By Eric Lee-Mäder, Jarrod Fowler, Jillian Ventro and Jennifer Hopwood
Sidebars adapted from James H. Cane, Bees (Hymenoptera: Apoidea:Apiformes) published in the Encyclopedia of Entomology,
2008. Vol. 2, pages 419-434
When we observe animals pollinating nearly 90 percent of the plant species found on earth, we are witnessing a process more than 250 million years in the making. Sexual reproduction among plants, from a botanical standpoint, is nothing more than the transfer of pollen grains from a flower’s male anthers to a flower’s female stigmas, enabling fertilization. Once transferred, pollen grains germinate, grow pollen tubes into the plant’s ovaries, and deliver gametes to produce seed and endosperm.
By Jack Kittredge
Most readers of this journal are well aware of the importance of pollinators to human life. Scientists estimate that between 75% and 95% of all flowering plants – more than 1200 crops and 180,000 species – need at least some help from these creatures. Another way to put it is that every third bite of food you take only exists because of pollinators. Their contribution to the global economy is worth some $217 billion dollars in agricultural productivity alone, not counting their services in cleaning the air, stabilizing soils, protecting us from more severe weather and supporting other wildlife.
By Kimberly Stoner
by Kimberly Stoner
Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
As I am an entomologist studying bees, people stop me all the time and ask, “How are the bees doing?” As is often the case for questions asked of a research scientist, this is a simple question with a complicated answer.
My first response is usually, “Which bees are you asking about? Honey bees? The 16 species of bumblebees we historically had in Connecticut? Or the 332 other species of bees in Connecticut?”
Let’s take these answers one at a time, with honeybees first, because those are the first bees that come to mind for most people.
Summary for Policymakers of the Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) on Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production
By UN’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform
A. Values of Pollinators and Pollination
1. Animal pollination plays a vital role as a regulating ecosystem service in nature. Globally, nearly 90 per cent of wild flowering plant species depend, at least in part, on the transfer of pollen by animals. These plants are critical for the continued functioning of ecosystems as they provide food, form habitats and provide other resources for a wide range of other species.
2. More than three quarters of the leading types of global food crops rely to some extent on animal pollination for yield and/or quality. Pollinator dependent crops contribute to 35 per cent of global crop production volume.
3. Given that pollinator-dependent crops rely on animal pollination to varying degrees, it is estimated that 5-8 per cent of current global crop production, with an annual market value of $235 billion – $577 billion worldwide, is directly attributable to animal pollination.
The Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts, along the Connecticut River, contains the state’s best and most productive soils. It was here, in South Deerfield, that Dan and Bonita Conlon in 2000 founded Warm Colors Apiary on 80 acres of low-lying woodland, fields, and wetlands. The site they chose was on the edge of the Valley, just before the land climbs more than 400 feet to the town of Conway.
“We located here out of dumb luck,” admits Dan. “This little spot is sheltered and is often 10 degrees warmer in the winter than it is up the hill a few miles in Conway. We have early bloom of skunk cabbage and many other early spring flowers, yet we see the bees bringing in pollen in December sometimes. We have things that bloom in sequence the entire summer into fall until the first hard frost hits. That gives the bees a natural stimulus plus a healthy variety of diet.”
Dan has kept bees since he was 14, when he worked for a neighboring Ohio farmer who had a couple of dozen hives. Conlon says he took a liking to the bees because the ‘seemed kind of cool’. No one else in the farmer’s family liked managing them so he had Dan over on Sundays to help him.
By Aaron Birk
The sun sets over the ridges of Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains. After fifteen years of slow, dry growth, the spiky blue Agave tequilana will form its first and only flower, a towering twenty-foot column topped with yellow. Fifteen years of production are wagered on this one flowering event. If the bat is late, the plant will die; if the flower is late, the bat will die.
The bat comes. Under the stars she pushes her furry, pollen covered face and long pink tongue into the fragrant, nectar dripping stamens.
Millions of years have helped hone this intimate partnership; a lifetime of energy, wagered precisely for a night of pollination. An improbable marriage, no doubt. At the end of the day, it’s just an old love story: between a succulent desert plant, and a furry little bat. (more…)
By John and Nancy Hayden
Native bee conservation is near and dear to our hearts. During the past 25 years, our farm in northern Vermont, The Farm Between, has evolved from a diversified farm operation with organic meats, eggs, and fruits and vegetables to an organic fruit farm, and fruit and pollinator plant nursery. Enhancing biodiversity with pollinator and beneficial insect habitat has been a key focus over the years to increase the viability of our farming business while also healing and regenerating the ecosystems that we steward. In this article, we will outline the things that farmers, homesteaders and other landowners can do to enhance native pollinator populations on their land to increase pollination services and their own farm viability.
Many people are aware that honeybees (a “domesticated” bee introduced in the U.S. by European settlers), are stressed due to pesticide exposure, parasites and diseases, and loss of habitat. We love our honeybees, and the stresses are real, but we don’t worry too much about them because they have beekeepers like ourselves to help them along. We can overcome winter losses and support our bees by splitting hives, buying new queens, treating for mites and otherwise adapting our beekeeping practices. While honeybees are an iconic symbol that catches many people’s attention, we joke that ‘Saving the Honeybees’ is like trying to ‘Save the Chickens.’
By Angela Roell
It’s Spring in the Northeast, which means expansive season is upon us. Just as the trees put out flowers, opening their most delicate parts to cross pollination, so too do hives flex their reproductive organs.
As we hurtle towards the crescendo of daytime hours that is Summer Solstice, the honeybees are abuzz with all of the resources and conditions necessary for optimal reproduction. Our role is to step in and facilitate reproduction so we, as beekeepers, can reap the rewards within our apiary rather than loose our bees to swarms, the natural reproductive response.
By Dr. Kimberly Stoner
excerpted by Jack Kittredge
from a work by Dr. Kimberly Stoner,
The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
Pollination – the transfer of pollen from a male anther to a female stigma – is basic to the sexual reproduction of flowering plants. Some plants, particularly grasses, are pollinated by wind, and some by water, but the vast majority of plant species – the most recent estimate is 87% – are pollinated by some kind of animal.
Although many different animals carry out pollination, including birds, bats, beetles, butterflies, moths, flies, wasps and many other insect groups, this guide will primarily focus on creating habitat for bees, including wild bee species as well as the domesticated honey bee, with additional notes on other pollinators such as butterflies. (more…)
By Jack Kittredge
The Lamoille River, which starts in the mountains of Stannard, Vermont, and drops 1600 feet while running westward across most of the state until entering Lake Champlain above Burlington, waters much of northern Vermont. Normally a mild and pleasant watercourse, it occasionally becomes a dangerous torrent, most recently in August, 2011 when Hurricane Irene dropped almost 3.5 inches of rain in Burlington during 24 hours.
John and Nancy Hayden, owners of The Farm Beyond on the edge of Jeffersonville, Vermont, right across State Route 15 from the river, saw the Lamoille rise until it flooded the highway and coursed onto their land, flooding some of their outbuildings and vegetable crops. Fortunately for them, they designed their farm with some forethought about weather extremes (they met at Syracuse University, taking environmental science courses) and life returned to normal after the waters receded. For many farmers, however, it was a wake up call about neglecting nature.
By Steve Gilman, Interstate NOFA Policy Coordinator
Thanks to an outpouring of support from Members responding to the End of the Year policy funding appeal, the NOFA Interstate Policy Program is alive and functioning, albeit on a part time basis. More support is needed, however, as you’ll see below.
Now that we’ve gotten an all-too-clear look at the details of the Administration’s and Congress’ self-serving political agendas – it’s plain to see that much of what NOFA has stood for and worked on since our beginnings in the early 1970’s is under full frontal assault. Many hard fought advances in organic and sus-tainable agriculture, good food availability, environmental protection, health care, climate stability, social justice, and personal freedom are now targeted by a slew of special interests who are now powerfully placed at the top.