Mass deaths of honeybees are increasing in Japan, due apparently to pesticides used for killing stink bugs in rice paddies, according to a study by the agricultural ministry.
The ministry found that many cases of large-scale honeybee deaths occurred when such pesticides were sprayed on paddies near apiaries, officials said.
The ministry is calling on prefectural governments to create consultative bodies so rice farmers and beekeepers can discuss appropriate methods for applying pesticides, according to the officials.
Japan has some 9,300 beekeepers.
After an increase in research results at home and abroad on the influence of pesticides on deaths of honeybees, the ministry in fiscal 2013 boosted efforts to encourage beekeepers to report unusual deaths.
As a result, the ministry saw the number of reported cases of mass deaths of honeybees jump to 69 in fiscal 2013 and 79 in fiscal 2014, from just a few cases in previous years.
In many of the reported cases, some 1,000 to 30,000 honeybees were confirmed to have died per hive, and pesticides were detected on many of the dead bees.
Honeybees that became tainted with pesticides when collecting rice pollen are believed to have caused many deaths of bees inside hive boxes.
To prevent further mass deaths, the ministry has asked prefectural governments to set up the consultative bodies of rice farmers and beekeepers.
Such bodies are expected to allow farmers and beekeepers to share information on pesticide programs and discuss ways to reduce pesticide damage to bees, such as temporary relocation of hive boxes to safer places and the use of granulated insecticides instead of the powdered variety.
“We aim to reduce honeybee deaths by facilitating information-sharing,” a ministry official said.