A monarch butterfly, a honeybee and leafcutter bee gather nectar from a showy milkweed. Photo: John Anderson of Hedgerow Farms.
Tomorrow, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is joining the festivities at the sixth annual Pollinator Festival in honor of National Pollinator Week. Bees, butterflies, bats, birds, beetles and other animals play a critical role in the production of fruit or seeds, including plants that provide our nation’s food, fiber, fuel and medicine.
An estimated $15 billion worth of crops, including more than 90 fruits and vegetables are pollinated by honey bees alone. But despite their value, pollinator populations are dwindling due to threats of habitat loss, disease, parasites and environmental contaminants. That’s why farmers and ranchers are doing their part to improve the health of pollinators while providing benefits to the environment. Producers have worked with NRCS to voluntarily apply conservation practices on hundreds of thousands of acres of land because they know people and pollinators depend on each other for survival. Read more »
Researchers are harvesting beetle-killed trees in the Rocky Mountain region for use as feedstock for biofuel. (iStock image)
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.
Trees killed by bark beetles have, for years, been a source of fuel for forest fires. Now, those very trees are being turned into biofuel and biobased products.
This vast bioenergy resource—approximately 46 million acres—requires no cultivation, circumvents food-versus-fuel concerns, and may have a highly favorable carbon balance compared other forestry feedstocks. The problem, however, is that beetle-killed biomass is typically located far from urban industrial centers in relatively inaccessible areas, which means transportation costs are a key barrier to widespread utilization of this vast resource. Read more »
The coconut rhinoceros beetle, a new invasive species to Hawaii, can grow up to 2 inches long. Photo Credit: Chris Kishimoto, Hawaii Department of Agriculture
Big, creepy, and horned, the coconut rhinoceros beetle (CRB) loves to feed on—and kill—coconut and other palms, banana plants, and more. This invasive species, detected in Hawaii in December 2013, makes the perfect poster child for USDA’s Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month—a child only its mother could love.
How did it get here? And how can we prevent the spread of damaging, invasive species like this unwanted, oversized beetle? These are great questions to consider as USDA kicks off Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month. Throughout April, we’re raising public awareness about the threat of invasive species and informing people how to prevent their spread—so we’ll face fewer surprises like the CRB. Read more »
Participants get an up-close look at one of the critters before it’s released. (Photo courtesy of El Valor)
The Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie offers lots of unique educational experiences and opportunities to get involved throughout the year – through public tours, volunteer days and special events.
As part of the “Midewin for Kids” activity series, kids are invited to the prairie for an exploratory hike with a Forest Service environmental education specialist. Read more »
Written by Kayla Harless, People’s Garden Intern
Throughout July, the People’s Garden Healthy Garden Workshops have been focused on plants and their problematic pests – diseases, fungi, viruses, harmful bugs, and environmental stressors. Today’s workshop covered a range of these, and included lots of local examples from gardens right here on the National Mall. Read more »