The Decline of Honeybees and Other Native Pollinators: An Overview of the Current Challenges and Potential Solutions
From Joshua Vrooman
Nearly 75% of all crops around the world are at least partially dependent on pollinators. Some of the crops that are highly dependent on pollination include, fruits, nuts, avocados, melons, pumpkins, coco beans, coffee, soybeans, and palm oil. In fact, the USDA states that honeybees and other native pollinators are responsible for one in every three bites of food that we eat, and it is estimated that pollination increases our nation’s crop value by 15 billion each year.
However, over the past few decades, we have seen a significant rise in the annual loss rates of managed honeybees across the country. According to the Bee Informed Partnership Inc., which is a nation-wide organization that surveys beekeepers, there is nearly a 40% winter loss rate for bee colonies in New York State. Honeybee populations continue to be maintained primarily because beekeepers have remained vigilant in replacing these losses every year. However, these replacement percentages are hard to sustain and they point to a larger problem. Not only are we seeing losses in honeybees, there is evidence to suggest we are witnessing population declines in both wild bees and other native pollinators as well.
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County (CCE Oswego) hosted a free virtual workshop through Zoom on Thursday, May 12th from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. This workshop provided an overview of the current challenges surrounding pollinator declines and discussed some of the potential solutions for addressing the problem. The workshop also provided practical guidance for beekeepers and members of the public on how they can best support pollinator health. Guest speakers were Dr. Steve Sheppard, Chair of the Entomology Department at Washington State University, and Dr. Scott McArt, Assistant Professor of Pollinator Health at Cornell University. Dr. Sheppard provided a historical overview of the African and European honeybee and spoke of the importance of increasing genetic diversity to help build greater colony resilience. He also discussed some of the innovative research his team has worked on to help support beekeepers, including the use of fungi extracts to reduce Varroa mites. Dr. McArt discussed the latest research from Cornell University and helped identify some of the underlying factors leading to pollinator declines. His presentation also highlighted what Cornell University is doing to help support beekeepers, farmers and members of the public in promoting pollinator health.
This workshop was open to all members of the public. It also targeted commercial beekeepers and small honey producers looking to gain practical knowledge on how to maintain bee colony health. For more information, contact Joshua Vrooman, Ag Community Educator, at [email protected] or 315-963-7286 Ext.200.