Pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds contribute substantially to New York's environment and economy. According to the US 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.
The New York State Pollinator Protection Plan was created in coordination with the Pollinator Task Force advisory group, which included a wide variety of stakeholders—including farmers, apiarists, pesticide applicators and environmentalists. The Task Force held four roundtable meetings with the advisory group, and solicited public comments, on important issues critical to the development of the plan. As a result of listening sessions and stakeholder input, the Task Force focused its recommendations on four priority areas:
- Development of Voluntary Best Management Practices for all pollinator stakeholders, including beekeepers, growers, land owners, state agencies and the general public;
- Habitat enhancement efforts to protect and revive populations of native and managed pollinators;
- Research and monitoring of pollinators to better understand, prevent and recover from pollinator losses; and
- Development of an outreach and public education program on the importance of pollinators, engaging the public to be active participants to seek solutions to pollinator declines.
The Department currently employs three seasonal apiary inspectors. At this time, the Department estimates that there are approximately 3,000 beekeepers in the state. These range from large commercial migratory operations to hobbyists with a few colonies. The large commercial operations tend to be in the rural parts of the state, but the smaller operations can be found anywhere, including heavily populated areas of the state such as New York City and Long Island. The growing number of hobbyist and sideliner beekeepers around the state and the risk that these operations pose in spreading parasites and pathogens to the whole apiary industry underscores the need for innovative inspection and outreach approaches for all members of the apiary industry.
National Honey Bee Survey
The Department works with the USDA/APHIS/ARS to create a baseline of honey bee information for New York State and the United States. The Department surveys 24 beekeepers each year to develop a track record of each honey bee operation. The inspectors collect bee and pollen samples and these samples are sent to the USDA for analysis. The bee samples are examined for pests like the Varroa mites and pathogens, like the fungal disease nosema, and seven viruses. Additionally, the pollen samples are analyzed for pesticides.
Commissioner's Apiary Industry Advisory Committee
The pollinator health information that has been gathered over the past several years and the research, inspection, and extension resources that have been devoted to the apiary industry have demonstrated the state’s strong commitment to this industry.
Upon release of the Pollinator Protection Plan, the Commissioner reconstituted and reinvigorated the Apiary Industry Advisory Committee (AIAC). The group now represents the diversity of apiary operations around the state by including beekeepers from areas that had been under-represented in the past. The Commissioner has enhanced the group’s role in providing the best information available to the beekeeping community and policymakers, and in making recommendations regarding pollinator protection efforts.
The Committee most recently met on October 13, 2020. The meeting agenda is below. A recording of the meeting is available here.
Education and Outreach
Since the release of the New York State Pollinator Protection Plan, the State Apiculturist has given presentations, largely focusing on how to identify American Foulbrood in a bee colony, to 21 bee club meetings across the state. The result of this is an increased awareness of American Foulbrood and members of the bee clubs now know to seek assistance when they suspect they have this disease.
Master Beekeeper Program
In 2017, a state-of-the-art Master Beekeeper Program was launched by Cornell to train beekeepers on best management practices and honey bee biology. This 15-month program had 50 students in the 2017/2018 class and 54 in the 2018/2019 class.
Pollinator Network Website
Cornell established a pollinator network website, which receives ~30,000 page views annually. Continuation and expansion of this citizen science program is likely to increase both awareness and knowledge regarding effective Varroa control strategies among NYS beekeepers.
The Department announced the development of the New York State Beekeeper Tech Team in 2016. The Tech Team is an interdisciplinary group of professionals that works directly with beekeepers to improve honey bee health, reduce colony losses, and increase profitability of the beekeeping industry. The Tech Team transfers information, tools and resources to individual hobbyist, sideliner, and commercial beekeepers.