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Pollinator Week Brings Focus on Honey Bee Health

A bumblebee on top of a flower

Pollination by honey bees alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year. It is possible that pesticide residue exposure may play an indirect role in pollinator decline, which is why analyzing residue continues to be an important part of the puzzle. USDA Photo Courtesy of Teresa Prendusi.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

The buzz of a honey bee and the flutter of a butterfly bring happy thoughts of beautiful gardens. These pollinators are also hard at work providing vital services that are critical to our national and global food supplies. Honey bees to native bees and birds, bats and butterflies help ensure the production of plentiful fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Pollination by honey bees alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year. Unfortunately, the number of pollinators has been declining in recent years due to many factors. Read more »

Conserving Monarch Butterflies and their Habitats

A monarch butterfly on flowers

Monarch butterflies rely on milkweed species. Photo credit:

With more than 80 percent of the world’s flowering plants relying on pollinators, their importance to natural ecosystems and agriculture cannot be overstated. However, populations of pollinators, including bird, bat, butterfly, beetle and bee species, have been declining around the world. Recognizing the importance of pollinators, Secretary Tom Vilsack of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has proclaimed June 15 to 21, 2015 as National Pollinator Week.

To celebrate Pollinator Week, we are sharing some of the Forest Service’s work to conserve one iconic pollinator species and its habitat – the Monarch butterfly. Monarch butterflies complete incredible migrations of hundreds to thousands of miles each year across North America. Along their migratory paths, Monarchs rely on habitats that contain milkweed species, which is the only plant that they lay their eggs on. Monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed, which contains chemical compounds that make them poisonous to potential predators. Read more »

It’s National Pollinator Week! Celebrate Bees, Bats and Other Pollinators on Friday, June 19, at USDA’s Pollinator Festival

National Pollinator Week Festival sign

USDA will be celebrating National Pollinator Week on Friday, June 19, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. outside USDA Headquarters along 12th St., Washington, D.C. AMS photo.

It’s National Pollinator Week, June 15-21! Join us on Friday, June 19, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., to learn about bees, birds, bats and other pollinating animals at the sixth annual Pollinator Festival outside USDA Headquarters along 12th Street in Washington, DC. More than 14 USDA agencies, other federal departments and partners will celebrate the significance of pollinators.

Pollinators like honey bees, native bees, birds, bats, butterflies and other animals perform vital but often unnoticed services. They pollinate crops like apples, blueberries, strawberries, melon, peaches, potatoes, vanilla, almonds, coffee and chocolate. Without pollinators our diets would lack diversity, flavor and nutrition. An estimated $15 billion worth of crops, including more than 90 fruits and vegetables are pollinated by honey bees alone. Read more »

Working Trees for Islands Showcases Power of Agroforestry

A breadfruit tree owner poses in her home garden with ornamental plants

A breadfruit tree owner poses in her home garden with ornamental plants (Photo by Diane Ragone, Breadfruit Institute)

Do you grow fruits and vegetables in your backyard or community garden? Do some of them come from trees?

Breadfruit, or ‘ulu, is an easy-to-grow, productive, nutritious, and starchy staple crop grown in many Pacific Islands, including Hawaii. It can be roasted, baked, boiled, fried or pounded into poi. In the past, many people grew breadfruit at home and in community gardens. However, many breadfruit trees have been cut down, especially in urban areas. Products such as breadfruit can have a helpful impact on Pacific islands such as Hawaii, imports about 85 percent of its food. Read more »

For the Love of Trails and Trout

Sam Knob Trail restoration under construction

Sam Knob Trail restoration under construction. Photo courtesy of Ward Deaton, CASP

This post was submitted on behalf of the Pisgah Ranger District recreation staff and fire crew – Paul Ross, Forest Service Office of Communication

Accessed by the Blue Ridge Parkway and surrounded by the Black Balsam Mountains, the Sam Knob Project is located in one of the most scenic and highly visited portions of the Pisgah Ranger District. As we celebrate National Trails Day and National Fishing and Boating Week, we are highlighting this location as a showcase of how recreational trail design can protect critical fish and wildlife habitat and enhance user experiences. Read more »

School Garden Brings Local Foods, Agriculture Education into Students’ Lives

Students plant hundreds of red Russian kale seedlings to be harvested for their summer CSA program

Students plant hundreds of red Russian kale seedlings to be harvested for their summer CSA program. (Photo credit: Jessica Kourkounis)

One of the best parts of my job as a Farm to School Regional Lead for the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service is visiting schools and districts that are bringing local foods into the cafeteria and teaching students where their food comes from. And I am always particularly excited when I get to visit programs with innovative school garden components, like William Penn High School, part of Delaware’s Colonial School District.

Several years ago, William Penn went through a major restructure.  Part of what came out of that process was a renewed commitment to agricultural education, and the recognition that the 117-acre William Penn Historic Farm, operated by a local land trust, could be a major asset to the school. A new agriculture “major” was established, and students took over two acres of the adjacent parcel to grow more than 30 varieties of fruits and vegetables. They also started a CSA program selling shares to teachers and community members. Read more »