Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Pollinator Protection: Conservation Helps Rare Butterfly

A monarch butterfly, a honey bee and an alfalfa leafcutter bee gather nectar from a showy milkweed. Photo by John Anderson of Hedgerow Farms.

A monarch butterfly, a honey bee and an alfalfa leafcutter bee gather nectar from a showy milkweed. Photo by John Anderson of Hedgerow Farms.

Every year, millions of tourists fly from central Mexico into the United States, first stopping in the deep American South and then continuing northward even into parts of southern Canada. How all of this is done without passports, customs agents or airplanes?

This is the annual journey made by monarch butterflies, one of the best-known and most beloved butterflies in North America.

The fact that the annual migration of these distinctive black and orange butterflies spans three countries and thousands of miles makes it an important and prolific pollinator over this large area. Read more »

The Food Bank-Food Hub Connection: A ‘Win-Win’ for Local Economies

Second Harvest holds ribbon cutting ceremony for a new 65,000 square-foot regional distribution center in Thomasville, Georgia.

Second Harvest holds ribbon cutting ceremony for a new 65,000 square-foot regional distribution center in Thomasville, Georgia.

Across the country, food banks are committed to providing healthy food for those in need. Food banks also have a vested interest in building stronger local economies and creating additional opportunities for the communities they serve.

There are currently more than 200 food banks in the country, with more than 63,000 affiliated agencies like (food pantries and shelters). This network distributes more than 2.5 billion pounds of food to needy Americans each year.

Strategic integration of local foods into a food bank’s operation is one way to create economic opportunities for farmers and provide fresh food to families and children. This is especially important in rural areas, which have rich agricultural assets but tend to experience higher poverty rates than metropolitan areas. Read more »

U.S. Showcases Products at Asia’s Largest Food and Beverage Show

FAS Administrator Phil Karsting visits the USA pavilion at SIAL China 2014.

FAS Administrator Phil Karsting visits the USA pavilion at SIAL China 2014.

It seemed as though the entire world was in Shanghai in mid-May, celebrating World Trade Week at SIAL China, Asia’s largest food and beverage trade show. The booming, bustling city was the perfect place for a show of its magnitude, where 99 U.S. companies and organizations showcased their products to the main players from China’s food and hospitality sectors.

The USA Pavilion was the largest international venue at the event and, of the U.S. companies exhibiting there, over half (54) were small or medium-sized businesses, 23 were new to the Chinese market, 16 were minority-owned and nine were completely new to exporting. Read more »

Honeybee Operation Gets Chance to Rebuild Following Disaster

Loveless uses smoke to calm the bees when he opens the boxes for inspection. Smoking the bees allows the beekeeper to work in the hive while the colony's defensive response is interrupted.

Loveless uses smoke to calm the bees when he opens the boxes for inspection. Smoking the bees allows the beekeeper to work in the hive while the colony's defensive response is interrupted.

This post is part of a disaster assistance program feature series on the USDA blog. Check back every Wednesday as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s Farm Service Agency.

Larry Loveless of Gillespie, Ill., works full-time at a factory by day, but spends his evenings and free time beekeeping.

The harsh winter of 2013 brought devastating losses to many livestock producers, including beekeepers. Loveless lost more than half of his colonies due to several days of sub-zero temperatures. He started with 20 colonies and was down to only seven by the end of the winter.

“I’ve lost a few colonies here and there, but I’ve never experienced this horrific of a loss,” said Loveless, whose hives were already at a disadvantage because of last year’s drought. Read more »

Final Yearly Snowpack Forecast Divides West into a Wet North and Dry South

NRCS Oregon Hydrologist Julie Koeberle helps Soil Scientist Thor Thorson calculate current water content in snow. NRCS photo.

NRCS Oregon Hydrologist Julie Koeberle helps Soil Scientist Thor Thorson calculate current water content in snow. NRCS photo.

Every winter Westerners look to the mountains and may not realize they’re peering into the future. More snow cap means more water come spring and summer. Many lives and livelihoods depend on nature’s uneven hand.

Thanks to USDA’s National Water and Climate Center, what used to be speculation is now science. Through a network of high-elevation weather stations across the West, the center accurately forecasts how much water Western states will receive from snowmelt.

The data benefits everyone in the path of the streamflow. The center’s water supply forecasts empower states to take action to prevent flooding or prepare for drought. Some farmers look to the water supply forecast when deciding what crops to grow. It’s like playing chess with nature, and you can almost see nature’s next move. Read more »

It’s National Pollinator Week: Bee with Us Friday for a Twitter Chat with Beekeepers & Join Us for the Fifth Pollinator Week Festival at USDA

Pollinator Week Festival. June 20, 2014. 10 am – 2pm outside USDA headquarters.

Pollinator Week Festival. June 20, 2014. 10 am – 2pm outside USDA headquarters.

How do pollinators affect your life? Well, if you’ve ever eaten a blueberry, chocolate bar or tomato, you can thank a pollinator. Pollinators are birds, bats, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, wasps, small mammals, and most importantly, bees. They are responsible for pollinating one out of every three bites of food we eat. But these invaluable creatures are facing declines. That’s why USDA agencies, other federal departments and partners share knowledge and collaborate on efforts to help increase awareness and tackle challenges facing pollinators.

Last month, USDA launched a webcam that is literally buzzing with activity at the People’s Garden Apiary, located here on the roof of USDA headquarters in Washington, DC. Observing these social insects at #USDABeeWatch is fascinating and addicting. If you’ve been watching then you probably have a lot of questions about honey bee behavior and beekeeping. Meet our Beekeepers Nathan Rice and Andy Ulsamer virtually on Friday at Noon and ask them questions about what you’re seeing. Tweet to us @USDA and use #USDABeeWatch. Feel free to send your questions ahead of time, and we will respond to as many as possible during the chat. Read more »