The New York State Departments of Agriculture and Markets (AGM) and Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced new actions to benefit and protect New York’s pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. AGM issued new guidelines to help businesses create pollinator-friendly habitats on commercial properties or utility project sites. In addition, DEC recently installed a new solar array at the Region 4 Stamford sub-office that includes a pollinator garden planted beneath the panels and installed two large bee colonies at its Long Island office as part of ongoing efforts to maintain a more sustainable workplace. The State commemorated these steps during National Pollinator Week, June 22-28, with a proclamation issued by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, affirming New York’s commitment to promoting the health and recovery of pollinators.
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “During National Pollinator Week, we honor the critical impact that pollinators have on New York agriculture. Pollinators make it possible for our farmers to grow a diverse array of foods and feed our communities. The new guidelines released today will help businesses to better safeguard pollinator health and ensure the continued strength of our agricultural industry.”
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “Pollinators are vital to the health of our environment and New York’s agricultural economy. New sustainable initiatives like pollinator gardens and beehives installed at DEC’s regional offices are building on our commitment to maintain and promote healthy pollinator populations across the state by creating optimal habitats where pollinators can thrive. These innovative and creative projects are examples of how New York State agencies and our partners are making a difference in protecting pollinators and we encourage communities across the state to join our efforts.”
Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee, said, “National Pollinator Week focuses our attention on the importance of pollinators in our food system. Protecting pollinators means protecting global food security as a large portion of the world's crops rely on them. Creating pollinator friendly habitats on commercial and utility properties is a wonderful step. I appreciate AGM and DEC working together to address the long-term sustainability of the state's agriculture industry."
Adequate pollinator habitat is essential to agriculture and a secure food system, with more than one third of global crop production dependent on pollinator services. The State’s Pollinator Protection Plan, created to help the recovery of a declining pollinator population, identified the loss of foraging habitat as one of the many factors contributing to honeybee colony loss.
To promote increased pollinator habitat restoration, AGM has issued new guidelines that outline short- and long-term property management practices that provide and maintain native vegetation on properties to protect the health and well-being of pollinators. Commercial and utility project locations have been identified as suitable locations for habitat restoration. The guidelines include helpful information on: Planning and Site Preparations; Seeding, Planting, and Community Establishment; and Operation and Maintenance.
DEC recently installed a 44-kilowatt solar system at its Region 4 Stamford office, which will offset approximately 56 percent of the building’s annual electricity needs, resulting in an estimated $5,800 annual savings. The solar array will generate approximately 58,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year, enough to power five homes. Since going on-line in mid-February, the solar array has generated almost 6.3 megawatt-hours (MWh) of power, preventing 4.34 tons of carbon emissions, the equivalent to the carbon sequestered by 111 trees. The solar array project was funded through NY Works, with a 20 percent incentive from the New York State Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) NY-Sun Program.
In addition to the energy benefits and to take full advantage of the space underneath the solar panels, DEC partnered with the Seneca Park Zoo Society’s Butterfly Beltway project to plant a pollinator garden. The Rochester-based organization developed a variety of seed mixes that will be planted beneath the panels, including a “low grow” seed mix for plants that, when in bloom, will not impede the collection of solar energy. The Seneca Park Zoo Society is one of DEC’s Environmental Excellence Award winners for its outstanding pollinator education and engagement initiatives. To help ensure the survival of the pollinator garden, the Stamford Sustainability Team recently welcomed a small hive of native honey bees that are already at work (photos below).
Tom Snyder, Director of Programming and Conservation Action at the Seneca Zoo Society, said, “We are extremely excited to participate in a partnership with DEC Region 4 toward their sustainability goals. We are committed to working on behalf of biodiversity to provide healthy, abundant pollinator habitat. We commend DEC staff for creating critical habitat while harnessing the power of the sun. We look forward to working with more DEC regions and other agencies to cultivate and support healthy pollinator populations.
In addition, DEC’s Region 1 office in Stony Brook recently established two new honey bee hives to help benefit the environment. DEC received honey bees, including two queen bees and approximately 20,000 worker bees, that were installed into new beehives near the office. While the new bees work to benefit the local environment, employees in Region 1 are participating in hands-on beekeeping and the logistics, methods, and challenges of establishing and maintaining honey bee hives in New York.
Initiatives like DEC’s new pollinator garden and bee hive are among several ways commercial and residential property owners can help pollinators. Pollinators contribute substantially to the State’s environment and economy. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pollinators provide approximately $439 million worth of pollination services to New York and add significant 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.
Funding from the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) continues to assist in the implementation of the State’s Pollinator Protection Plan. The Plan found that a combination of factors such as poor nutrition, loss of foraging habitat, parasites, pesticides, pathogens, lack of genetic diversity, and poor land management practices contribute to colony loss.
As part of the Plan and in response to rising concerns about honey bee declines, the State has developed and expanded the NYS Beekeeper Tech Team at Cornell University. The NYS Beekeeper Tech Team, now in its fifth year of research, works directly with beekeepers to improve honeybee health, reduce colony losses, and increase profitability of the beekeeping industry.
Kathryn J. Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences said, “Pollinators are a key component of the New York State horticulture environment. We could not be prouder of the NYS Beekeeper Tech Team’s successes during their half decade of partnership with beekeepers across the state to reduce native and honey bee colony losses. Thank you to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for their continued support of this vital purpose-driven science benefitting our agricultural community.”
Since the program began, the Tech Team has worked with 58 New York beekeepers that manage a total of 27,094 colonies across the state. Colonies are sampled twice a year and the beekeepers work with the Tech Team to review their operation data, discuss industry trends, and develop a management plan focused on improving colony health and production for the upcoming year. Over the years, beekeepers have seen marked improvement in management practices, particularly in the reduction of Varroa mite levels. In fact, annual colony losses have reduced each year from 51 percent in 2016/2017 and 41 percent in 2017/2018 to 38 percent in 2018/2019.
In addition, the Tech Team continues to conduct outreach and education on its pollinator research results and beekeeping best management practices, including presenting to bee groups around the state and across the country. The team is currently developing an educational video on American Foulbrood, a devastating bacterial disease that can impact New York State bee colonies. The video will train beekeepers on disease biology, preventative measures, New York State laws, and disease management. The Tech Team is also undertaking training for veterinarians in the areas of honey bee health and disease control, allowing veterinarians to administer antibiotic prescriptions for honey bees under the new FDA Veterinary Feed Directive.
For additional resources on planting healthy pollinator habitats, visit Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ website. Information on Integrated Pest Management best practices and additional resources for growers are available on Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ website.