Pollinator Partners In The North Country

Randy Young

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) understands the critically important roles bees and their pollinator partners—bats, butterflies, and wasps—play in supporting public health, our ecosystems and our economy. That is why DEC is abuzz with activity designed to support honey bees. 

    A honey bee’s daily job of collecting and discarding pollen is a heavy workload for a flying insect that only weighs .00025 pounds; 4,000 bees together weigh just one pound. Despite their size, New York’s ability to produce crops such as apples, grapes, cherries, onions, pumpkins, and cauliflower relies heavily on the presence of these and other pollinators. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pollinators provide approximately $344 million worth of pollination services to New York and add $29 billion in value to crop production nationally each year. 

    Honey bees can fly up to 12 miles per hour and visit as many as 100 flowers each day to collect nectar. These bees live only five to six weeks and can produce about one tablespoon of honey during their lifespan. It takes the work of several hundred bees to fill a 9.5-ounce jar of honey. 

    Unfortunately, honey bees and their pollinator partners are facing a host of threats that are harmful and, in some cases, deadly. These threats include: 

  • habitat loss;
  • non-native species and diseases;
  • pollution;
  • pesticides; and
  • climate change.

These are just a few of the threats these species face. To combat these threats, DEC works with its partners to support the four priorities of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Pollinator Task Force, which works to conserve and grow the state’s pollinator populations. Priorities include sharing best management practices with pollinator stakeholders, enhancing habitat, research and monitoring, and developing educational outreach programs for the public. 

    With a third round of funding from the state’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) allocated in the NYS 2018-2019 budget to implement the Pollinator Protection Plan, New York continues to make great strides restoring the health of pollinators. Our state’s leading efforts to promote the health of pollinators include policies to enhance foraging habitats, the creation of an inventory of wild pollinators, and encouraging pollinator-friendly planting and the use of natural forms of pest management on state lands, just to name a few. 

    For instance, the state Department of Agriculture and Markets is expanding its NYS Grown & Certified marketing program to include honey producers. The program markets local farmers and producers that adhere to food safety and environmental sustainability standards. To be eligible, honey producers must harvest 100 percent of their honey in New York and must successfully complete Cornell University’s Honey Food Safety Best Practices Manual test and label their honey products accordingly. Applicants must also submit the Honey Bee Health Information form and are required to have a bee health inspection every two years. These efforts are in addition to the state’s creation of a Technical Advisory Team that assists beekeepers in identifying and combating the causes of poor hive health. 

    DEC staff are also diligently working to educate the public on ways to reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides that could be harmful to pollinators. Additionally, the agency has a dedicated hotline to report pollinator incidents (a situation where several bees or other pollinators have died or appear to be dying). The public can call DEC’s Pesticide Program Headquarters at 1-844-332-3267 to report it. 

    We also participate every year in promoting “Pollinator Protection Week,” which highlights New York’s key pollinators, including butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees. This past June, Governor Cuomo issued a proclamation commemorating the importance of pollinators to New York’s environment and agricultural economy and affirmed New York’s commitment to promoting the health and recovery of the state’s pollinator population. 

    Recently, DEC’s Region 6 operations staff and wildlife experts planted approximately one-quarter acre of pollinator seed in a small field at Perch River Wildlife Management Area. DEC plans to increase this acreage over time in hopes of providing flowering plants to benefit the declining native bees and other insect pollinators. DEC also plants flowers at its regional substations and campgrounds to attract pollinators and encourages the public to participate by planting their own native plant species. These so-called Pollinator Pathways can make a big difference in a bee’s lifespan and will add color to properties. 

    The St. Lawrence – Eastern Lake Ontario Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management has a brochure online that contains everything the public needs to know about pollinator pathways https://www.sleloinvasives.org/learn/educational-material/slelo-pollinator-pathway-project-brochure/ so that all New Yorkers can support DEC’s work to protect this crucially important wildlife.