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Del. officials explain state’s pollinator protection plan
By CAROL KINSLEY
DOVER, Del. (Feb. 2, 2016) — A draft of the State of Delaware’s Managed Pollinator Protection Plan was introduced by Faith Kuehn, Delaware Department of Agriculture Plant Industries administrator, at the Delaware Horticulture Industry Expo on Jan. 20.
The plan was unveiled earlier at Delaware Ag Week in Harrington.
Kuehn explained that the EPA directed all states to develop such a plan, and that President Obama had issued a memorandum in June 2014 establishing a Pollinator Health Task Force.
The task force was charged with creating a National Pollinator Health Strategy that promotes the health of honey bees and other pollinators, including birds, bats, butterflies, and insects.
The goals of this effort, Kuehn said, are to reduce the winter loss of honeybees to 15 percent; to increase the number of acres of monarch habitat; and to renovate or plant 7 million acres of pollinator habitat in the next five years.
The draft plan, prepared by Kuehn, Christopher Wade of the DDA Pesticide Section and Robert Mitchell of the Plant Industries Section, was developed following the example of several other states.
Officials are seeking public feedback and input on the plan and will hold various stakeholder meetings in the near future.
A copy of the plan is available online at de.gov/pollinatorplan.
The document is meant to serve as a Best Management Practice guide for the different stateholder groups, including beekeepers, fruit and vegetable growers, and pesticide applicators.
It also includes strategies to increase the quantity and quality of pollinator forage on private and public lands.
It is hoped that providing education and improved communication between the stakeholders, the plan will increase awareness of the issues faced by all groups involved in agricultural production.
Pollinated crops in Delaware include watermelon, cucumbers, strawberries, cantaloupes, apples, blueberries, cranberries, squash and pumpkins.
Delaware farmers bring in about 3,000 bee colonies each year to maximize crop pollination, adding to the work of the state’s 270 registered beekeepers who have between 2,000 and 3,000 hives.
The grant covers development of the Managed Pollinator Protection Plan, increasing the acreage and number of pollinator gardens, and increasing honey production in the state.
The draft plan includes BMPs for beekeepers, growers, and pesticide applicators.
Beekeeper BMPs include working with landowners to choose hive locations, cognizance of neighboring landowners when placing or moving hives, working constructively with applicators, notifying landowners and applicators when moving hives, reporting all suspected pesticide-related bee kills to the DDA pesticide program and ensuring hives are easily visible to applicators.
Beekeepers can register hive locations on a Driftwatch Specialty Crop Site Registry through DDA.
More information is available at www.fieldwatch.com.
“Everyone can plant forage for bees,” the plan says. “Plants that support pollinators are also beneficial for other wildlife, are often visually attractive and can help improve soil health.”
Such plants include not only flowers but trees and shrubs.
Comments and feedback on the plan are needed by March 15.
Officials want to finalize the plan before summer, ahead of growing season.