The New York State Departments of Agriculture and Markets, Environmental Conservation (DEC), and New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) has announced the 2020 Pollinator Protection Plan Update. The update outlines actions taken since the creation of the Pollinator Protection Plan and provides several recommendations to further the State’s goals to protect its pollinator populations. This includes creating the Cooperative Honey Bee Health Improvement Plan, expanding the NYS Beekeeper Tech Team, increasing pollinator friendly habitats, and continuing critical research on the major stressors to honey bees.
State Agencies’ Role in Best Management Practices and Pollinator Habitats
The Pollinator Protection Plan has helped advance many of the State’s goals to protect its pollinator populations, including developing voluntary best management practices for all pollinator stakeholders and developing habitat enhancement efforts to protect and revive populations of native and managed pollinators. New York State’s agencies, such as DEC, OPRHP, the NYS Department of Transportation, the NYS Thruway Authority, and the NYS Office of General Services, have contributed greatly to enhancing habitats and implementing best management practices for pollinators since 2016. Agencies have conducted pollinator surveys; reduced or altered mowing practices to avoid disruptions to pollinator life cycles, provide late-season forage and aid in wildflower seed dispersal; planted pollinator friendly trees and flowers in landscaping; installed bee boxes in viable areas; implemented 11 critical projects that enhanced native pollinator habitat; and educated the public on the diversity and importance of native pollinators.
The Pollinator Plan Update recommends that all state agencies, including OPRHP, continue to conserve, maintain, and expand pollinator gardens and larger pollinator habitats, emphasizing the use of native plantings.
NYS Tech Team
In response to rising concerns about honey bee declines, the New York State Pollinator Protection Plan included the development and expansion of the NYS Beekeeper Tech Team at Cornell University. The NYS Beekeeper Tech Team works directly with beekeepers to improve honey bee health, reduce colony losses, and increase profitability of the beekeeping industry. To date, the Tech Team has worked with a total of 58 beekeepers who manage 27,094 colonies in New York State. The team has sampled colonies from 138 apiaries across 30 counties to assess the queen status, population strength, brood health, and to collect Varroa, Nosema, and pesticide samples.
The Pollinator Protection Plan Update recommends expanding the Tech Team by increasing its geographic range to enroll beekeepers in unrepresented areas, such as the North Country, Hudson Valley, New York City, and Long Island. It also recommends the Tech Team program broaden its reach to New York State beekeepers by offering web-based learning tutorials on best management practices.
Integrated Pest Management and Research
Additional future recommendations include targeting Cornell University’s Integrated Pest Management Program (IPM) to develop best management practices for the use of treated seed in crop production and fungicides in specialty crops. In addition, the update recommends replicating Cornell’s on-farm research on pesticide spray practices and pesticide residues (pollen, wax) used on strawberry and apple farms to other New York cropping systems and commodities.
The update also supports additional IPM research on alternative control measures and treatment for the Varroa mite. Varroa mites were identified by the NYS Tech Team as one of the top stressors for honey bees and are a significant predictor of winter colony loss.
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