Governor Northam declares June 18-24 to be Virginia Pollinator Week, coinciding with National Pollinator Week, established 11 years ago by the U.S. Senate. The goal is to explain the essential role that pollinators play in our environment and agriculture and how citizens can play a part in protecting them. It’s a response to declining pollinator populations, including bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles.
Honeybees enable the production of at least 90 commercially grown crops in the nation. In Virginia, honeybees are essential pollinators for about one-third of the state’s fruit and vegetable crops.
Interest in renewing Virginia’s honeybees has been so strong that the General Assembly established a grant program in 2012 to help new beekeepers start operations. Under the program, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services issued 730 grants that helped establish 2,244 bee colonies.
Funding for the program was discontinued in 2017 to determine if the program was effective in restoring beehives. A VDACS survey of grant recipients showed more than half reporting they’d increased the number of beehives. Sixty percent planned to increase the number of beehives in the future.
This year, the General Assembly restored $125,000 for each year of the biennium for the beekeeper grant program. Under the grant program, individuals who meet the plan’s qualifications will receive a standard beekeeping kit.
If you don’t want to become a beekeeper, there are other ways to help protect Virginia honeybees. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services encourages citizens to create a pollinator window box.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has instructions on creating a pollinator window box at http://map2.beefriendlyfarmer.org/WindowBox/content/usda_windowbox.pdf