When is a pesticide not a pesticide? When it coats a seed

Image of farmers looking at coated seeds.

(Bloomberg Environment) If you apply a chemical to a field of crops, either from a sprayer towed behind a tractor or from above, by an aerial crop duster, that is considered a pesticide. However, if you take that same chemical and coat it on a seed, then plant that seed in the ground, it ceases to be pesticide – at least according to government regulators. This exemption is what allowed the use of neonics to take off in the late 1990s. But this exemption was never meant for agriculture.

Wild bees provide a bigger slice of the pie in pumpkin pollination

Image of bee in pumpkin blossom.

(Penn State) Pumpkin growers frequently rent managed honeybee colonies to pollinate their crops, but a recent study suggests wild bees may be able to do the job just as well and for free. Approximately 97 percent of the field observations consisted of three pollinators: bumble bees, honeybees, and squash bees. However, hand collections from the blossoms revealed 37 different bee species visiting the flowers. And the pollen transfer from just the wild species easily exceeded the pollination requirements for pumpkins.

Honey bees are fond of strawberries, but solitary bees are always present

Image of strawberry field.

(Georg-August-Universität Göttingen) While honey bees might prefer strawberry fields over flowering oilseed rape, honey bees are less common in among strawberries when the oilseed rape is in full bloom. In contrast, solitary wild bees, like mining bees, are constantly present in the strawberry fields. “Wild bees are therefore of great importance for the pollination of crops… our results also show that wild bees in the landscape should be supported by appropriate management measures.”

Insecticides becoming more toxic to honey bees

Image of bee on leaf tip.

(PennState) During the past 20 years, insecticides applied to U.S. agricultural landscapes have become significantly more toxic — over 120-fold in some midwestern states — to honey bees when ingested, according to a team of researchers, who identified rising neonicotinoid seed treatments in corn and soy as the primary driver of this change.

‘Like sending bees to war’: the deadly truth behind your almond-milk obsession

Image of beekeeper standing next to two hives.

(The Guardian) Commercial honey bees are considered livestock by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But no other class of livestock comes close to the scorched-earth circumstances that these bees face in the toxic chemical soup of California’s Central Valley, fertilizing almonds one blossom at a time. “The high mortality rate creates a sad business model for beekeepers. It’s like sending the bees to war. Many don’t come back.”

Wild pollinators get the job done in the pumpkin patch

Image of two bumble bees in pumpkin flower.

(Entomology Today) Commercial pumpkin growers routinely rent honey bees so they have enough insects to pollinate their crops, but a new study found that wild bumble bees and squash bees could easily handle the pollination required to produce a full yield of pumpkins. “When we multiplied the number of visits times how much pollen they were depositing, we were blown away to find that bumble bees and squash bees combined were doing more than 10 times the pollination that was necessary.”

Successful field trials of artificial pollination technology advance entry into huge almond market

Image of pollination devices behind tractors in orchard.

(Bee Culture) Israeli agritech startup Edete Precision Technologies for Agriculture has successfully completed field trials in almond orchards in Israel using its unique mechanical pollen harvesting and pollination system. The field trials are crucial for advancing the company’s planned entry into the huge almond market in California.