Multi-agency approach helps DDA and DNREC protect pollinators in Delaware

DOVER, Del. – Farmers throughout Delaware depend on both honeybees and native bees to pollinate their crops each year. It takes nearly 300 million honeybees to successfully pollinate these crops, which bring more than $38.7 million to the state’s economy.

“The health of pollinators within Delaware is extremely important to the success of our family farms,” said Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse. “From early spring all the way through late summer, bees are pollinating crops that Delawareans love to eat – strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, cantaloupes, cucumbers, apples, squash, cranberries, and pumpkins. Our staff works throughout the year to ensure the safety of bees and to help increase the number of healthy colonies within the state.”

In 2016, the Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) released

The Delaware Department of Agriculture maintains bee hives for education and demonstration purposes.

Delaware’s Managed Pollinator Protection Plan that outlines strategies, best practices, and resources that beekeepers, farmers, landowners, and pesticide applicators can use to help protect and enhance bees and other pollinators. In conjunction with the release of this plan, the Department’s Plant Industries section secured a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant to engage Delaware fruit and vegetable growers and beekeepers in the implementation of the plan to improve the availability and quality of bee forage and to decrease the bees’ risk of pesticide exposure. Both efforts combined to improve the health and vitality of bees, which in turn enhance pollination of crops and also enable increased production of local honey.

“One of the key best management practices that we learned in talking with all the groups involved in developing the pollinator protection plan is communication,” said Laura Mensch, DDA Hydrologist III. “We invested in DriftWatch so that pesticide applicators could check where beekeepers have their hives located before spraying – either on the ground or by aerial application. We are excited to see the recent release of the mobile DriftWatch apps, increasing the potential use and benefit of the tool.” In April 2018, FieldWatch launched two free mobile apps (both Android and iOS) called FieldCheck and BeeCheck. The goal is to make it easier for users to access the DriftWatch map while they are on the go. These new apps will allow more users, especially applicators, to access the specialty crop and beehive data on a highly functional mobile platform.

DDA asks beekeepers to register with BeeCheck so that pesticide applicators know where hives are located when they head out to spray. According to DDA State Apiarist Meghan McConnell, there are 289 registered beekeepers with 5,934 colonies in-state for 2018, but there are only 77 beekeepers registered with BeeCheck. One of those pesticide applicators is the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Delaware Mosquito Control Section. For public awareness, including beekeepers, the Mosquito Control Section implemented a Spray Zone Notification (SZN) System, enabling a registered user to receive an alert via text, phone, or email of upcoming spray activities. Recently, two beekeepers expressed concerns regarding mosquito control aerial spraying in Sussex County and alleged impacts to the health of honeybees used for pollination there. Neither had registered with the Spray Zone Notification System.

The Mosquito Control Section’s primary work is preventing mosquito-borne diseases in humans, domestic livestock, and pets, and helping promote and maintain good quality-of-life for Delawareans and visitors, while also lessening adverse impacts to local economies that severe mosquito infestations can cause. Nineteen of the 57 mosquito species found in Delaware are known to bite humans and several can transmit mosquito-borne diseases such as Eastern equine encephalitis and West Nile virus. In particular, the native common house mosquito is primarily a nighttime biter but is also active around dawn and dusk, and is the primary transmitter for West Nile virus in Delaware.

Eliminating breeding habitat is the best means of controlling several types of mosquitoes, but control of other species that can also transmit disease or severely affect quality-of-life often relies on timely insecticide treatments for larval or adult mosquito stages. Therefore, the Mosquito Control Section flies over areas that could become mosquito-infested, applying larvicides to water bodies as a preventive measure and adulticides if an area is already infested, and spraying only by adhering to strict protocols for public health and safety including use only of EPA-approved pesticides.

In collaboration with DDA on the Delaware Managed Pollinator Protection Plan, DNREC’s Mosquito Control Section updated standard operating procedures (SOPs) when treatments are needed around honeybees or their hives. More information on DNREC’s rationale behind their work with bees is available online.

