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State departments take new actions to protect pollinators

The state departments of Agriculture and Markets and Environmental Conservation are taking new actions to benefit and protect New York’s pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

The Agriculture and Markets Department issued new guidelines to help businesses create pollinator-friendly habitats on commercial properties or utility project sites. In addition, DEC recently installed a new solar array at the Region 4 Stamford sub-office that includes a pollinator garden planted beneath the panels and installed two large bee colonies at its Long Island office as part of ongoing efforts to maintain a more sustainable workplace.

“During National Pollinator Week, we honor the critical impact that pollinators have on New York agriculture,” said Richard Ball, state agriculture commissioner. “Pollinators make it possible for our farmers to grow a diverse array sof foods and feed our communities. The new guidelines released today will help businesses to better safeguard pollinator health and ensure the continued strength of our agricultural industry.”

Adequate pollinator habitat is essential to agriculture and a secure food system, with more than one third of global crop production dependent on pollinator services. The state’s Pollinator Protection Plan, created to help the recovery of a declining pollinator population, identified the loss of foraging habitat as one of the many factors contributing to honeybee colony loss.

To promote increased pollinator habitat restoration, the Agriculture and Markets Department has issued new guidelines that outline short- and long-term property management practices that provide and maintain native vegetation on properties to protect the health and well-being of pollinators. Commercial and utility project locations have been identified as suitable locations for habitat restoration. The guidelines, found here, include helpful information on: Planning and Site Preparations; Seeding, Planting, and Community Establishment; and Operation and Maintenance.

As part of the plan and in response to rising concerns about honey bee declines, the state has developed and expanded the NYS Beekeeper Tech Team at Cornell University. The state Beekeeper Tech Team, now in its fifth year of research, works directly with beekeepers to improve honeybee health, reduce colony losses, and increase profitability of the beekeeping industry.

Since the program began, the Tech Team has worked with 58 New York beekeepers that manage a total of 27,094 colonies across the state. Colonies are sampled twice a year and the beekeepers work with the Tech Team to review their operation data, discuss industry trends, and develop a management plan focused on improving colony health and production for the upcoming year. Over the years, beekeepers have seen marked improvement in management practices, particularly in the reduction of Varroa mite levels. In fact, annual colony losses have reduced each year from 51% in 2016-17 and 41% in 2017-18 to 38% percent in 2018-19.

In addition, the Tech Team continues to conduct outreach and education on its pollinator research results and beekeeping best management practices, including presenting to bee groups around the state and across the country. The team is currently developing an educational video on American Foulbrood, a devastating bacterial disease that can impact New York State bee colonies. The video will train beekeepers on disease biology, preventative measures, New York State laws, and disease management. The Tech Team is also undertaking training for veterinarians in the areas of honey bee health and disease control, allowing veterinarians to administer antibiotic prescriptions for honey bees under the new FDA Veterinary Feed Directive.

“Pollinators are vital to the health of our environment and New York’s agricultural economy,” said Basil Seggos, state DEC commissioner. “New sustainable initiatives like pollinator gardens and beehives installed at DEC’s regional offices are building on our commitment to maintain and promote healthy pollinator populations across the state by creating optimal habitats where pollinators can thrive. These innovative and creative projects are examples of how New York State agencies and our partners are making a difference in protecting pollinators and we encourage communities across the state to join our efforts.”

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