HARRISBURG, Pa. — Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding today reminded Pennsylvanians – from kids and parents, to homeowners, to farmers – the importance of taking steps to protect our valuable population of pollinators to protect the future of food security.
“Many people are afraid of bees – they’ve got a scary stinger that some people are allergic to, but did you know that one out of every third bite of food you take is thanks to a pollinator?” said Secretary Redding. “Think twice before you swat them and consider what you can do to safeguard them and help their colonies flourish. Because when pollinators flourish, so does our food supply.”
Earlier this week, Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Cheryl Cook and State Apiarist Karen Roccasecca joined The GIANT Company at their headquarters in Carlisle at their new, seven-acre pollinator field. The all native meadow will create a habitat for pollinators, birds, and other small wildlife while improving the quality of the soil and reducing runoff.
“The GIANT Company has always been an incredible partner to Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry, so it’s no surprise that they’ve extended that partnership from farmers to bees,” said Deputy Cook. “It’s important that we all take steps to protect our vital workforce of pollinators; their value to agriculture is nearly impossible to estimate, but we see it in the grocery store and on our plate every day.”
June 22-28, 2020 is National Pollinator Awareness Week. It’s a time to celebrate pollinators and spread the word about what you can do to protect them and their valuable services to our ecosystem.
A pollinator is anything that helps move pollen to fertilize flowers. Bees and butterflies are the most commonly known pollinators, but they also include moths, birds, flies, and small mammals such as bats. More than 75 percent of the world’s food crops depend on pollination. Everyone can play a role in protecting pollinators and their vital work.
- Teach kids about the big job that bees and other pollinators have and teach practical ways for them to protect the population;
- Downsize your lawn – lawns don’t have much to offer pollinators so consider converting some of your grass to a garden bed full of heavy pollen and nectar producing plants;
- Grow native plants in your garden – pollinators and plants need each other to survive. Planting a diverse group of native plants that flower at different times of the year can make a huge different to pollinator populations;
- Avoid or limit the use of pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides in your home garden. They can kill pollinators and poison hives. If you do use them, follow the label directions carefully. Apply to plants when they are not flowering, at dusk and when the air is calm, to limit exposure to pollinators.
More bees mean a secure future for food availability, and it even means that our food tastes better. Farms with well managed pollination can increase their production by 24 percent and well pollinated plants produce larger, more uniform fruit. To foster a healthy natural pollinator habitat, farmers are encouraged to leave some areas of their farm under natural habitat and implement hedgerows.
Growers and beekeepers are also encouraged to sign up for FieldWatch and BeeCheckfree, voluntary programs that allows participants to register their farmland and bee yards to protect it from chemical drift, which can affect honey bees, organic production, herbicide-sensitive crops, and pollinator protection efforts. The program encourages communication between beekeepers, sensitive crop growers, and pesticide applicators and will allow them to map bee yards, fields or pollinator gardens. Pesticide and herbicide applicators can also notify growers and beekeepers of spray applications through the program.
For information as it relates to agriculture during COVID-19 mitigation in Pennsylvania visit agriculture.pa.gov/COVID. For the most accurate, timely information related to Health in Pennsylvania, visit on.pa.gov/coronavirus
–Shannon Powers, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture