Save The Pollinators [Opinion]

Bees need to be protected. Most of you are using softer chemistries and are conscientious about not spraying during a time when they are out and about, doing their jobs. As we all know, however, there are many causes that contribute to honeybee health problems.

In spite of the effort being made to promote bee health, more needs to happen. Some recent concerning news highlights that honeybee colonies are down — again — and we are still dealing with the Varroa mite, which can destroy hives and infect bees with viruses.

The bee issue may not be as in your face as solving the labor crisis, but these beneficial, pollinating insects have an important job: They help increase yields of fruit and vegetable crops.

On GrowingProduce.com, we recently reported on beekeepers’ honeybee colony losses from April 2015 to April 2016. From a nationwide annual survey — which asks both commercial and small-scale beekeepers to track the health and survival rates of their honeybee colonies for a year — U.S. beekeepers said they lost 44% of their colonies during that time. This is an increase of 3.5% points from the 2014-2015 report.

And it’s not just the honeybees who are in trouble; some wild bees are, too. In late 2015, the first national study to map U.S. wild bees indicated they’re disappearing from important farmland regions — including California’s Central Valley, the Pacific Northwest, and the upper Midwest.

The good news is many agriculture companies, as well as agencies (including USDA), are striving to come up with solutions that will bolster bee health and populations.

An example is the new video, Benefits of Planting Flowers for Bees, which offers some solutions to promote the sustainability of bees. Specifically, planting wildflowers around field edges is proving to help pollinators by offering bees a safe place to nest and collect pollen and nectar for nourishment.

Several growers and researchers are testing this idea in watermelon and other fruit crops as part of the Integrated Crop Pollination Project. The plan appears to be working in Michigan blueberry fields and studies show the addition of wildflowers worldwide is bringing in bees into virtually any area, which is helping to increase pollination and yield.

As the video says, “Just as habitat starts with a single flower, this change can start with you.” We all want healthy crop pollinators and healthy yields. To do that, you must ensure the health of the pollinators.

What else can you do to promote bees on your farm? If you aren’t doing so already, it’s time to create a buzz about bees.

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