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Pollinator Policy Forum: What’s the Buzz?

Tess Ergen

POSTED BY:

Student, University of Minnesota

If you have been paying attention to news channels for the past decade, you may have heard about the severe decline in honeybeesbee populations. Recently, these trends have gained the attention of many bee fans to collaborate for a solution. Governmental departments, academics at the University of Minnesota, and environmental organizations chose to focus on discussing creating habitats for Minnesota’s pollinators at Environmental Initiative’s recent policy forum. But what you might not see (as I didn’t) before attending the meeting was, “What do bees have to do with me individually?”

When I was a kid, honeybees were the source for sweet condiments on my chicken tenders after a hard day’s work at soccer practice. As it turns out, bees serve my zesty taste buds and nutrition more than I imagined. According to Marla Spivak, a leading bee researcher at the University of Minnesota, bees directly or indirectly provide for the bounties of our fruits and vegetables. Not only that, the ‘lil buggers pollinate about $15 billion worth of agricultural crops that sustain our nation’s appetite and economy.

Speakers at the forum discussed growing vegetation adjacent to roadsides to help enhance habitat for bees and other pollinators. Tina Markeson, representative for Minnesota Department of Transportation addressed her work on implementing roadside vegetation across the state. Some of the safety challenges related to burning of vegetation (a way to help maintain prairielands) sparked an idea. What if we created an “Adopt A Highway” strategy for these roadsides? With extra financial and labor support from conscious environmental volunteers and private corporations, we could accomplish a substitute of weeding for upkeep, which will prevent safety hazards, and progress the expansion of wildlife site-seeing!

Since roadsides only contribute 500,000 acres of land in Minnesota, its clear they can’t provide all of the habitat alone. At the forum I asked, “What can I do as a resident in Minneapolis?” Eric Mader, co-director of Xerces Society, responded whimsically, “One sunflower on each windowsill can create an entire field.” I was shocked to know planting just one flower outside my apartment can be the difference to the survival of local pollinators. To help choose the best plants for bees in Minnesota, check out the University of Minnesota and Eric Mader’s list of pollinator-friendly flora, suggestions for nesting habitats, and more. Also, The Beez Kneez, a young and hip organization, has hands-on opportunities and classes for people of all ages to learn about how to become a bee advocate or even a beekeeper!

Take it from the honeybees, we can’t solve universal challenges alone. Like a strong colony, Environmental Initiative’s forum sparked ideas and people coming together to make a positive impact on our honeybees.

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A note from Environmental Initiative: A big thanks to Tess for taking time to share her perspectives from our recent policy forum (especially right before finals). What did you take away from the conversation? Share with us here anytime. To view presentations and other materials from the event visit the past event page. 

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