This month, we celebrate World Bee Day. While bees are often seen as a nuisance to people, they actually serve a number of important roles. In addition to providing us honey and wax, bees are our leading pollinators.
Pollination is critical to our world. Not only do 75% of the world’s flowering plants rely on pollinators, but 35% of our food crops also require animal pollination. Without the pollination of bees, many of these crops and flowers would simply disappear.
Unfortunately, our bee populations have been seeing massive declines over the past decades. If something doesn’t change, these vital species could disappear altogether. But before we can look at solutions, we need to understand the problem.
Let’s look at the current state of our two most prominent bee pollinators: the honeybee and the bumblebee.
Despite not actually being native to the US, honeybees are responsible for 80% of our crop pollination. That equals out to $15 billion every year. This could quickly change in the future, however. Over the past 70 years, honeybees have seen their population decline by 60%.
Though there are a number of reasons for this, the leading cause is Colony collapse disorder. CCD is a phenomenon where the majority of worker bees disappear from a colony, leaving behind their queen. From there, the colony essentially dies out. The exact cause of this is somewhat of a mystery, but the presence of infections, mites, and parasites is likely a factor.
Additionally, some specialists believe it may stem from pesticides. Though pesticides aren’t technically lethal to honeybees, they may weaken them and impair their development.
Currently, bumblebees pollinate about 15% of crops. In many ways, bumblebees are arguably better suited for largescale pollination than honeybees. In addition to being native to the US, their larger size and furry coats allow them to pick up more pollen. They also operate in lower temperatures than honeybees, allowing them to pollinate for a longer period of time each year.
But there’s a problem.
Much like the honeybee, bumblebees have seen massive population declines in recent times. Some species have seen population losses as high as 96%. Though there are a number of reasons for this, a loss in habitat is considered to be one of the leading reasons.
Thankfully, that’s a problem that can be addressed.
Protecting Our Bees with Habitat Establishment
While CCD still remains somewhat of a mystery, there is no question that additional pollinator habitat is beneficial to honeybees, bumblebees, and other species of pollinators. When pollinator habitat is next to farmland, farmers can expect to see a notable increase in their crop yields. This provides a great incentive for farmers and landowners to establish their own pollinator habitat, especially if it’s done through the Conservation Reserve Program.
CRP will pay farmers to establish pollinator habitat on otherwise marginal farmland. Not only does this boost pollinator presence, but the native vegetation also restores soil health and protects against erosion. Though CRP can be a complex process, it doesn’t have to be with FDCE.
At FDCE, we provide full-service CRP solutions that take the work out of CRP establishment. If you’re interested in establishing pollinator habitat, contact us today!