DNREC utilizes Integrated Pest Management (IPM), employing wherever practicable non-insecticidal, source reduction measures such as water management or fish-stocking for larval mosquito control. If source reduction cannot be used or is ineffective, larvicide spraying for mosquito control is used – but such spraying does not have potential for conflicts with pollinating activities, since larvicides are applied primarily in marshes or wet woodlands, and do not have modes of action that would adversely affect honeybees.

As a last option, if larviciding cannot be done or has proven ineffective, DNREC’s Mosquito Control utilizes adulticides applied by aircraft or via truck-mounted sprayers. Aerial applications occur during late evening or early morning, for more effective mosquito control and also to minimize adverse impacts to honeybees, since they are less active or already back in their hives. Ground application of adulticides by truck-mounted sprayers (“fogging”) almost always occurs at night when honeybees are in the hive.

“The Delaware Beekeepers Association (DBA), along with Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) share a common goal – to maintain a healthy population of managed honeybee colonies in Delaware,” said DBA Secretary Rebecca Rendeiro. Aerial spraying for mosquitoes is complex, and while it does not affect every beekeeper, it is important that that there are measures in place to help protect bees to decrease the chance of a colony loss due to pesticide application, while at the same time still enabling adequate mosquito control.

Also, Delaware Department of Agriculture’s pesticide inspectors work in each county to ensure pesticides are properly applied. “Our inspectors conduct announced and unannounced visits throughout the state, including inspections of DNREC’s Mosquito Control applicators,” said DDA Pesticide Administrator Christopher Wade. “We make sure that applicators are using the product properly and safely according to the label specifications in order to protect the health of the public and pollinators.”

If beekeepers suspect that their colonies have been affected by pesticides, they can file a complaint with the Department of Agriculture. In the past year, three complaints were filed and investigated, all crop-related and none involving Mosquito Control spraying. Wade said, “We take a team approach to our investigation since we now have Meghan (McConnell, State Apiarist) on staff. Our inspectors collect samples for pesticide analysis and Meghan looks at the health of the colony and can determine if there are any other health concerns for the bees. It’s helpful for the beekeeper to have their colonies inspected.” In one instance, a notice of warning was issued to the applicator and the grower to be mindful of label directions, and an advisory was issued to the beekeeper for not alerting the grower that hives were on the premises.

Similarly, after decades of Mosquito Control adulticiding, reports of suspected damages to honeybees or hives from such treatments are few. “When we look at bee health and the number one loss for colonies in Delaware, it’s not pesticides,” said State Apiarist McConnell. “Delaware has been fighting Varroa mites since 1994 and Small Hive Beetle since 2001. When we look at colony loss in Delaware, the majority is caused by Varroa mites and the viruses transmitted by them. Bees will not survive the winter, even with enough honey stores, if there are viruses and diseases present.”

Collaboration between state agencies and beekeepers is the key to keeping honeybees safe. DNREC’s Mosquito Control Section has implemented tools to assist beekeepers and to help keep the public informed in advance of mosquito control spray activities. Beekeepers (and members of the public) can sign up for the Mosquito Control Spray Zone Notification System, a two-step process that allows a user to select their spray zone area of interest and then register to receive an alert via text, phone, or email of upcoming spray activity in that area. If beekeepers have concerns on where or when spraying is scheduled to take place relative to beehive locations or honeybee foraging areas, they should contact the Mosquito Control Section to express their concerns.

As a pesticide applicator, DNREC’s Mosquito Control Section also has the ability to check the FieldCheck and BeeCheck apps, and plan spray operations to the extent practicable around data taken from those apps. But if beekeepers have not registered with Mosquito Control’s spray notification system, or if their beehive locations are not kept up to date in FieldCheck and BeeCheck, DNREC’s Mosquito Control Section will not know that hives are located in an area when spraying there for mosquitoes.

The Delaware Department of Agriculture, DNREC’s Mosquito Control Section and the Delaware Beekeepers Association urge anyone who keeps bees in Delaware to register their bee hives and sign up for all the apps that are available that can help protect the state’s valuable pollinators.


