Bees For Hire: New Web Site Will Offer Matchmaking Resource For Beekeepers And Growers.
EAST LANSING, MI – A majority of Michigan’s nearly 85,000 honeybee colonies are available for pollination services, but how does someone locate the nearest beekeeper?
Many fruits and vegetables depend on honeybees for pollination. It is one of the most important steps for ensuring high crop yields and product quality. Inadequate pollination results in reduced yields and less valuable fruits and vegetables, such as lopsided apples and curled cucumbers. One to three colonies per acre are generally required for pollination.
Bees also pollinate home gardens and wild fruits, nuts and seeds needed by wildlife to survive. Honeybees pollinate a number of native crops important for erosion control, too. The value of this spillover pollination is immeasurable but substantial.
Growers rely on beekeepers to rent their honeybee colonies for pollination, but locating a local beekeeper can be challenging.
“Usually there is a long-term standing relationship between a grower and a particular beekeeper,” says Zachary Huang, assistant professor of entomology at Michigan State University. “But if a beekeeper moves or sells his colonies, growers do not have a centralized resource for locating another beekeeper to supply their pollination needs.”
Huang was receiving many calls requesting a list of beekeepers that offered pollination services. Such a list did not exist for Michigan because the state does not require its beekeepers to be registered.
Huang, with support from Project GREEEN (Generating Research and Extension to meet Economic and Environmental Needs), the state’s plant agriculture initiative at Michigan State University, developed a national database to link commodity growers with local beekeepers offering pollination services.
“This database will allow growers to identify beekeepers by name or sort by zip code, area code or county,” Huang says. “Beekeepers will also be able to locate area growers according to the same categories.”
Individual growers and beekeepers enter their information and can update their records at any time with a user password.
“This Web site will provide information quickly and accurately to growers, beekeepers and county Extension agents,” Huang adds. “County Extension agents often receive calls inquiring about the availability of pollination sources. Now they will be able to print off a detailed report quickly and efficiently.”
The Web site is online at http://beebase.cyberbee.net.
“This Web site will increase the efficiency of pollination services and help to improve both yield and quality of the state’s major agricultural crops,” Huang says. “Perhaps eventually consumers will even be able to locate sources of honey from this site.”
The majority of Michigan’s top 10 crops depend on pollination by honeybees. These crops, which are valued at $231 million, include apples, cherries, blueberries, peaches, pears, strawberries and cucumbers. When values from other crops that depend on pollination are included, Michigan’s revenue from honeybee pollination tops $300 million.
Project GREEEN is a cooperative effort between plant-based commodities and businesses together with the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station, Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan Department of Agriculture to advance Michigan’s economy through its plant- based agriculture. Its mission is to develop research and educational programs, ensure and improve food safety, and protect and preserve the quality of the environment in response to industry needs.
Source: MSU-ANR Communications