Cross-posted from the White House blog:
Pollinators are critical to the Nation’s economy, food security, and environmental health. Honey bee pollination alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year, and helps ensure that our diets include ample fruits, nuts, and vegetables. This tremendously valuable service is provided to society by honey bees, native bees and other insect pollinators, birds, and bats.
But pollinators are struggling. Last year, beekeepers reported losing about 40% of honey bee colonies, threatening the viability of their livelihoods and the essential pollination services their bees provide to agriculture. Monarch butterflies, too, are in jeopardy. The number of overwintering Monarchs in Mexico’s forests has declined by 90% or more over the past two decades, placing the iconic annual North American Monarch migration at risk. Read more »
A monarch butterfly collects nectar from a flower. USDA photo by Charles Bryson.
The USDA’s People’s Garden team is joining the fun at the White House Easter Egg Roll today to introduce the crowds to some very important garden workers – pollinators. Bees, butterflies, bats, birds, and beetles are all crucial to sustaining plant growth, and in fact nearly two-thirds of the foods we often consume are pollinated by bees alone. Doing your part to keep these creatures healthy in turn ensures a nutritious food supply for you and me.
Honey bees are responsible for pollinating more than 100 crops and one out of every three bites of food Americans eat. These foods give our diet diversity, flavor, and nutrition. Over the past few decades, there has been a significant loss of pollinator habitat and pollinators, including honey bees, native bees, birds, bats, and butterflies, from the environment. Declining pollinator populations across the country pose a threat to our environment, economy and human health, but supporting pollinators is not hard to do. Read more »
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.
If you’re like me, the holidays are a time to pack our bags and set off to visit family members and loved ones. When my family goes on a road trip — with what seems like half the country doing the same thing — the driver is always asked helpful questions like, “Do you know where you’re going?” or “Are we there yet?” At USDA, we’re often revisiting the same questions and potential solutions as we develop plans to strengthen the rural economy.
Tackling the problems rural America faces is not unlike a family road trip. Directions are needed to help steer USDA programs supporting rural America toward our goals: “Do you know where you’re going?” As it turns out, the answer to this question is an enthusiastic, “Yes!” Read more »
Often I am asked to participate in events in my role as a Deputy Undersecretary. Other times I participate based on my heritage, as a member of the Mescalero Apache Tribe. Sometimes, the lines blur, as they did recently when I addressed those attending the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign meeting here at USDA.
Pollinator health is tied closely to the overall health of ecosystems. Pollinators are important to producers of a wide variety of crops, and to forest health. Native Americans grasp how all things are interconnected. I told the audience that when I was a boy, my relatives would sing songs in Apache. These songs were about things in nature: evergreens, water, even the rocks. All things are tied to Mother Earth: all things work together. So it is with pollinators. Read more »
Mexican free-tailed bats exiting Bracken Bat Cave. Photo credit: USFWS/Ann Froschauer
Most people associate pollination with bees and birds but often forget the work of their furry colleagues: bats. Bats take the night shift, playing a major role in pollinating crops and spreading seeds.
One important bat is the Mexican long-nose bat, which dwells in large colonies. Their range includes the southern parts of Texas, California, New Mexico and Arizona. Read more »
Evening primrose flower (Onagraceae). (US Forest Service)
Plants provide us with many things that we use on a daily basis – from the buildings in which we live and work, to our clothing and food. For flowering plants to thrive and reproduce, they often rely on pollinators to transport pollen between flowers.
Pollination ultimately results in fruits and seeds, ranging from the strawberries and almonds in your breakfast to the tomatoes in your pasta sauce. While scientists know a lot about honeybees, very little is known about many other pollinators – bats, birds, bees, butterflies, moths, flies, etc. – that are essential to pollinating wildflowers and native plants. Read more »