Media Contact: Stacey Hofmann, 302-698-4542,

Whether one hive or one hundred, it’s important to register your bee hive

DOVER, Del. — Healthy Bees are essential to Delaware’s vegetable production and agricultural economy. Bee-pollinated crops account for 15 to 30 percent of the food we eat (USDA 2013). Other crops may not be completely dependent on managed pollinators, but benefit from bee pollination. Delaware growers produce several crops which require insect pollination. These crops include watermelons, cucumbers, strawberries, cantaloupes, apples, blueberries, cranberries, squash, pumpkins and brambles. Watermelons make up the largest segment of these crops. In 2014, a total of 2600 acres of watermelons were planted in Delaware, and generated $13MM in sales. Bees are also essential for the pollination of wildflowers, and native trees and shrubs which are the backbone of the state’s forests and natural areas, which yield the fruits and seeds which sustain wildlife. Honey bees spend the spring and summer gathering nectar, which they convert into Delaware honey, a popular item in the state’s more than 25 Farmer’s Markets.

Earlier this year, the Delaware Department of Agriculture unveiled its Managed Pollinator Protection Plan to protect and enhance populations of bees and other valuable pollinators in the state. The Plan includes best management practices that beekeepers, fruit and vegetable growers, and pesticide applicators can use to help pollinators thrive. It also includes strategies to increase the quantity and quality of pollinator forage on private and public lands. The Pollinator Plan contains voluntary Best Management Practices (BMPs) for pesticide users, landowners/growers, and beekeepers in hopes of ensuring both a robust apiary industry and agriculture economy, reducing pesticide exposure and subsequent risk of pesticides to pollinators, and continued high compliance with state pesticide and apiary requirements. The plan can be reviewed at

Apiary and beekeeper registration requirements are listed in Delaware’s Beekeeping Law (Title 3, Chapter 75). Anyone who keeps bees is subject to this law, which serves agriculture by protecting the pollination services offered by the thousands of colonies of bees managed by beekeepers. These colonies are both managed within the state, and transported into the state for pollination. Bee colonies are chronically exposed to parasitic mites, viruses, diseases, pesticides, and poor nutrition, which weaken them and make them less able to handle these stressors. Honey bees in agricultural, suburban and urban areas compete for often scant floral resources and congregate with honey bees from neighboring apiaries. The potential for pest and disease transfer (horizontal transmission) and competition between beekeepers, is thus dramatically increased. The DE Beekeeping laws aim to reduce the impact of these stressors through specific requirements of all beekeepers in the state, such as hive registration, colony and equipment inspection for sale, trade or gifting of bees.

The Beekeeping Law includes appointment of a State Apiarist, who is charged with numerous duties to protect the health of Delaware bees. These duties include inspection of hives and queen rearing apiaries, maintaining a list of registered beekeepers, and promoting the science of beekeeping through education and other means. In addition, for registered beekeepers the State maintains a roster of swarm removal and pollination services, as well as hosting BeeCheck, a pesticide application notification system at no cost to the beekeeper. By law, the State Apiarist and state bee inspectors may enter any public or private premises, and have access to and from all apiaries or places where bees and bee equipment are kept, to inspect them for pests and diseases. The State Apiarist may also declare a quarantine and order destruction or treatment of hives, for serious pest or disease situations.

Whether 1 hive or 100, all persons keeping bees in Delaware are required by law to register annually with the State Apiarist. Section 7504 of the law states, “All persons keeping bees in this State shall notify the State Apiarist within 10 days of the time the bees are acquired, of the number and location of colonies they own, or rent, or which they keep for anyone else, whether the bees are located on their own or someone else’s property.” All persons keeping bees must register annually with the Delaware Department of Agriculture, on or before January 30 of each year. The Beekeeping law specifies penalties for violations. Anyone who violates the beekeeping law, is subject to a civil penalty of no less than $100 and no more than $1000 per count. Delaware’s beekeeping law can be found at:

The beekeeper registration form can be found at the Delaware Department of Agriculture’s website, on the forms tab: It is a one-page form, and there is no registration fee. For assistance with completing the registration form, or for questions about Delaware’s Apiary Program, please contact the State Apiarist, Meghan McConnell, and 302-698-4500.


