The Value of Bees

By Susan Littlefield

All gardeners know that bees are valuable creatures without which many of the food plants we depend on would not bear fruit or seeds. But do you know just how valuable they are? According to a recent study done at Cornell University, busy honeybees and other insects pollinated crops that contributed $29 billion to farm income in this country in 2010.

The study looked at the economic value of these pollinators for 58 crops that depend directly on insect pollination to produce a crop, including apples, blueberries, almonds, cherries, oranges, and squash, crops worth $16.35 billion. But that is only part of the picture. There are many other important crops, such as alfalfa, sugar beets, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, and onions, that depend on pollinating insects in order to produce the seeds we need to continue to grow these crops. These crops added another $12.65 billion in value.

The study reinforces the importance of scientists' efforts to discover the cause of the steep declines seen recently in honeybees and native bees. And it also reinforces the importance of doing what we as individual gardeners can to protect bees by minimizing the use of pesticides in our home gardens and, if we do choose to use them, following label instructions and applying pesticides in ways that minimize harm to bees.

To read more about the value of insect pollinators, go to: Cornell Chronicle Online.

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