Photo by the USDA, via You Tube
In a show of concern for the plight of bees and other pollinators, Second Lady Karen Pence and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue recently unveiled a beehive on the grounds of the U.S. vice president’s residence.The numbers of bees in the U.S. are on the decline.
The number of honeybee hives has declined from 6 million during the 1940s to about 2.5 million today, according to the USDA.
Losses of beehives, including a syndrome known as “colony collapse disorder,” have been attributed to a number of factors -- stress caused by factors such as parasites and pests, transportation of bees and sub-lethal exposure to pesticides and poor nutrition, the Range and Pasture Journal reported on June 30.
Pence and Perdue pointed out that a lack of supportive habitat near hives also contributes to the declines.
Perdue and Pence urged people to help by planting bee-friendly flowers and flowering herbs in their yards and gardens. Honeybees love wildflowers, lilacs, poppies and Black-eyed Susans, as well as herbs and vegetables such as mint, sage, squash, tomatoes, oregano, and rosemary, the report said. In addition, bees get thirsty, so birdbaths and small basins of water can help relieve their thirst.
“All types of pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, birds and bats, are critical to providing our nation’s food, fiber, fuel and medicine,” Pence said.
Perdue released a proclamation declaring June 19-25 as “National Pollinator Week.” He noted that the USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency led efforts to create a National Pollinator Health Strategy, working with a number of other federal departments to implement programs, including more USDA research.
The USDA’s Agricultural Research Service is conducting research to improve the nutritional health of bees, to control the Varroa mite and other pests and pathogens, and to understand the effects of pesticides on colonies, the USDA said.
Long-term studies are being set up to determine causes and evaluate treatments for Colony Collapse Disorder and other kinds of bee mortality, as well as a bee gene bank to help breed traits such as resistance to pests or diseases and pollination efficiency.
Honeybees are the nation’s primary pollinators, adding at least $15 billion a year in value to about 90 crops -- including nuts, fruits, berries and vegetables -- increasing yields and helping ensure high-quality harvests, the USDA said.
“Most farmers and consumers have no better friends and few harder workers than the honey bee, as more than one-third of all U.S. crop production requires insect pollination,” Perdue said.