Ag. Dept. Urges Public to Help Save Pollinating Insects Critical to Farmers and Food Industry

Governor Corbett Proclaims June 20-26 as ‘Pollinator Week’

Harrisburg – To highlight the vital role that pollinating insects play in Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry, state officials today broke ground on a pollinator garden at the Department of Agriculture’s headquarters in Harrisburg.

The garden, which will be planted by an existing water retention garden, will be a habitat for pollinators including bees, beetles, flies, moths and butterflies.

“Pennsylvania’s leading industry – agriculture – is dependent on the work of insects that pollinate 80 percent of the world’s crops,” said Agriculture Secretary George Greig.

“One-third of the food we eat is a direct result of pollination, so it is critical to remind all citizens they can and should play a role in protecting declining pollinator populations that set fruit and produce seeds for the future.”

Greig suggested that residents can help protect pollinators by becoming backyard or small-scale beekeepers, rescuing — rather than exterminating — unwanted bees, planting pollinator gardens and promoting diverse floral landscapes, and increasing use of native plants in mixed garden scapes. He added that the value of the pollination services of honey bees and other pollinators is estimated at more than $76 million each year in Pennsylvania.

Threats to the health of pollinators include loss of suitable habitat and floral diversity; pesticides in the environment; viral, fungal and bacterial pathogens; pests and parasites; and Colony Collapse Disorder, among other syndromes.

Colony Collapse Disorder is an abrupt disappearance of bee colonies.

In 2006, many beekeepers began reporting losses of 30-90 percent of bee hives. Researchers are studying three suspected culprits – pathogens, environmental chemicals and nutritional stressors – to determine the cause of the disorder.

The agriculture department’s apiary inspection program works with the state’s 2,500 registered beekeepers to help ensure a viable pollination force to meet the needs of Pennsylvania’s fruit and vegetable producers. The program requires registration of all apiaries, mandates inspections, and regulates bee diseases, the import and export of honey bees, honey bee queens and beekeeping equipment. Greig was joined at the groundbreaking by Department of General Services Secretary Sheri Phillips and industry members from the Pennsylvania Beekeepers Association, Penn State University’s Center for Pollinator Research and Master Gardener programs, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and youth from the Boy Scouts, 4-H and FFA.

For more information about the apiary program, visit search “apiary.”

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