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New programs help people protect pollinators


newspaperIt’s not just farmers who are interested in protecting pollinators. And now anyone can help save Virginia’s honeybees with two new programs.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is encouraging Virginians to create a pollinator window box, and the Virginia Department of Transportation is offering a new “Protect Pollinators” license plate.

The plate features a hummingbird, butterflies and bees pollinating flowers. The fee to order is 10 in addition to the standard registration fee but will increase to $25 in July. The plate is available at www.dmv.virginia.gov/vehicles/#splates/info.asp?idnm=PP.

“Pollinators are very important to our food supply,” said Tony Banks, commodity marketing specialist for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “Almost a third of the food we eat depends on pollination, which is mainly accomplished by native bees and honeybees.

“Most people have heard that honeybees are in decline, but many are not aware that native pollinators like bumblebees and orchard mason bees are on the decline as well.”
More than agricultural crops depend on native pollinators; they are crucial for ecosystems to thrive. They pollinate wildflowers, which drop seeds that are eaten by birds and small animals, which are then eaten by other animals.

State Apiarist Keith Tignor said Virginia is experiencing about a 30 percent loss of honeybee hives per year. “We are tackling the problem in a variety of ways. One way is to encourage people to plant pollinator gardens or pollinator window boxes.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers helpful tips on creating a pollinator window box at map2.beefriendlyfarmer.org/WindowBox/content/usda_windowbox.pdf. It also offers an online feature that allows users to enter a ZIP code to learn which plants will provide pollinator forage in a specific area.

“People think you have to live on a farm or have a large yard to attract bees and other pollinators, but that is not the case,” Banks said. “Even apartment dwellers can help pollinators by planting window boxes full of plants that attract the pollinators.
“And for those without a green thumb, the license plate is a great way to support pollinators.”

Starting in July, the pollinator plates will become revenue-sharing plates and contribute to VDOT’s new pollinator habitat program. VDOT has partnered with the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy to create pollinator habitat along highway medians throughout the state and create pollinator gardens at rest stops.



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