Second Lady Karen Pence and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue Tuesday unveiled a beehive that was recently installed on the grounds of the Vice President's residence.
Together, the two urged Americans to do their part to help reverse the population decline among pollinators, which are essential to producing much of the nation’s food.
“All types of pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, birds and bats, are critical to providing our nation’s food, fiber, fuel and medicine,” Pence said. “However, our beekeepers have been losing colonies for many years. This presents a serious challenge to our ability to produce many of the agricultural products that we enjoy today. The bees at the Vice President’s Residence will provide an added bonus to the vegetable and flower gardens by making them well pollinated and taste even better at harvest.”
Perdue released a proclamation he has signed declaring June 19-25, 2017, as “National Pollinator Week." Perdue noted that USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency led efforts to create a National Pollinator Health Strategy. The two agencies are working with a number of other federal departments to implement that strategy, which includes significant USDA research.
“Most farmers and consumers have no better friends and few harder workers than the honey bee, as more than one-third of all U.S. crop production requires insect pollination,” Perdue said. “But our honeybee population has been losing ground at an alarming rate. The problem represents a diverse mix of challenges requiring a wide range of solutions. And at USDA we are leading the way in research to help out our pollinator friends.”
Honeybees are the nation’s primary pollinators, adding at least $15 billion a year in value to about 90 crops by increasing yields and helping to ensure superior-quality harvests. Those crops include nuts, fruits, berries and vegetables.
The number of honeybee hives in the U.S. has declined from 6 million during the 1940s to only about 2.5 million today. Those losses have been attributed to a number of factors, ranging from a syndrome known as “colony collapse disorder” to stress caused by factors such as parasites and pests, transportation of bees, sub-lethal exposure to pesticides, and poor nutrition.
Pence and Perdue said a lack of supportive habitat near hives also contributes to the declines. Even if people don’t set up their own hives, they can help by planting bee-friendly flowers and flowering herbs in their yards and gardens. Honeybees particularly love wildflowers, lilacs, poppies and Black-eyed Susans, as well as herbs and vegetables like mint, sage, squash, tomatoes, oregano, and rosemary. In addition, bees get thirsty, and that placing birdbaths and small basins of water could help relieve their thirst.
The hive on the grounds of the Vice President’s Residence is a triple-deep “Langstroth” beehive that holds traditional frames and was obtained from Eco Honeybees of Falls Church, Virginia. The hive contains almost 20,000 bees and continues to grow.