Media Contact: Stacey Hofmann, Community Relations Officer, 302-698-4542,

Delaware announces new state apiarist

Photos are available for media use on Flickr.

Dover – The Delaware Department of Agriculture announced today that they have hired a new State Apiarist, Meghan McConnell, a native of Millville, NJ. In her position, Meghan will be inspecting bee colonies, conducting surveys for the presence of honey bee parasites, and is responsible for securing samples of suspect colonies to determine suitable measures to control and/or eradicate disease. The State Apiarist supervises the colony registration program and certifies honey bee colonies that enter or exit the state.

While the Delaware State Apiarist’s main concern is monitoring honey bee health, Meghan will also participate in pest management practices. This includes surveying for undesirable races of honeybees by installing and monitoring swarm traps targeted toward Africanized honey bees. She is responsible for upholding regulatory measures supporting the Delaware apiary laws (

Meghan is a 2012 graduate of the University of Maryland (UMD) with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science & Technology. Meghan is currently finishing her Master of Science in Entomology at the University of Maryland under Dr. Dennis van Engelsdorp. Her research targets the parasitic mite Varroa in honey bees, specifically non-chemical controls and horizontal transfer. In 2016, Meghan was recognized by the American Beekeeping Federation as a Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees scholar.

Prior to returning to school for her graduate degree, Meghan interned with the USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, for 10 months working with invasive plant species, submerged aquatic vegetation and pollinators. She also worked for a short time at the University of Maryland, Institute of Applied Agriculture as an Undergraduate Technology Apprentice.

In 2012, Meghan joined the Bee Informed Partnership (BIP) at the University of Maryland. She was part of the Real Time Disease Load Monitoring project that surveyed colonies for bee health, Nosema and Varroa levels in backyard, sideline, and commercial beekeeper apiaries. With the Bee Informed Partnership, Meghan gained practical beekeeping experience while working with colonies in all types of operations, including the UMD apiaries.

Following the completion of her graduate program, Meghan will begin full-time as Delaware’s State Apiarist in June 2017.


Media Contact: Stacey Hofmann, 302-698-4542,

Beehives set up at Blackbird Forest Education Center

“Trees for Bees” is theme of National Pollinator Week (June 20-26, 2016)

Rachel MAckey, a 4-H volunteer from Kent County with an interest in beekeeping, helped set up the new hives at the Blackbird State Foirest Education Center. Five frames from an existing colony are put into the new hive, along with five empty frames that will give the colony room to expand their "brood" and make honey.
Rachel Mackie, a 4-H volunteer from Kent County interested in beekeeping, sets up the new hives at the Blackbird Forest Education Center. Five frames from an existing colony are put into the new hive, along with five empty ones to expand its “brood” and make honey.

State officials hope a new addition at the Blackbird Forest Education Center in Townsend will become a hive of activity as its occupants get busy as bees teaching visitors about the natural environment, the valuable role bees play in crop pollination and honey production, and how forests and flowering tree species can contribute to bee health and well-being.

Native trees such as flowering dogwood (cornus florida) can provide a good source of nutrition to foraging bees.
Native trees such as flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) can provide a good source of nutrition to foraging bees.

“Trees for Bees” is the theme of  National Pollinator Week, June 20-26. Created to promote bee-friendly practices such as planting pollinator gardens of native flowers, the theme highlights the many natural benefits that flowering native tree species such as tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), black willow (Salix nigra), northern catalpa (Catalpa speciosa), flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), and maples (Acer spp.) offer to foraging bees.

National Pollinator Week takes place every June to address the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. The event has grown into an international celebration of the valuable natural benefits provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles.

Concern for honey bees in the U.S. is amplified by their crucial role in farming: honey bees are the main pollinators of many fruit and nut crops, and officials estimate pollination alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year. In addition to pollination, bees produce products such as honey, wax, and royal jelly.

Delaware has about 270 registered beekeepers operating between 2,000 and 3,000 hives, many of whom are members of the Delaware Beekeepers Association. Each year, farmers bring in another 3,000 bee colonies to maximize crop pollination. Pollinated crops include watermelon, cucumbers, strawberries, cantaloupes, apples, blueberries, cranberries, squash and pumpkins.

