Bees are our most important crop pollinators.
But there's a problem.
Some bees are in trouble,and so are the food crops they pollinate.
Honey bees continue to struggle from challengesincluding poor nutrition, disease, mites and other hive pests, and pesticide exposure.
Some wild bees are also in trouble.
Wild bee populations may be declining in many of thesame regions where the acreage of crops that need pollination is increasing.
If this trendcontinues, these crops may completely lose the pollination that wild bees provide.
So, what can we do to support bees and improvepollination? There's a growing consensus that adding flowering plants to farm landscapeshelps pollinators! Wildflower plantings provide safe places to nestand flowers where bees can collect pollen and nectar.
Pollen provides protein, fats,and nutrients.
It's the meat and vegetables in a bee's diet! Nectar provides carbohydrates,or sugars, that fuel bee flight.
Natural areas, rich with flowers, were oncescattered in and around farm fields.
Many of these areas have been plowed under to makeway for larger fields and more crop production, or paved over for urban development.
In theUS, more than 290 million acres of grassland have been converted to agriculture or urbandevelopment.
These grasslands were the diverse, flower-rich habitats in which bees thrived.
So, in today's world, what's a farmer to doif she wants to support wild bees and the pollination they provide? Is the solutionas simple as bringing more flowers into farms? A number of farmers and scientists are testingthis idea for blueberry, almond, cherry, and watermelon crops as part of the IntegratedCrop Pollination Project.
Results from Michigan blueberry farms are promising.
Researchersplanted wildflower meadows filled with native prairie plants next to blueberry fields.
Theycounted bees in the plantings and nearby crop fields, and compared these numbers againstfield edges that didn't have wildflower plantings.
As the wildflower plantings matured, bee abundanceand diversity increased and so did wild bee visits to the blueberry flowers next to theplanting.
Yields were 10-15% higher in fields next towildflower plantings than in those that did not have wildflowers nearby.
The returns farmersgot from increased yields meant that the plantings more than paid for themselves after only fouryears.
Around the world, study after study has foundthat when you add wildflowers to farms, whether in the form of wildflower strips, meadows,or hedgerows, you get more crop pollinating bees.
The bees these plantings support tendto be the most important agricultural pollinators, helping to increase pollination and yieldof nearby crops.
It's time to take action to counter the lossof bee habitat across the country.
Just as habitat starts with a single flower, thischange can start with you.
To learn more about planting wildflowers for bees and other waysto support crop pollinators, visit our website at www.