The New York State Departments of Agriculture and Markets, Environmental Conservation (DEC), and New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) today announced the 2020 Pollinator Protection Plan Update. The update outlines actions taken since the creation of the Pollinator Protection Plan and provides several recommendations to further the State’s goals to protect its pollinator populations. This includes creating the Cooperative Honey Bee Health Improvement Plan, expanding the NYS Beekeeper Tech Team, increasing pollinator friendly habitats, and continuing critical research on the major stressors to honey bees.
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “New York continues to make great strides in restoring the health of pollinators and has the best Pollinator Protection Plan in the country. The 2020 update on the plan provides an excellent look at how far New York State has come in achieving its goals to protect our honey bees and other pollinators as well as the additional actions we can take to keep New York State moving forward. Together with our fellow agencies, DEC, OPRHP, and others, and our partners at Cornell, we are committed to conserving and growing our pollinator populations to ensure the future of agriculture and our environment.”
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “These critical updates to the Pollinator Protection Plan demonstrate New York State’s continued commitment to protecting our pollinator species from their most common environmental threats, including habitat loss, parasites, climate change, and pesticide misuse. DEC is actively working with our partners across the state to improve wildlife habitat and promote best management practices as part of the State’s efforts to maintain healthy pollinator populations, and I applaud our team of state and Cornell experts who worked hard to develop these important updates.”
State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “State Parks is committed to Governor Cuomo’s goals to restore environments that support these valuable pollinators and their critical role in our ecosystems. At our facilities, staff has been restoring pollinator habitats, encouraging the propagation of native wildflowers and plants, and promoting public education to inform our visitors about the importance of bees, butterflies, and other pollinators in maintaining a healthy environment.”
State Agencies’ Role in Best Management Practices and Pollinator Habitats
The Pollinator Protection Plan has helped advance many of the State’s goals to protect its pollinator populations, including developing voluntary best management practices for all pollinator stakeholders and developing habitat enhancement efforts to protect and revive populations of native and managed pollinators. New York State’s agencies, such as DEC, OPRHP, the NYS Department of Transportation, the NYS Thruway Authority, and the NYS Office of General Services, have contributed greatly to enhancing habitats and implementing best management practices for pollinators since 2016. Agencies have conducted pollinator surveys; reduced or altered mowing practices to avoid disruptions to pollinator life cycles, provide late-season forage and aid in wildflower seed dispersal; planted pollinator friendly trees and flowers in landscaping; installed bee boxes in viable areas; implemented 11 critical projects that enhanced native pollinator habitat; and educated the public on the diversity and importance of native pollinators.
The Pollinator Plan Update recommends that all state agencies, including OPRHP, continue to conserve, maintain, and expand pollinator gardens and larger pollinator habitats, emphasizing the use of native plantings.
Thruway Authority Executive Director Matthew J. Driscoll said, “The Thruway is strongly committed to protecting pollinators and ensuring their vitality well into the future. We are proud of the fact that since this plan was first issued, we have increased the amount of wildflower and pollinator areas located on the Thruway Right-of-Way, planted more living snow fences with flowering species, and reduced mowing across the state. We all have a responsibility to be good stewards to the environment, which includes the land and species that rely on land on or surrounding the Thruway."
Office of General Services Commissioner RoAnn Destito said, “Team OGS is proud to have a role in such an environmentally important endeavor as Governor Cuomo’s Pollinator Task Force. I join my colleagues in urging New Yorkers to become active participants in our efforts to grow our vitally important pollinator population.”
Apiary Registration for Improved Disease Control
The Apiary Inspection Program, housed at the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, focuses on the inspection of commercial migratory beekeepers and general inspections to ensure the health of New York’s honey bee population. To help the Apiary Inspection Program document and manage the incidence of parasites, disease, and other pollinator health threats, legislation has been developed to implement a Cooperative Honey Bee Health Improvement Program. This would provide information on the annual population of managed pollinators in each county within New York State, allowing for better communication with beekeepers on honey bee health to aid in research and development of best management practices.
NYS Tech Team
In response to rising concerns about honey bee declines, the New York State Pollinator Protection Plan included the development and expansion of the NYS Beekeeper Tech Team at Cornell University. The NYS Beekeeper Tech Team works directly with beekeepers to improve honey bee health, reduce colony losses, and increase profitability of the beekeeping industry. To date, the Tech Team has worked with a total of 58 beekeepers who manage 27,094 colonies in New York State. The team has sampled colonies from 138 apiaries across 30 counties to assess the queen status, population strength, brood health, and to collect Varroa, Nosema, and pesticide samples.
The Pollinator Protection Plan Update recommends expanding the Tech Team by increasing its geographic range to enroll beekeepers in unrepresented areas, such as the North Country, Hudson Valley, New York City, and Long Island. It also recommends the Tech Team program broaden its reach to New York State beekeepers by offering web-based learning tutorials on best management practices.
Benjamin Houlton, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University, said, “Cornell CALS faculty and extension teams are proud to be a key partner in Governor Cuomo’s nationally leading efforts to assist native and managed pollinator species. With so many biodiversity challenges in our world today, it’s inspiring to be a part of a program that seeks to utilize science as the foundation for ecosystem improvements and is seeing demonstrable, real results in the field. I look forward to our college continuing to be a resource as the state updates the Pollinator Protection Plan.”
Integrated Pest Management and Research
Additional future recommendations include targeting Cornell University’s Integrated Pest Management Program (IPM) to develop best management practices for the use of treated seed in crop production and fungicides in specialty crops. In addition, the update recommends replicating Cornell’s on-farm research on pesticide spray practices and pesticide residues (pollen, wax) used on strawberry and apple farms to other New York cropping systems and commodities.
The update also supports additional IPM research on alternative control measures and treatment for the Varroa mite. Varroa mites were identified by the NYS Tech Team as one of the top stressors for honey bees and are a significant predictor of winter colony loss.
The Tech Team’s 2018 and 2019 Annual Reports showed that since the launch of the program in 2016, there has been significant improvements in Varroa mite management and honey bee colony health. The 2019 report indicates that annual colony loss rates had decreased again compared to the prior year. Total colony losses from participating beekeepers was 51 percent in 2016/2017, 40.5 percent in 2017/2018, and in 2018/2019, that number dropped to 38 percent.
The 2020 NYS Pollinator Protection Plan Update and future recommendations can be found here.
An interagency taskforce was announced by Governor Cuomo in 2015 to develop a Pollinator Protection Plan to promote the health and recovery of pollinator populations in New York State. The taskforce was led by the Commissioners of the Department of Agriculture and Markets and the Department of Environmental Conservation. Pollinators contribute substantially to the State’s environment and economy. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pollinators provide approximately $344 million worth of pollination services to New York and add $29 billion in value to crop production nationally each year. New York's ability to produce crops such as apples, grapes, cherries, onions, pumpkins, and cauliflower relies heavily on the presence of pollinators.