In 2015, the Obama Administration unveiled the first-ever national strategy to promote the health of honey bees and other pollinators, which included recommendations from a task force’s pollinator research action plan. In January, Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) officials unveiled a draft Managed Pollinator Protection Plan at the 2016 Delaware Ag Week event in Harrington which outlined strategies and techniques to protect and enhance bee populations in the state. DDA is now reviewing comments received on the draft plan.

“One key aspect of the pollinator protection plan is to increase the amount of available forage for bees during the growing season. We’ve been working with the Delaware Nursery and Landscape Association, DSU and UD Cooperative Extension, and farmers to identify nutritious plants – ones with the nectar and pollen that bees need,” said Faith Kuehn, plant industries administrator for the Delaware Department of Agriculture. “The goal is to increase the acreage of these vital plants within the state.”

The draft plan includes best management practices that beekeepers, fruit and vegetable growers, and pesticide applicators can use to help pollinators thrive. It also includes strategies to increase the quantity and quality of pollinator forage on private and public lands.

For commercial and private beekeepers, Delaware agricultural officials have established BeeCheck, a voluntary program that helps beekeepers and pesticide applicators communicate and share information through a DriftWatch link so that state-registered beehives can be added to the DriftWatch map to prevent accidental drift of pesticides into sensitive sites through weather or wind patterns.

“We wanted to help our state’s beekeepers have more open communication with pesticide applicators, and vice-versa,” said Chris Wade, pesticides compliance administrator for the Delaware Department of Agriculture. “Expanding this tool to a wider group can only help both groups improve that dialogue.”

For the general public, experts also advocate limitations on pesticide use – especially during mid-day hours when bees and other pollinators are likely to forage. Other recommendations include planting species that are good sources of nectar and pollen such as red clover, foxglove, bee balm, joe-pye weed, and other native plants. (For more information, visit

Delaware Forest Service trainer-educator examines the two new bee hives at the Blackbird Forest Education Center.
Delaware Forest Service trainer-educator Ashley Peebles examines the two new bee hives at the Blackbird Forest Education Center, part of a statewide effort to increase habitat and forage opportunities for bees.


The Blackbird Forest Education Center bee project is funded by a federal grant. Delaware is part of a three-year effort to create demonstration and education sites showcasing forage and land management practices to support bees and promote honey production and develop best management practices to improve bee forage availability and quantity.

“We are happy to dedicate this new area near the Blackbird Forest Education Center as a permanent bee pasture and forage site. We plan to develop a curriculum for students and visitors to learn about the important relationship between bees and forests,” said Ashley Peebles, Delaware Forest Service trainer-educator.

From left, XXXXX and Haley Halderman, 4-H volunteers from Kent County, helped plant flowering annuals near the new bee hives to help the newly-established colonies forage for pollen and nectar.
Student 4-H volunteers from Kent County helped plant flowering annuals in the meadow near the bee hives to help the newly-established colonies forage for sources of pollen and nectar.


The bees in the "nuc" or "nucleus colony" are prepared to move to their new home in the bee boxes at Blackbird State Forest's Education Center.
The bees in the “nuc” or “nucleus colony” are prepared to move to their new home in the bee boxes at the Blackbird Forest Education Center.


European honey bees from the nucleus colony are placed into the new bee boxes at Blackbird State Forest Education Center.
European honey bees from the “nuc” or “nucleus colony” are placed into their new homes at the bee hives at the Blackbird Forest Education Center in Townsend.

The occupants of the new hives are European honey bees (Apis mellifera L.), which are not native to the United States but have been successfully naturalized on every continent except Antarctica; their earliest introduction to America dates back to 1622. The genus name Apis is Latin for “bee,” and mellifera means “honey-bearing,” referring to the species’ tendency to produce a large quantity of honey for storage over the winter. Experts believe honey bees evolved from species of predatory wasps that, instead of using other insects for food, eventually discovered that nutrition could be gathered from plants and flowers. In North America, honey bees must rely on the nectar and pollen gathered in the growing seasons of spring and summer to get them through the rest of the year.

