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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What about the Bees?

May-June issue of Crops and Soils Magazine has a rather long article on Protecting Bee Health. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)is leading environmentalists and others to look at how we can protect our honey bees and other pollinators.   Why should  we be concerned if we grow corn and soybeans.  First we should be supportive of all agriculture.  University of Illinois lists crops commonly grown in the Midwest that need bees to pollinate.  Personally, I have had Zucchini that gets flowers but does not set any squash.  Two years ago I drilled holes in posts to provide some habitat for solitary bees.  This year I had bees and squash, but the bacterial wilt killed my squash, but I did solve the pollination problem.

The article says that the Almond industry needs almost all of the honey bees in in our country to produce a crop.  Apples Peaches, Watermelon, Cantaloupe and many other tasty summer treats need bees to produce a crop.  The Crops and Soils Article cites some research suggesting the soybeans can yield 10 to 30% better if they are visited by bees.  That should get your attention.  Maybe it makes you want to be a beekeeper. 

So what can the average farmer do?  Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a place to start.  Only use pesticides when they are needed.  This cuts costs, slows the development of resistant species, and perhaps improves bee habitat.  IPM is good practice not matter what. 

Consider establishing some pollinator habitat.  Diversity of flowering species keeps bees healthier.  USDA programs can help.  Pollinator species can be added to existing CRP land or established in new areas. Participating in voluntary programs beats regulation. 

People are also encouraged to reduce mowing of roadsides and odd areas to maintain nesting cover for mammals and birds.  Reducing mowing can also provide much needed diversity of pollen to beneficial  insects such as pollinators. 

Honey is just a tasty side benefit to protecting honeybees. 

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