SALT LAKE CITY – They are behind contributing $ 34 billion to the US economy by putting food on your table and blooming in your yard. Sometime this spring one will fly right past you.
But pollinators are generally in decline and need human support.
Rep. Ashlee Matthews, D-West Jordan, intends to set up a three-year pilot program in Utah to raise pollinator awareness and provide financial incentives for owners to plant pollinator-friendly foliage to encourage bees, butterflies and even pollinating beetles to hang around .
However, HB223, which was supposed to set up the program under the supervision of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, was recently stabbed on a legislative committee for its total amount of $ 390,000.
A mason bee sits on an apple blossom at Joseph S. Wilson, Utah State University
Members of the House’s Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee generally liked her proposal, but said that in a tight fiscal year like this, they should look for alternative funding streams that won’t put as much pressure on the general fund.
They voted to keep the bill, but on Friday, after Matthews returned with a replacement who did not require a reallocation, the measure was passed unanimously.
In lieu of new money, the bill provides for $ 60,000 in education for Southern Utah University, which has a robust pollinator program. It also says the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food will incentivize pollinator-friendly crops, but no more than $ 100,000 to act as an agency.
Utah is teeming with bees – this is the beehive state after all – with 1,100 species that call the state home.
Joseph S. Wilson, a professor at Utah State University’s Tooele campus, said that of the 4,000 species of bees in North America, a quarter of those species live in Utah.
When people think of bees, they think of the honey bee, which, according to Jackie Grant, professor at Southern Utah University, produces $ 1.3 million annually in Utah when it comes to the honey economy.
When it comes to money, pollinators like honeybees do $ 1,000 an acre of labor – which is what farmers and others in the plant world would have to spend to absorb that workload.
But there are hundreds of other species of bees that lead “lonely” lives, Wilson told the committee, and the Mason species of bees, for example, can do the same job of 100 honeybees, and only if two are working the same area.
A new study from the University of Pittsburgh and Penn State University finds some of these busy little bees are headed for a crisis. A third of farmed honeybee colonies die every winter in the United States, and populations of many wild pollinator species are also declining.
The researchers found that 20% of the US states produce 80% of the total economic value attributed to wild and managed pollinators. Your results will influence conservation efforts and ensure sustainable production of key crops in the years to come.
Research suggests that farmers need to mitigate shrinking bee populations by providing a more suitable habitat for insects to thrive.
This is the goal of Matthews’ bill, which aims to raise awareness among pollinators and provide financial incentives such as grants for property owners to plant pollinator-friendly foliage.
Matthews shared her personal experiences as a gardener and beekeeper with the committee. Her 4 hectare garden has resulted in a huge increase in yield, which she would like to appreciate but cannot.
“The biggest impact on our harvest is the 20,000 bees from our beehive,” she said.
As part of their action, grants would cover 25% of the cost of planting pollinating friendly herbs and legumes on private or public land.
In addition, Matthews and her supporters said that Utah already has an excellent infrastructure to fuel the success of the program through USU advisory offices nationwide, the state-run seed laboratory in Ephraim, and support for several university research programs, including the cutting-edge Bee Laboratory of USU.
Soren Simonsen, executive director of the Jordan River Commission, said he would like to work with the pilot program should it be established.
He told committee members the commission had been working with private owners along the Jordan River to encourage planting of plants to attract the monarch butterfly, which Butterfly Conservation says is nearing an endangered status after seeing a 99% decline in species.
“We’d like to be a resource,” he said. “We’d like to see how things go from here.”