Spotted Knapweed Control Provokes Opposition from Beekeepers

Spotted knapweed, a thistle-like plant with purple blooms, looks innocent enough, but it’s the bane of any gardener’s existence.

An invasive species, it releases a toxin from its roots to stunt the growth of native vegetation. In an effort to keep the spread of knapweed under control, researchers released bugs that feed on the plant earlier this year – and beekeepers in Michigan aren’t happy.

They claim the flowering plant is an integral source of nectar and pollen for their honeybees.

“If it wasn’t for this plant, we wouldn’t even be here,” said Kirk Jones, the founder of Sleeping Bear Farms in the northwest Lower Peninsula community of Beulah, according to the Los Angeles Times. If scientists do succeed in restraining the plant, he said: “It could be detrimental to the future of the beekeeping industry.”

It is unclear why beekeepers in Michigan have raised concerns while those in other states have not opposed the knapweed control so vehemently. But Michigan is among the country’s top 10 honey producers and plays a primary role in the beekeeping business.

Ken Rauscher, director of the pesticide and plant pest management division for the Michigan Department of Agriculture, says officials are looking for native flowers to sustain bees and maintain vegetation diversity.

“It’s not an attempt to take away a resource that beekeepers find valuable, but to replace it with one that might have more functionality,” Rauscher told the Times.

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