Pollinators contribute significantly to the sustainability of our food production systems, the health of the environment and the economic vitality of the agricultural sector. The honey bee pollination alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops in the United States each year, and pollination by other species adds another $9 billion. In addition, pollinators help wild flowering plants grow, making ecosystems stronger and more resilient.
Pollinator populations in the U.S. have been falling for decades, particularly in domestically managed honeybee colonies where populations have dropped from 6 million colonies in 1947 to 2.5 million currently. While no single factor is causing the current crisis, a combination of stressors contribute to the declining populations.
Whatever the reasons for honeybee colony decline, the FS System, along with their regional supply cooperative, GROWMARK Inc., is taking steps to provide habitat and help increase local honey bee populations.
FS Companies have set aside ground to plant over 65 habitat havens for bees throughout the Midwest in Spring 2016. These plots are planted with Green Yard™ Honey Bee Wildflower Mix, donated by GROWMARK Inc., which is a combination of annual and perennial flowers that provide nectar and pollen to honey bees.
Any size plot can attract and support honeybees — from a wildflower meadow to a window box with a few well-chosen species. Upon establishment, the FS System will play host to nearly 25 acres of honeybee habitat in the first year of this program. Other important agriculture pollinators, native to the Midwest, will also benefit from the plots, including Syrphid flies, hummingbird moths, leatherwing beetles and bees such as bumble, mason, polyester, squash, digger and others.
This wildflower seed mixture includes specific favorites of honey bees and provides forage all season long. Up to 19 different flowers recommended by honey bee keepers are found in the mix, including Purple Coneflower, China Aster, Basil, Corn Poppy and Cape Forget-me-Not, among others. These same flowers are often found in suburban garden beds, borders and other maintained areas to provide a long-lasting season of color.