Preserving the Environment

Can Spending Millions of Dollars on Flowers Help Save the Honeybee?

March 4, 2014
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Can Spending Millions of Dollars on Flowers Help Save the Honeybee?
Daniel Prudek/Thinkstock
With the honeybee population in rapid decline, a lifeline is thrown to our fuzzy friends.

You’ve probably seen the headlines touting the demise of the honeybee. But if you love smothering an English muffin with honey each and every morning, don’t fret that you’re going to have to kiss that sweet, sticky goo goodbye.

That’s because Uncle Sam is about to spend millions on delicious, nectar-producing flowers to help save the dwindling honeybee population. The USDA recently announced that farmers in Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin will share about $3 million in federal money to reseed their pastures with plants such as alfalfa, clover, and other flowering crops that attract both bees and livestock, the Associated Press reports. Farmers can also use the funds to improve their facilities such as building fences to make sure farm animals don’t wear out the vegetation on their pastures.

Honeybees pollinate approximately $15 billion worth of produce in the country each year, or about a quarter of the food we consume. But to the horror of beekeepers and farmers from coast to coast, honeybees have been disappearing in startling rates.

MORE: Meet the Scientists Who Are Tackling Our Disappearing Bee Problem

But with this money, farmers can grow nutritious bee-friendly plants alongside their commodity crops such as soybeans, cotton and corn which aren’t as appetizing to bees and can contain toxic pesticides—a suggested culprit of Colony Collapse Disorder, which has been plaguing the honeybee population. As the USDA’s David Epstein told the AP, “You can think of it in terms of yourself. If you are studying for exams in college, and you’re not eating properly and you’re existing on coffee, then you make yourself more susceptible to disease and you get sick.”

Basically, the USDA is giving farmers money so they can plant a healthier variety of foods for honeybees to pollinate. “It’s a win for the livestock guys, and it’s a win for the managed honeybee population,” Jason Weller, chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, told AP. “And it’s a win then for orchardists and other specialty crop producers across the nation because then you’re going to have a healthier, more robust bee population that then goes out and helps pollinate important crops.”

Could there finally be hope for the honeybees?

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