In an effort to boost honey bee forage opportunities, Bayer CropScience announced their "Feed a Bee" initiative this week, aimed at growing 50 million flowers and providing additional forage acreage in 2015.
Becky Langer, head of Bayer's Bee Care program, says honey bees are not experiencing massive die-offs. Global managed honey bee populations have actually increased by 40% over the past 60 years, she adds, noting that U.S. populations are steady at 2.5 to 2.6 million.
However, with world population expected to grow to more than 9 billion people by 2050, requiring 70% more food, honey bee pollinators will have more work to do than ever. Bees are often transported to pollinate crops where resources are challenged to sustain large bee populations.
"Reduced bee habitat has decreased food options for bees at a time when agriculture and apiculture must work together to feed more people than ever," said Jim Blome, president and CEO of Bayer CropScience LP North America. "The Feed a Bee initiative provides opportunities for everyone to be a part of creating more forage for these amazing creatures."
Langer adds that forage is an easy way to create habitat. "Everyone can do it, and it's a rallying cry that everyone can get around and fell like they're doing something for the bees," she said.
People can join the initiative by visiting the Feed A Bee website and requesting a free packet of wildflower seeds to plant, or by asking the initiative to plant on their behalf. Each packet contains 200 seeds. Bayer says they will plant on behalf of those who ask, and will partner with youth organizations like FFA, 4-H and Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to plant locally.
Langer describes Bayer's bee program as have three focuses, including research, product development and smart hives. Research looks at ways to reduce resistance development in Varroa mites, which are the biggest threat to bee health. They're also developing a compound that could be applied to plants to repel the honey bee until potential risks have passed. And finally, they're working with smart hives and queen longevity – allowing beekeepers to monitor hive humidity and other conditions from afar, warning them when conditions are less than optimal.