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June 7, 2011. VDACS Press Release (PEC quoted)

 

Virginia Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services Press Release

June 7, 2011
Contact:  Elaine Lidholm, 804.786.7686

On the list of ingredients needed for the development of bountiful fruit and vegetable crops, one item is in short supply in Virginia. To develop properly, crops need more than fertile soil, water and sunshine; they may also need bees, birds, butterflies, bats, beetles and other insects and animals for pollination. Because of diminishing numbers of pollinators, particularly among honey bees, their importance in food production and their environmental benefits, Governor Robert F. McDonnell honored the proclamation request of The Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) and declared June 20 – 26 as Pollinator Week in Virginia.

The PEC and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ (VDACS) are partnering this year to remind all citizens of the importance of our pollinating animals. Agriculture is Virginia’s largest industry, with a $55 billion annual economic impact. Without adequate pollination services, Virginia could experience a significant reduction in its harvest of apples, alfalfa, berries, cucumbers, melons, peaches, squash, tomatoes and pumpkins. Experts estimate that insect-pollinated plants are the direct or indirect source of approximately one-third of the human diet.

In Virginia, beekeepers have suffered severe losses in their bee populations over the past decade. As a result, the number of bees available for pollination has been reduced to a third the number available just 30 years ago. Virginia had 98,000 bees in the mid-70s but only 35,000 today. The annual winter hive loss is 30 percent “We are experiencing a honey bee crisis in Virginia,” says Keith Tignor, State Apiarist with VDACS. “Our bees have been hit by tracheal mites, Varroa mites and a mysterious disease called Colony Collapse Disorder. We are working to try and mitigate these problems, and we also are working to develop a new generation of beekeepers. Right now, we are struggling to hold our own, much less make gains in the bee populations, so a celebration like Pollinator’s Week is a great way to call attention to the importance of pollinators and their direct link to our health and well-being.”

Christopher Miller, President of The Piedmont Environmental Council, says that the decline in pollinating species has directly affected the agricultural crops and natural ecosystems that depend on them. “It's more important than ever to build awareness about the ecosystem services provided by pollinators, and to manage our landscapes in ways that sustain these important animals,” he said. “Protecting streamside vegetation, landscaping with native plants, protecting natural areas and limiting the use of pesticides are just a few of the ways that Virginia residents can create more pollinator-friendly habitat at home."

Pollination occurs when insects, animals, wind or water transfer pollen from the anther of one plant or flower to the stigma of another to initiate the process of fertilization. Once fertilized, a plant’s ovary swells and eventually ripens into fruit for seeds to develop. In most plants, pollination is necessary for the plant to produce fruit, whether it’s a grain of wheat or a watermelon.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 80 percent of insect crop pollination is accomplished by honey bees. In the U.S, honey bees pollinate more than $20 billion worth of crops annually. They are an excellent choice because as pollinators, honey bees are manageable, moveable, adaptable and won’t harm the plants in the pollination process. To pollinate their crops, U.S. growers rent approximately 2.5 million colonies of bees each year. Commercial beekeepers, those who manage more than 300 colonies of bees, number more than 1,500 in the U.S. In Virginia, honey bee pollination contributes more than $110 million to the state’s economy.

Honey bees are generalist pollinators, visiting any plant in bloom within two miles of their hive. Tulip poplars, black locust and other trees of the forest rely on insect pollinators for seed production. Wildflowers in meadows and wetlands produce nectar to attract pollinators to carry pollen to other receptive flowers. Many of Virginia’s beekeepers are passive pollinators whose honey bees cover 12 square miles to help provide a healthy, stable environment for our benefit and enrichment.

For additional information, contact Keith Tignor at the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, 804.786.3515 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; or Dr. Kim Winters at The Piedmont Environment Council, 540.347.2334, X30, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

 
 
 

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