Bees not only expand their numbers by making more bees but by also creating more colonies, a process known as “swarming” that usually happens in the spring. If a swarm is spotted, the public should call DDA’s Plant Industries staff at (302) 698-4500 for a list of swarm removal services.

In the honey bee colony, the labor system is divided among a small group: 1) the queen, who handles all reproductive functions and is the center of hive activity, 2) worker bees (females that gather nectar and pollen, build the comb, tend the brood, and make honey), and 3) drones (males whose role is to mate with the queen). While the queen does have a stinger, it is the female worker bees that possess barbed stingers to defend the hive, if necessary – at the cost of their own lives.

Queen Bee

The Blackbird State Forest bee boxes, also called “supers,” were installed in mid-June near a small stand of sweetgum trees on the edge of a meadow on the appropriately-named “Meadows Tract.” Volunteers from Kent County 4-H clubs worked with Peebles and Planting Hope With Honey Bees Apiary, which is part of the Planting Hope Urban Farm at DHSS’ Herman Holloway campus in New Castle.

Construction of the new Blackbird State Forest hives was modeled on the design of the well-known Langstroth bee hive, originally patented in 1852. Crucial to the process are the two “nucs” or “nucleus colonies” – smaller colonies created from a larger one – each with its own new “queen.”

Each bee box was constructed with a “hive stand” on the bottom to keep the bees’ new homes off the ground. Above that are two “honey supers” – stacked one on top of the other – which contain 10 individual racks of “honey super frames” which will become the “combs.” The frames act as scaffolding on which bees will build their honeycomb, raise their “brood,” and make honey by gathering nectar and pollen from the nearby forest and flowers to feed the hive. The top layer holds the “feeder,” which is a jar containing a 50/50 mixture of sugar and water. The goal of the “feeder” is to jump-start the bee colony with enough nutrition to sustain them on the tasks of hive-building and honey production. The feeder will be monitored periodically to see if it needs replenishment. Officials expect that in early-spring, when most of the hives’ resources have been depleted by the long winter, another feeder with sugar water will be needed to get the hive through to the next foraging season.


At left, the "feeder" jar is centered over the slot in the box. It will contain a 50/50 mixture of sugar and water to nourish the colony until it can establish its own supply of nectar and pollen. At right, the photo shows how the completed bee hives will look with the capped cover placed at the top to protect the feeder. Each hive is its own distinct "colony" with its own "queen bee."
At left, a “feeder” jar is centered over a slot in the box. It will contain a 50/50 mixture of sugar and water to nourish the colony until it can establish its own supply of nectar and pollen. At right, the completed bee hives with the capped cover at the top. Each hive is its own distinct “colony” with its own “queen bee.”


A temporary "reducer" is installed at the hive opening to protect the bees and limit movement in and out of the hive until it becomes more well-established.
A temporary “reducer” is installed at the hive opening to protect bees and limit movement in and out of the hive until it is established.

At the very bottom of the hive is a narrow slit in the wood where bees can enter and exit the hive. New hives often feature a “reducer” that limits movement into and out of the hive until it can become well-established. At the very top of the box is a metal-plated wood cover to protect the feeder from being disturbed by outside forces or the weather.

Blackbird State Forest Education Center has numerous displays on forests and forest history, and features interactive exhibits on tree species, urban forestry, wildland fire, and an outdoor pond and educational trail. The center is open by appointment only from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and welcomes school groups, non-profits, and community organizations. For more information, contact Peebles at (302) 698-4551 or

Free beekeeping event on Sept. 21

DOVER — Learn about beekeeping basics, beehives, honey production and more at a free Open Hive Event sponsored by the Delaware Beekeepers Association.

The free public event will be 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sept. 21 at Redden State Forest, 18074 Redden Forest Drive, Georgetown, off East Redden Road and just east of U.S. 113.

There will be a full slate of speakers and demonstrations for all ages, and lunch will be served. Attendees should wear long pants, long-sleeved shirt and shoes to protect from ticks, chiggers and other pests.

For more information, contact Geri McClimens at the Delaware Department of Agriculture, 302-698-4577.

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Dan Shortridge
Chief of Community Relations
Delaware Department of Agriculture