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Category: Plant and Animal Health

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 »

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 »

Rabies Research and Prevention Subject of Student’s Winning Logo

Colorado State University graphics design student Katie Clonan with her winning logo

Colorado State University graphics design student Katie Clonan with her winning logo. Photo by USDA.

Come this October, Katie Clonan is looking forward to seeing the fruits of her labor all over Fort Collins, Colorado. That’s because Katie is the winner of the 2015 Rabies in the Americas (RITA) logo contest.  Her logo will be showcased on t-shirts, banners, and other paraphernalia shared with more than 300 attendees of the 26th annual RITA conference from October 4-8 in Fort Collins.

“This is the first time the international Rabies in the Americas conference has been held in Colorado,” notes Dr. Stephanie Shwiff, one of several USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) scientists helping to plan the event. “We’re excited to host the conference with our colleagues in the Wildlife Services National Rabies Management Program and other members of the RITA planning committee. One of my favorite tasks so far has been partnering with Colorado State University’s (CSU) Department of Art and Art History to sponsor a logo contest.” Read more »

Buzzing into Action to Support Pollinator Health through Research

As an ecosystem ecologist working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pollinators are near and dear to me.  Not only are they vital to agricultural production, providing billions of dollars in pollination services for the fruits, nuts and vegetables that contribute to a healthy diet, they are also important members of natural ecosystems, pollinating the plants that many other organisms rely on for food and habitat. Yet pollinators have been having a rocky time, lately. Beekeepers have struggled to maintain their honey bee colonies, the primary pollinators for our crops in the United States. They are managing a suite of simultaneous and interacting stressors to bee health, including severe weather episodes, inadequate nutrition, exposure to pesticides, and numerous damaging pests and diseases. Native pollinators also seem to be struggling with some of these same stressors, as well as land use change and habitat loss. Because of the incredible diversity of native pollinators, we know much less about their individual populations and the factors affecting their health. Read more »

Invasive Pest Invades a National Comic Strip

EAB Comic strip

Photo credit: Mark Trail via @ComicsKingdom

Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) Awareness week is May 17-23 and my tenure in a nationally syndicated comic strip is coming to an end, so it’s a good time to tell you how a new USDA employee wound up cartoon-ized.

The Mark Trail strip—known for its environmental themes—just finished a six-week long storyline about the invasive EAB.  The EAB, a small metallic green wood-boring beetle, destroys ash trees and is now found in 25 U.S. States.  The Mark Trail strip features “Agent Abbey Powell from the USDA” and shares information about the EAB. To view the comic—beginning with my debut—visit Mark Trail. Read more »

Dogs Help Protect Livestock Against Predators

Two livestock protection dogs

Working dogs like these two livestock protection dogs help drive off predators such as wolves, bears, and coyotes, and offer sheep ranchers an alternative to reducing livestock losses.

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is helping to provide livestock producers in the western United States with livestock guard dogs that offer greater protection against predators.

Generally large and white with shaggy hair, livestock protection dogs are trained to respond aggressively to predators such as wolves, bears, and coyotes. Guard dogs are often used in the sheep industry as a method of non-lethal predator management because of their perceived effectiveness and low cost to producers. According to a 2010 American Sheep Industry survey, guard dog use is only second to shed lambing at effectively reducing depredation. Shed lambing, that is, raising lambs exclusively indoors, however is more than 9 times the annual cost of using a dog for lamb protection. Owing to the low cost of using livestock protection dogs, they are extremely valuable to the sheep industry. According to Michael Marlow, resource management specialist for APHIS’ Wildlife Services program, many producers are certain they’d be out of business without them. Read more »