Farmers Rely on Wild Pollinators

The rapid decline of the honeybee population appears to be taking its toll on farmers across the country, forcing them to rely more and more on wild pollinators to protect their crops.

Across the country, farmers rely on pollinators like bees to ensure abundant harvests. Countless crops nationwide need pollinators to thrive, with orchard crops like fruit and nuts particularly dependent on a stable population of pollinators.

Many farmers have been hit hard by the collapse of the honeybee population in the United States, a population that has served as the primary pollinator for most farmers. Beginning in late 2006, scientists across North American began noticing a dramatic decline in honeybee populations, with worker bee populations of colonies across the continent mysteriously vanishing. The overall number of honey producing hives in the country has dropped dramatically since the 1980s. In early 2008, there were 2.4 million honey producing hives in the United States, down from 4.5 million in 1980. In 2011, overall estimates of honeybee losses were placed at 30 percent.

In response to this ecological and agricultural crisis, farm researchers are spreading awareness about how best to react to colony collapse disorder. Penn State University and Cornell University, thanks to funding offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, have published a pamphlet advising farmers to diversify their pollinators, relying more heavily on wild pollinators to replace dwindling bee populations and to avoid costly bee rental fees.

According to the pamphlet, there are 450 non-honeybee bee species. Of these species, 100 visit apple orchards, making their conservation and protection vital to the continued profitability of fruit productions.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer