Written by Jeanne Bernick and Rhonda Brooks
Bright strips of yellow coneflowers, small red poppies, lavender aster and other flowers border Bernd Olligs’ farmhouse, barns and fields planted to corn, sugar beets, winter wheat and barley. However, these flowers aren’t for show. Olligs planted them to provide habitat for honeybees, wild bees and other pollinators.
The flowering strips are one of several projects the sixth-generation farmer, based near Rommerskirchen, Germany, is working on in cooperation with Bayer CropScience. The company refers to the pollinator project as an initiative in functional biodiversity—the idea that best management practices can support commercial agricultural practices and the environment at the same time. Along with the flowers, Olligs has also placed several "bee hotels" around his farm to provide a space for bee rest and reproduction. Third-party experts are helping Bayer CropScience evaluate the effectiveness of the flowering strips and hotels and how their use might be expanded.
"I see myself as a temporary owner of the farm with the intent to preserve the grounds for my children and grandchildren," explains Olligs of the value he sees in working with Bayer CropScience on the various studies it has underway.
Media from around the globe toured Olligs’ farm during the recent Bayer CropScience global press conference, as well as the Bayer Bee Care Center near Monheim, which is dedicated to promoting and protecting pollinators’ health, especially bees.
The company has more than 25 years of research and experience on bee health. Most recently, Bayer CropScience released new research data demonstrating the need for an integrated pest management approach to preventing bee colony losses caused by the varroa destructor mite, a parasitic pest that feeds on western honeybees. The varroa mites transmit pathogens, including viruses and bacteria that might cause malformations and lethal infections for the bees. The mite has been held responsible by the company and some
researchers for contributing to the high winter losses of western honeybees in recent years. The company partnered with the Frankfurt University Bee Research Institute to conduct the five-year field study with 2,500 beehives. Study results demonstrated that sustained treatment with the Bayer CropScience acaricide containing polymer matrix carriers, especially in the critical period in late summer after honey extraction, successfully controls mite infestations and helps keep winter colony losses low.
In the U.S., the company is in the process of constructing its North American Bee Care Center, which will serve as a gathering place for researchers, bee experts, students and other visitors to regularly meet with leading scientists at Bayer CropScience. The facility will be located at the North America headquarters in Research Triangle Park, N.C.