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Continued decline in honey bee colonies confirmed by latest survey

WILLMAR -- According to a recent survey conducted by the Apiary Inspectors of America and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, beekeepers report a 33.8 percent decline in managed honey bee colonies nationwide. The reported losses were from all causes during the period of October 2009 to April 2010.

This is an increase from overall losses of 29 percent reported from a similar survey covering the winter of 2008-2009, and similar to the 35.8 percent loss for the winter of 2007-2008.

Beekeepers identified starvation, poor weather and weak colonies going into the winter as the top reasons for mortality.

The continued high rate of losses are worrisome to beekeepers and bee researchers, especially considering that losses occurring over the summer months are not being captured by the surveys.

According to the survey, 28 percent of beekeeping operations reported that some of their colonies perished without dead bees present -- a sign of Colony Collapse Disorder. This compares to 26 percent during the winter of 2008-2009, and 32 percent in the winter of 2007-2008.

Beekeepers that reported some of their colonies had perished from Colony Collapse Disease lost 44 percent of their total colonies. Meanwhile, beekeepers that did not report any losses because of the disease lost 25 percent of their colonies.

The latest survey results came from 22.4 percent of our nation's estimated 2.46 million colonies.

Honey bees are the most economically valuable pollinators of agricultural crops worldwide. Scientists at universities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture frequently assert that bee pollination is involved in about one-third of the U.S. diet, and contributes to the production of a wide range of fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, forage crops, some field crops and other specialty crops.

The monetary value of honey bees, as commercial pollinators in the United States, is estimated at about $15 to $20 billion annually.

CRP participants must control noxious weeds on their acres

Conservation Reserve Program participants are reminded that their contracts with the U.S. Department of Agriculture require them to comply with Minnesota's noxious weed law.

During the month of July, program participants should be carefully inspecting their acres for weeds. If noxious weeds are present, corrective action must be taken before the weeds go to seed.

Failure to comply with Minnesota's noxious weed law could result in a reduction in the participant's annual rental rate, or even contract cancellation for serious violations.

Before performing any weed control measures, participants must request and receive permission from their Farm Service Agency office. Requesting and receiving prior approval is especially important during the primary nesting season.

The primary nesting season for Kandiyohi County and most surrounding counties began May 15 and will continue through Aug. 1. During this period, cover should not be disturbed except for necessary weed control measures and only with prior approval from Farm Service Agency.

In the interest of protecting nesting habitat, treatment should be limited to the areas infested with weeds.

Since many program fields border farmland devoted to crop production, participants should make every effort to be a "good neighbor" by assuring that noxious weeds on their program acres do not spread to adjacent cropland.

Deadly rabbit disease confirmed in Minnesota

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health has confirmed that two rabbits in Pine County tested positive for rabbit hemorrhagic disease, the first detection of this disease in Minnesota.

While people and wild rabbits in Minnesota cannot contract the disease, it is deadly to European rabbit species, which includes most pet, show and research rabbits.

Infected rabbits may develop a fever and become lethargic, but most show no external signs of illness and die within three days of infection.

The disease can be transferred from one rabbit to another through contact with an infected animal or contaminated bedding, food and water. Proper cleaning and disinfecting procedures are crucial to controlling the spread of the virus.

Rabbit owners are encouraged to keep newly acquired additions away from the rest of their rabbits for a few days and watch for signs of the disease.

Wes Nelson is executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Kandiyohi County.