Wild bees play a crucial role in maintaining natural areas
Wild bees play a crucial role in maintaining natural areas. They sustain plant communities that provide food and shelter for many other animals. The fruits and seeds that pollinators help produce are a major part of the diet of approximately 25% of birds and a vast array of mammals – from red-backed voles to grizzly bears. By protecting bees and their habitat, wildlife managers can achieve their goal of preservation and conservation of wildlife refuges and, in turn, sustain ecosystem health.
Bees are also considered the most important group of pollinators because of their efficient and versatile method of pollination. Bee activities improve fruit size, enhance seed production; and bring about genetic diversity. In 2000, the total value of bee-pollinated crops was estimated at $18.9 billion, accomplished by a combination of managed honey bees, wild honey bees and native bees. In 2000, native bees pollinated roughly $3 billion worth of crops. With approximately 70% of the world’s plants requiring a pollinator, naturally the wild bee is very busy.
As wildlife professionals talk more about tapping into the potential of the wild bee, resources are being set aside to achieve that goal. In 2000, about 4.5 million acres “retired” from farmland service by the Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program was designated specifically for wildlife, all of which can help pollinators. Over the spring and summer of 2007, the Pollinator Protection Act and the Pollinator Habitat Protection Act of 2007 were introduced and incorporated into the Farm Bill. The Pollinator Protection Act calls for $89 million for federal funding for research and grant programs at USDA over five years. Additionally, the Pollinator Habitat Protection Act will use existing Farm Bill conservation programs, such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program for the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program, to strengthen native and managed pollinator habitats. The Farm Bill provides aid for farmers and ranchers who want to help wildlife in other ways, such as reducing the use of toxic chemicals, emitting fewer pollutants, and reducing soil erosion, as well as creating wildlife structures and sowing a diversity of plants in conservation areas. The Conservation Security Program in the Farm Bill has also been designed to support contributions to stewardship and habitat and has specific c practices, such as the nectar corridor enhancement, that may be used for pollinator conservation.