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Michigan Managed Pollinator Protection Plan Update

Michigan Managed Pollinator Protection Plan
September 2020 Update

Background
The Michigan Managed Pollinator Protection Plan is a part of a federal effort to reduce pesticide exposure for managed pollinators. In 2012, the United States Department of Agriculture issued its Report on the National Stakeholders Conference on Honey Bee Health in response to unsustainable levels of honey bee colony losses. In 2013, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed a harmonized risk assessment framework for quantifying the risk of pesticide exposure to bees and made it a part of its pesticide registration and registration review processes. Also in 2013, EPA developed new label language for certain neonicotinoid pesticides that were identified as particularly hazardous to managed bees.  In 2014, a Presidential Memorandum established a Pollinator Health Task Force. In 2015, This task force developed the “National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators.”  The EPA had two main roles in the strategy, one regulatory, and one non-regulatory. As a regulatory measure, the EPA has added label restrictions to pesticide products carrying one or more of 71 active ingredients that are known to be acutely toxic to pollinators. As a non-regulatory measure, the EPA is working with state and tribal agencies to develop and implement local Pollinator Protection Plans for situations that are not covered by the label restrictions. The State FIFRA Issues Research and Evaluation Group (SFIREG) with input from the EPA developed a guidance document to aid in the development and implementation of these state plans.

Development of the Michigan Plan
In February 2016, Michigan began developing its Managed Pollinator Protection Plan (MP3) by bringing together a diverse group of commodity partners and stakeholders. From that meeting, a steering committee was developed that had members from MDARD (Jeffrey Zimmer, Mike Hansen); MSU (Meghan Milbrath, Rufus Isaacs, Walter Pett); Michigan Farm Bureau (Kevin Robson); and the Michigan Commercial Beekeepers’ Association (Jamie Ostrowski). This committee met multiple times over the following 18 months. In August-October 2016, the steering committee hosted seven regional listening sessions across the state for beekeepers, beekeeping organizations, growers, private and commercial pesticide applicators, pesticide registrants, Michigan State University (including Extension), United States Department of Agriculture, and others. Attendees at these meetings heard about and discussed pesticides and risks to managed pollinators, communication between beekeepers and applicators, pollinator habitat, education, regulation and management, recommendations to include in the MP3, and priority areas for research. Listening session attendees were asked to provide their input on development of Michigan’s MP3 strategy. In addition to the seven listening sessions, targeted regional meetings, online communication/social media, and newsletters provided a variety of opportunities for stakeholders to provide input.

MDARD provided funding for MSU to hire a writer and organizer to host the listening sessions and to drive the writing of our plan.  In November 2017, the steering committee released Michigan’s plan:  Communication Strategies for Reducing Pesticide Risk for Managed Pollinators in Michigan

More information, and a copy of the plan is available at the MSU website below:

https://pollinators.msu.edu/programs/protection-plan/

Communication Strategies for Reducing Pesticide Risk for Managed Pollinators in Michigan establishes a framework for open communication and coordination between pesticide applicators and beekeepers who have colonies in the areas that could be impacted by applications and supports the need for crop protection and best management practices.  The key goals of the plan are to:

  • Mitigate potential exposure of honey bees and other managed pollinators to pesticides.
  • Foster positive relationships between beekeepers, growers, and applicators.
  • Allow for crop and honey production.
  • Refine public understanding of pollinator health issues, factors affecting pollinators, and means of mitigating negative outcomes on pollinator populations.
  • Clarify pathways to minimize risk to pollinators that citizens, businesses, agencies, and Michigan residents can follow.

The plan also lists 10 action items that are the next steps for implementation of the plan.

In 2019 and 2020, Jeffrey Zimmer at MDARD has secured partial funding for an employee at MSU’s Michigan Pollinator Initiative (MPI) to take the lead on ensuring that we are working towards completing the 10 action items. 

Partnerships and Outreach
MPI has extended its capacity by partnering with a variety of statewide organizations and national initiatives.  These include collaborations with organizations such as the Michigan Agribusiness Association (MABA), various conservation districts, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bee and Butterfly Habitat fund, Project Wingspan, and others.  The role of MPI is to provide knowledge support to programs, share information through Michigan State University Extension outreach channels, and provide a comprehensive website that lists up to date statewide resources.  Through its website, www.pollinators.msu.edu, MPI provides information about pollinator health, planting for pollinators, and how to reduce pesticide use.  Since the beginning of this year, MPI’s page about minimizing pesticide exposure to pollinators has received over 600 views and MPI’s page about pollinator gardens has received over 5,000 views.

Communication with Beekeepers
MPI has strengthened ties with Michigan beekeepers.  Information on the Managed Pollinator Protection Plan has been presented at the annual Michigan Beekeepers’ Association meeting, the Michigan Commercial Beekeepers Association annual meeting, and in the newsletter (over 4,000 subscribers for Michigan Beekeepers).  MPI works closely with beekeepers who manage colonies for pollination to understand their concerns and experiences with pesticide risk. 

Current and Upcoming Projects in 2020

  1. Develop crop-specific pollinator stewardship guides. The blueberry pollinator stewardship guide was presented to blueberry growers on Friday, April 3rd, and the development of plans for apples, cherries, and squash are in progress.

  2. Lead a national working group of people working on state managed pollinator protection plans. This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Crop Protection and Pest Management Program through the North Central IPM Center (2018-70006-28883).  The group’s first project is to develop a presentation about pollinators that anyone can use for pesticide applicator recertification credit clinics.

