Bayer working to find answers to bee deaths

Bayer CropScience says it’s working to address concerns that its neonicotinoid insecticide seed treatments are contributing to bee mortality.

During a recent grower information day at the company’s research farm here, Bayer representatives Greig Zamecnik and Luc Bourgeois said company researchers and advisers are working on several different levels, including tests on a new dry lubricant as well as studying the habits and behaviour of bees in close proximity to farming practices.

Bayer has placed bee hives at its Rockwood research farm, and is consulting with a technician-advisor who’s familiar with the bees’ behavioural aspects.

The dry lubricant issue has garnered more attention this past growing season. There have been concerns that bee mortality is associated with dust escaping from the planting process rather than contact with the treated seed.

Researchers are trying to determine if it has anything to do with dust particles generated from planting or whether air flow from the planter units is adversely affecting the environment around the rows, and subsequently with neighbouring hives. University of Guelph researchers and Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food advisers are also involved in a major study this year to determine whether conventional agricultural practices are having an impact.

Last spring, a provincial specialist with OMAF told a gathering of crop advisers that the use of talc or a talc-graphite blend in planter boxes is vague, to say the least. The general rule of thumb, said the specialist, was that if “one glove (full) is good, then two must be better.” Yet the specialist also noted that in conversations with technicians from John Deere, he learned that most of the calls they handle during the planting season come as a result of planters that are clogged with the lubricant.

In response, Bayer is studying the benefits of a wax-based lubricant which still provides sufficient coating without affecting seed singulation. The lubricant also does not adversely affect the seed treatment itself, which can be a problem with the microscopic particles of the mineral-based graphite, and can act as an abrasive to the insecticide treatment on the seed coat.

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