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See Honeybees at Work: USDA Launches BeeWatch

Click to visit the USDA's 24/7 bee watch camera.

Click to visit the USDA's 24/7 bee watch camera.

At the ribbon cutting of the USDA Headquarters People’s Garden in April 2010 plans were already in place to install a beehive on the roof of the Whitten Building as well as a “bee-cam” so anyone anywhere could learn about bee activity. USDA’s newest ‘buzzing’ residents were welcomed on Earth Day but the bee cam was put on hold. 18 gallons of honey later, that idea has finally come to bee. You can now #USDABeeWatch 24/7 at www.usda.gov/beewatch.

So what will you see on our bee cam? This time of year, the camera – placed several feet from the entrance of the hive – shows female worker bees entering and exiting the hive gathering nectar and pollen (both collected from flowers) to convert into honey. Be on the lookout for bees carrying a load of pollen on their hind legs. As bees groom, they’ll move the pollen onto their back legs creating a pellet of pollen. A small amount of nectar is used to stick the dry pollen together.

The People’s Garden Apiary is home to two beehives and approximately 40,000 Italian honeybees.

The People’s Garden Apiary is home to two beehives and approximately 40,000 Italian honeybees.

The availability of pollen and nectar from flowering plants in surrounding landscapes is very important to the growth, development and productivity of any honeybee colony. Populations of honeybees, native bees and other pollinators like birds, butterflies, beetles and bats have declined due to habitat loss, disease, adverse weather, and other conditions. We need pollinators to pollinate most of our flowering plants giving us the foods that give our diet nutrition, diversity and flavor.

A honeybee from the People’s Garden Apiary visits the perennial Nepeta cataria (Common name: Catnip) in the herb garden of USDA Headquarters People’s Garden.

A honeybee from the People’s Garden Apiary visits the perennial Nepeta cataria (Common name: Catnip) in the herb garden of USDA Headquarters People’s Garden.

Helping pollinators is essential. That’s why we’ve adopted pollinator-friendly gardening practices at USDA Headquarters and encourage you to do the same. Simple actions you can take on your farm, ranch or garden to create or improve pollinator habitat include:

- Planting a variety of native flowering shrubs, trees and wildflowers that bloom continuously throughout the seasons; allowing small plants like clover in your lawn instead of trying to eradicate these “weeds” with herbicides.

- Finding non-chemical solutions to insect problems;

- Providing a source of clean water for birds and other pollinators such as a birdbath;

- Using native plant species that are from your ecoregion;

- Leaving dead foliage on native perennials as a source of food and nesting material for wildlife in winter; or

Become involved. Plant a small pollinator garden and experience the pleasure of observing pollinators in your garden. Share your findings with us using hashtag #USDABeeWatch. Most importantly, get outside with your family and friends and explore the natural and urban habitats that we share with pollinators and flowering plants.

Flowers add beauty and attract pollinators to any garden. Plant a pollinator-friendly garden or window box to show your support for pollinators. Remember to bee patient. It may take time for native plants to grow and for pollinators to find your garden.

Flowers add beauty and attract pollinators to any garden. Plant a pollinator-friendly garden or window box to show your support for pollinators. Remember to bee patient. It may take time for native plants to grow and for pollinators to find your garden.

14 Responses to “See Honeybees at Work: USDA Launches BeeWatch”

  1. Sherri Wormstead says:

    Very Cool! They also have a nice bee display across the mall at the Natural History Museum. We’ll “bee” watching for pollinators at our USFS office in Durham, NH as well (recognized as a People’s Garden for our sustainable landscaping efforts).

  2. Gregory Hetrick says:

    Hello folks I love what you are doing and I think it is great. I have a beautiful garden and many fruit trees including apples, cherries, pears, and plums; also raspberry’s, blackberry’s and many grape plants. We have very few bees to pollinate and we encourage there habitat by planting many flowering plants to attract the birds and bees.

  3. Gregory Hetrick says:

    The only downfall we have is that the potato crop dusters spray their potatoes and kill the existing bees. I only wish they would use Guinea Fowl to eat the potato beetles so we could have the good bees to pollinate our gardens. Believe it or not the Guinea Fowl will devourer a lot of potato beetles in one day. Thank You for what you are doing and I live in Rice, Minnesota, so what would you suggest to recover the bee population at my home and community.

  4. Phil says:

    I had to go looking to find how many floors the Witten building has, 5 and 4 floors.
    I wondered how high the Bees would fly to find the or a, hive.

  5. Phil says:

    Who is the keeper and who will get the honey?
    Will is be marked as The Whitten Bee Honey, or The Whitten Building Honey and sold to the highest bidder with the funds from the auction going toward paying off the National Debt?

    How about offered as a prize to 4-H students? The 4-H task will have to be thought-up by the Ag. People.

    Hay, I tried

  6. Nicole Vulcan says:

    Thank you USDA for taking a stand to protect these important parts of our ecosystem. Next step: pressing companies who produce insecticides to find better solutions that do not damage our planet. There is nothing more important than healthy food and groundwater and the USDA should take a harsher stand against corporate polluters. Thank you!

  7. jackie says:

    where can I get honey bees for my garden. Love what you are doing.

  8. Theresa says:

    It looks awfully quiet this morning (5/16/14 8:29am CDT) I see 1 dead bee to the left and 1 barely moving on the right. Looks liks she is standing in water.

  9. Margaret says:

    Theresa, I’ve watched the LIVE beehive myself and was concerned with what I saw. Doesn’t look healthy. Maybe the weather is affecting them? Hopefully someone else will comment??

  10. Anne says:

    Theresa – Bees don’t fly in the rain and often not in the early morning either! They carry or throw dead bees out of the hive so it is not unusual to see a dead one at the entrance. They also bring rain water into the hive to cool it and to drink.

  11. Theresa says:

    It does appear thaat things are much more active. (noon CDT) Perhaps there was rain earlier that I could not perceive and that kept things more quiet.

  12. Farmer Donald says:

    Jackie:
    Most every county will have a honey beekeepers guild which typically consist of hobbyist beekeepers doing good work to save and preserve the genetic diversity our domestic honeybee populations. The best way to get honeybees into your garden is to become a beekeeper. The second best way is to contact your local honey bee keepers guild and invite a member or local hobbyist beekeeper to put a hive of honeybees in your back yard. I do this for clients as much as I can; moreover, the beekeeper will own the equipment, honeybees, and extra honey. You get free pollination for your garden, hours of entertainment watching the bees work, and most good willed beekeepers will give the property owner a jar or two every month of the honey produced out the property owner’s backyard. It’s part of the sharing economy and creates a win-win-win dynamic. I hope this answers your question.

  13. Humma H. says:

    YEA-AA-A-A-A!!!!! Congrats!! Keep emails co,in’!! I loved my bees as Nature Spec at GS Camp!!, and have my bee-puppet sitting on my dresser when it’s not on my ballcap!! Go, Rooftop Bee Habitat!!! All the Best!

  14. Victor Villegas says:

    For those looking for information on beekeeping in the US, check with your local Extension office http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/. In Oregon we have a Master Beekeepers Program http://extension.oregonstate.edu/mb/.

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