A native Andrena bee species gathers nectar and pollen from a pear flower (Jim Cane, ARS).
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.
Dogged by pests, pathogens, poor nutrition, and other problems, the European honey bee is having a rough time these days. The bee pollinates over 90 different kinds of fruit, vegetable and nut crops. These same crops are also pollinated by native bees, particularly on smaller or diversified farms and especially in home gardens. Together, their pollination services are an $18 billion annual asset to U.S. agriculture, and concern over their welfare prompted the White House in May to issue a directive aimed at bolstering their numbers and health through a series of initiatives including improving and expanding pollinator habitat.
Citizen involvement is another component. Among the actions citizens can take is growing nectar- and pollen-rich flowering plants; another is “customizing” garden or landscaping areas to make them more hospitable to these pollinators—especially native bees, says entomologist Jim Cane, with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Pollinating Insect–Biology, Management, Systematics Research Unit in Logan, Utah. Read more »
Justin Smith Morrill served as a Vermont Representative and Senator from 1855-1898. He is best known for authoring the Morrill Act in 1862, which created the land-grant university system, and the Second Morrill Act in 1894, which expanded the system to include historically black colleges and universities. (Historical photo)
July in America. It is summer time and school’s out. It is about vacations and maybe a trip to the beach. It is Independence Day—the 4th of July—and parades and fireworks. It is about barbecues, hotdogs, and burgers.
2015 marks America’s 239th birthday.
July is also the month for another important birthday in America—passage of the Morrill Act on July 2, 1862, which established the land-grant university system, ensuring access to education for all people. Read more »
NRCS has updated its Conservation Stewardship Program to enable farmers and ranchers to plant milkweed and other plants to help monarch butterflies. NRCS photo by Gene Barickman.
An update to one of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) key conservation programs will enable farmers and ranchers to aid the imperiled monarch butterfly. This year, NRCS updated its Conservation Stewardship Program to include incentives for farmers and ranchers who plant milkweed and other nectar-rich plants favored by monarch butterflies.
Monarch butterflies depend on milkweed to lay their eggs during their annual journey from Mexico to the United States to as far north as Canada. Data show that monarch populations have decreased significantly over the past two decades, in part because of the decrease in native plants, including milkweed, on which their caterpillars feed. Read more »
Thriving prairie with pollinator-friendly flowering plants, such as black-eyed susans, blooming.
James MacDonald owns 120 acres of rural land in Green County, Wisconsin. Through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), James expanded relic prairie on his land, including planting 3 acres of native pollinator mix through EQIP financial assistance. His prairie is in blossom all summer, with plants blooming at different times. “There are hundreds of prairie plants and they sort of pass off who’s in bloom, so from the end of the snow until the snow falls again there’s always something in bloom,” said James.
MacDonald says between his neighbors, there are about 100 hives within two miles of his property, so many bees use his prairie for food. James had a good idea of what bee-friendly mixes he wanted to plant so NRCS provided financial assistance, as well as technical assistance in site visits and checking to ensure his seed mix was adequate. Read more »
Implementing conservation practices on lands will help provide safe and diverse food sources for honey bees, like the one pictured.
Pam Gasper, of Chaseburg, Wisconsin, has been a bee keeper for the past three years. She recently restored 2 acres on her property to include natural habitat for bees through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). A dry summer and harsh winter in 2014 caused Pam to lose two of her three honey bee hives. She’s done her research, received technical and financial assistance from NRCS, and made some proactive changes for 2015. Pam is expecting a good harvest and “sweet reward” due to financial and technical assistance through EQIP from NRCS. She’s a strong advocate for the program and said the sign-up process was smooth and worth it.
NRCS staff provided financial assistance through EQIP and also the technical assistance Pam needed, including, site visits, a planting plan, providing options for obtaining seeds, and completing the final inspection of the successful planting just last week. Technical and financial assistance from agencies such as USDA−NRCS and programs like EQIP work to assist land users in accomplishing their goals. Read more »
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 »