A new report from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) examines challenges to Minnesota pollinator populations and ways to enhance their habitat. The 2013 legislature directed the MDA to propose ways to create and enhance habit for insect pollinators (bees, flies, wasps, butterflies, and other insects), and to collaborate with other state agencies in preparing a report on pollinators. Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson submitted the report yesterday to state legislative agricultural and natural resources committees. The report outlines a variety of approaches to the creation of a "pollinator bank," and calls for legislative support for a new University of Minnesota academic position to coordinate statewide pollinator protection activities.
The report notes that many interacting factors affect pollinator populations including pathogens and parasites, pesticides, poor nutrition due to loss of foraging and nesting habitat, fewer beekeepers, changes in land use, and changes in local weather or climate. Honey bee pollination of U.S. crops is valued at $15-18 billion while pollination by native bees is valued at $3 billion.
"Insect pollinators are important for food production and plant reproduction in Minnesota, with bees being the most efficient and important pollinators," said Frederickson. "Concern exists about the decline in populations of honey bees as well as other bees and pollinator species." Frederickson says the report identifies ways to enhance pollinator habitat through a mix of state, federal and non-profit programs, and how to close research and data gaps about pollinator species. One consideration is how to provide habitat needed by honey bees that can often differ from that required by native bees and other pollinators. Additionally, an inventory of pollinators is needed to determine abundance, diversity and populations that are at risk.
The legislature also asked that the MDA include in the report a process for reviewing neonicotinoid pesticides registered in the state. These pesticides, which have multiple home, institutional and agricultural uses, including the control of the emerald ash borer, are implicated as a risk factor in the health of pollinator populations. The MDA has begun the review of these pesticides and in the next few months will be releasing a draft scoping document for public comment.
The MDA report on pollinators was done in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Department of Transportation, and the state Pollution Control Agency. Other collaborators included the University of Minnesota, the Board of Soil and Water Resources, and local representatives of U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs.
The report on pollinators can be viewed on the MDA website athttp://www.mda.state.mn.us/en/protecting/bmps/pollinators.aspx