Bee keepers concerned about program aimed at tallow trees

Posted at 8:45 PM, Jun 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-23 21:45:01-04

The 96th Annual Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation Convention was held in New Orleans this weekend and KATC was there to cover it.

The Louisiana Bee Keepers Association held a conference at the convention and one of the main discussions was about a controversial project that will work to get rid of a tree that serves as the primary food source for honey bees in Louisiana.

For 30 years the Chinese Tallow tree has been an invasive species that has rapidly spread across the state and much of the forestry and timber industry want to see it eradicated.

“Well the issue is, is there is a research project going on, and it’s being vetted in Washington and it’s being discussed her in Louisiana to utilize the flee beetle to basically to attack the sprouts of the Chinese Tallow tree,” explained Louisiana Commissioner of Ag & Forestry Dr. Mike Strain

The flee beetle has been combating the Chinese Tallow tree in its homeland for centuries.

However, if the beetle is introduced into Louisiana there is concern that it might unintentionally kill multiple plant species.

We’re afraid, particularly some of the ecologists, that it might have unintended consequences. Early testing has been very positive that there’s a low risk of it causing problems. But, we know from previous introductions of biological controls that only about ten percent of those have been 100 percent effective,” explained Louisiana Bee Keeper’s Association Secretary Dr. Steve Payne.

That’s why the Louisiana Commissioner of Ag and Forestry proposes that the flee beetle is first introduced into a closed green house before it’s set loose into Louisiana.

“That’s why we need to have that data and the proper peer reviewed research to make sure that if it stays contained, it’s contained one to the species. But, the other part is how do we coexist together,” explained Dr. Strain.

One Jennings bee keeper is concerned that if introduced the flee beetle will kill the primary source of nectar for his bees.

"There was a time when tallow trees were an aggravation for me because they grew so prolifically. But, after I became a bee keeper I realized they made a tremendous amount of honey and tasty honey, so I see them as something important that we should probably leave in our environment,” said holistic farmer Warren Hoag.

Hoag understand how other farmers would like to see the tree species destroyed.

"Most of the farmers in my area are mono-culture farmers that grow one particular crop that grow rice or soybeans, and they don’t like the Chinese Tallow tree to come up on their levees or in their fields,” said Hoag.

The project to introduce the flea beetles as biological control for the Chinese Tallow tree will be funded by the USDA.