Combing through Michigan’s pollinator planning efforts

Why are so many Michigan pollinator planning efforts being developed? Let’s take a closer look at three programs and plans currently forming.

In response to concerns about pollinator health, Michigan agencies and legislators are gearing up with big plans and programs for pollinators in our state. Given their importance to our agricultural economy and natural lands, Michigan is taking part in the nationwide movement to protect the insects that pollinate our fruits, vegetables and native plants. In this article we outline, explain and provide updates on the different pollinator plans in Michigan (as of the end of 2016), providing links for more resources and ways you can get involved and receive updates as these plans progress.

In the summer of 2015, the White House released the National Strategy to Protect the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. This plan outlined our national goals for pollinator health: To improve the health of honey bees, protect our migrating monarchs and enhance and expand pollinator habitat. Different federal agencies released their own plans including the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency. Many states have also developed programs and plans for pollinators that are specific to their needs and issues because of the diversity of crops, native pollinators, honey production, landscapes and pesticide use in the country.

Michigan grows many specialty crops, is on the path of migrating monarchs, has a robust beekeeping industry and is home to thousands of species of native pollinators. We need a strategy to reflect our unique role in pollinator protection. Here we outline three programs and plans currently forming in Michigan:

  1. A legislative bill to create a statewide pollinator protection plan.
  2. A strategy through the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to improve habitat for monarchs.
  3. A plan through the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) to reduce pesticide risk by improving communication between growers and beekeepers.

Michigan bill to create a pollinator protection plan

In October 2016, Representative Tom Cochran introduced House Bill 5950 to the Michigan legislature to create a plan that would protect the health of pollinators and address both of the following:

  1. Promote the health of and mitigate the risks to all pollinator species.
  2. Ensure a robust agricultural economy and industry for honey bees and other pollinators.

If passed, the bill would create a plan in which MDARD, DNR and the Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) would work with an advisory group composed of representatives from affected groups, such as beekeepers, growers, pesticide applicators, conservation groups, universities, retailers, lawn and turf service providers, and agricultural extension services. The group would focus on addressing habitat loss for all pollinators, the effects of pesticide use on all pollinators, and honey bee and other pollinator health and disease research. It would focus on supporting communication between beekeepers and applicators to reduce the risk of pollinators by pesticides, increasing pollinator habitat, maintenance of existing compliance with state pesticide use requirements, and identifying future need for research and education.

The bill has been introduced to the house and the status is still under review. You can read the bill on the Michigan Legislative webpage, and contact your representative with your comments and views. You can find your representative at the Michigan House website.

Michigan’s Monarch and Wild Pollinator Plan

MDNR, along with numerous partners, hosted a Monarch and Wild Pollinator Summit in September 2016. The goals of the summit were to gather key conservation partners from across the state to initiate development of a statewide strategy to conserve habitat for the Monarch butterfly and wild pollinators, and develop a collaborative initiative to attract people and resources to help conserve habitat for monarchs and wild pollinators. A steering committee was created to help develop and organize this Summit that included the following organizations: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, Farm Bureau, National Wildlife Federation, Michigan Department of Transportation, Michigan State University Extension, MSU Entomology Department, Michigan Pollinator Initiative and Grand Rapids Community College. The steering committee invited a diverse group of organizations to attend the summit, which included 32 different organizations.

The next step to continue working on the statewide strategy is for the steering committee to schedule a second Monarch and Wild Pollinator Summit for spring of 2017.For more information on what you can do to help monarchs in Michigan, see the DNR’s webpage on Monarchs in Michigan.

MDARD Managed Pollinator Protection Plan

In May 2015, EPA created a proposal to adopt mandatory pesticide label restrictions and amend label language on pesticides that are known to be highly toxic to bees. The language on the new labels indicates the pesticides can only be applied within the guidelines of a state Managed Pollinator Protection Plan. This plan will protect managed bees that are not under pollination service contracts from foliar applications of pesticides that are acutely toxic to bees on a contact exposure basis. The plan will help alleviate stress on honey bee populations due to pesticide exposure by creating a framework for communication between impacted stakeholders.

In 2015, a steering committee was formed with representatives from MDARD, Michigan Farm Bureau, MSU and commercial beekeepers to develop the Managed Pollinator Protection Plan for the state of Michigan. In early 2016, over 90 representatives of various stakeholder organizations were invited to a one-day summit to discuss the plan.

The primary purpose of a state Managed Pollinator Protection Plan is to establish a framework for open communication and coordination among individuals who are applying pesticides and beekeepers who have colonies in the area impacted by spray. Some of the key points of the plan are to:

  • Mitigate potential exposure to pesticide.
  • 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 what can be done to mitigate negative outcomes on pollinator populations.
  • Determine ways for citizens, businesses, agencies and Michigan residents to minimize risk to pollinators.

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture created guidelines for the creation of the Managed Pollinator Protection Plans and plans to review the efficacy of the plans once established.

To date, Michigan’s Managed Pollinator Protection Plan steering committee has organized and held seven regional stakeholder listening sessions across Michigan to initiate the stakeholder participation process for feedback on the plan. From those meetings, there were 84 attendees representing 10 affiliations and at least 33 different organizations. There has been responses collected from 56 stakeholder feedback surveys. The Managed Pollinator Protection Plan committee has also presented at eight targeted stakeholder meetings, including the Michigan Beekeepers Association, commercial beekeepers, blueberry extension field day, Michigan Tribal Environmental Group meeting, Michigan Agricultural Aviation Association (MAAA), Michigan Mosquito Control Association, and a few beekeeping club meetings. 

A summary of the stakeholder listening sessions can be found at “Michigan Managed Pollinator Protection Plan Stakeholder Listening Session Results.” A draft of the pollinator protection plan will be released for public review and comment in mid-February, and the final draft of the plan is scheduled to be complete by March 1.

If you were unable to attend a listening session and would like to provide input, you can do so before Dec. 16, 2016. Please take the Managed Pollinator Protection Plan stakeholder survey online, or send any comments to Sign up for the Managed Pollinator Protection Plan mailing list to stay up-to-date on the timeline and development of the plan.

For more information on other states’ Managed Pollinator Protection Plans, resources on Michigan's Managed Pollinator Protection Plan or pollinators in Michigan, visit MSU’s Michigan Pollinator Initiative Managed Pollinator Protection Plan page. The final draft of the plan will be found at the MDARD website.

If you know of other pollinator events going on, please send information to the Michigan Pollinator Initiative at Find more information about the plan on our Managed Pollinator Protection Plan website. You can find updates and other topics related to the Managed Pollinator Protection Plan on MSU Extension’s Pollinators and Pollination page.

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