  3. Transition pollinator content in the Michigan Private and Commercial Applicator Core Manual from an appendix to a chapter.

  4. Update action items based on current work and solicit feedback from stakeholders.

New issues for 2020
Some new issues have already been identified, including the need for a communication strategy between the Department of Health and Human Services and beekeepers in the event of pesticide spraying during public health emergencies.  The recent emergency spraying highlighted the need for communication between state agencies and the beekeeping industry. We also had a honey bee Extension specialist retire, and have reduced capacity to carry on our work with beekeepers. 

Current status of the action items outlined in the Michigan Managed Pollinator Protection Plan

Action Item #1: Incorporate pollinator protection language in state pesticide certification study manuals and certification exams. Because these exams are required for all initially certified pesticide applicators, this would help ensure that each applicator has at least a minimum of knowledge regarding pesticide risk to pollinators.
Update: In Spring 2019, MPI wrote an appendix for the Michigan Private and Commercial Applicator Core Manual so that people preparing for pesticide applicator certification can learn about pollinators, pollinator health, and ways to reduce pesticide exposure.  MPI shared the content with the national Managed Pollinator Protection Working Group and the Apiary Inspectors of America so that other states can use the content (with proper acknowledgment). This work was led by Ana Heck, working under the funding from MDARD.

Action Item #2: Incorporate pollinator protection education into training programs offered to pesticide applicators.
Update: MSU pollinator specialists provided over 10 training programs at pesticide recertification credit clinics throughout the state in 2019, reaching hundreds of pesticide applicators. They worked with the Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association (MNLA) and the program coordinator for pesticide recertification to provide pollinator related education to hundreds of certified pesticide applicators seeking recertification. Ana Heck will give virtual presentations about pollinators to pesticide applicators in the fall and winter of 2020. This work has been funded by MNLA and MSU Extension.

Action Item #3: Incorporate information related to pesticide toxicity, pollinator protection, and pollinator habit into crop production manuals and industry training activities.
Update: Many Michigan farms already provide large areas for pollinator forage and habitat, and MPI recognizes growers as key allies to promote pollinator health. MPI is working collaboratively to develop crop-specific pollinator stewardship guides for reducing pesticide exposure to pollinators. MPI works with MSU Extension experts, growers, and crop industry groups to develop best management practices that are practical and feasible for growers to implement.  Since registered pesticides, pest pressure, and farming technology can change from year to year, MPI will create dynamic recommendations that are updated based on pest management challenges and pesticide risk to pollinators. In 2019, MPI spoke to over 300 growers about pollinator health and the Michigan Managed Pollinator Protection Plan. Ana Heck spoke to fruit and vegetable growers at the Southwest Michigan Horticultural Days in February 2020, and she presented pollinator stewardship guide recommendations for blueberry growers at the Michigan Blueberry Kick Off Meeting in April 2020. MPI will post pollinator stewardship guides on its website. Ultimately, our goal is to foster helpful Extension relationships with growers and understand their pest management constraints.

Action Item #4: Develop presentations and webinars on pesticides and pollinators that can be applied to for applicator credits.
Update: MPI is leading a national working group to develop a presentation about pollinators that can be given online and shared with anyone to use at a pesticide credit recertification credit clinic. The presentation will be used in Michigan and throughout the U.S.

Action Item #5: Create outreach material and newsletters to be distributed through social media to educate on proper use of pesticides and management options.
Update: No progress to report.

Action Item #6: Collaborate with Master Gardeners for pesticide use trainings.
Update: No progress to report.

Action Item #7: Develop a certification program for pollinator educators.
Update: Using funding from the MSU Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute, MPI developed Pollinator Champions, a free online course designed to educate the public about pollinators in Michigan and what they can do to help. After course completion, individuals can pay to become Certified Pollinator Champions, gaining access to presentation materials so they can give talks about pollinators at garden clubs, libraries, and schools.  As of September 2020, the free course has had over 2,100 participants, 325 of whom became Certified Pollinator Champions. Pollinator Champions is the fastest growing online course in terms of enrollment within MSU Extension and has a high completion rate. The Pollinator Champions course received MSU Extension’s 2019 Innovative Technology Award. The course can be found here: https://pollinators.msu.edu/programs/pollinator-champions/.

Action Item #8: Increase usage of educational materials on MP3 related websites.
Update: No progress to report.

Action Item #9: Work on outreach through the Michigan Farm News, Fruit Grower News, and Vegetable Grower News, by developing articles that speak to this topic, and at the end of the article, give resources to contact, i.e. trainers, MDARD reps, etc.
Update: An article was submitted to Fruit Quarterly Update in April 2020.

Action Item #10: Develop a trifold brochure on Pesticide Risk to Bees to be positioned at areas where crop protection materials are purchased.
Update: MPI developed a trifold brochure to be positioned at areas where crop protection materials are purchased.” This brochure is intended for people who manage home gardens. The brochure has information about pollinators, how to reduce pesticide use, how to reduce pesticide exposure, and how to properly apply pesticides. While the brochure has been printed, it has not yet been distributed to locations where crop protection materials are purchased. The Bee Aware brochure can be found here: https://pollinators.msu.edu/sites/_pollinators/assets/File/Bee%20Aware%20Tri-Fold%20Brochure.pd