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Backyard beekeepers gain access to maps to help protect pollinators

Eli Chen/Delaware Public Media

Backyard beekeepers now can access a new service that will help protect their hives from pesticides.

Previously, only commercial beekeepers could add their hive locations to the DriftWatch maps that keep landowners and pesticide applicators informed on areas sensitive to pesticides.


Now, with the launch of the BeeCheck program, noncommercial beekeepers and hobbyists can voluntarily register with the system.


Laura Mensch, data steward with the Department of Agriculture, says this resource aims to protect honeybees and promote beekeeping in the state.


“We didn’t want to exclude people just because they opted not to go commercial and we didn’t want to just favor big commercial people. We wanted to expand [DriftWatch],” said Mensch. “And really, want to get people interested in keeping bees and in pollinator health.”

Smyrna resident Kathy Hossler recently became president of the Delaware Beekeepers Association. She says being able to add her four hives to the DriftWatch system is something she’s wanted since she began beekeeping three years ago.

“Being on this map means that they’re more likely to know that you’re there and notify you if there’s going to be some sort of activity in your neighborhood and to me, that’s important to know to cover my hives if I know that they’re spraying," said Hossler.

Delaware, the only East Coast state using DriftWatch, started with the program two years ago, but only allowed commercial beekeepers to sign up.

The state is also developing a pollinator protection plan, a set of guidelines for beekeepers and pesticide applicators to follow to promote the health of pollinators. The public comment period has recently closed, and officials expect to have a final draft later this year.

According to the Department of Agriculture, there are 270 beekeepers who are registered with the state of Delaware, owning between 2,000 and 3,000 hives. And they’re also on the rise--Mensch says registered beekeepers in the First State have doubled in the last three months alone.


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