land with one or two crops throughout areas that used to not be cropland has an impact on pollinators,” Dolezal said. “But I think farmers are interested in seeing recommendations to reduce any impacts that they might have."

Recommendations for farmers include spraying fields at night when bees are least active, avoiding applying pesticides during bloom time, and determining where hives are located around the farm. Nearly 2 million acres of soybeans are planted each year in Michigan, and the crop contributes $1.5 billion to the state's economy each year.

Soybeans are one of the top U.S. crops, second only to corn. 75 percent of the nation's bees spend their summers in the upper Midwest.

Chris Hiatt, vice president of the American Honey Producers Association, said the guidelines can help keep bees healthy.

"An almond grower here is enjoying strong hives that came from North Dakota in the summer, where a guy didn't spray his weeds or his sunflowers at the wrong time and kill the bees,” Hiatt said. “You know, it's all one big system."

Meagan Kaiser grows soybeans in Missouri. She said farmers want to see pollinators thrive.

"Through the Honeybee Health Coalition, we are putting together a list of resources and best management practices so that we as farmers can be aware of how we can do something about the decline in bee health,” Kaiser said.

The decline in honeybees has been linked to pests and disease, poor nutrition, hive management and exposure to pesticides.

More information is available at

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MI