Courtesy of Heifer International

Story by: Marek Klauzinski, Public Relations and Communications Coordinator, Heifer Poland

Did you know we owe about a third of our food to bees and other pollinators? About 30 percent of food crops and 90 percent of wild plants depend on cross pollination. Beekeepers have informed the population of a 30 percent beehive reduction every year. If this persists, we are at serious risk of bees becoming extinct.

Grzegorz Sta?czyk from the Beekeepers Association said, “The bees' extinction is a very complex process and scientists work constantly to find its reasons.”

Both scientists and beekeepers agree on one thing. Biodiversity is what keeps bees in good health. A variety of blooming plants is absolutely essential for bees to have a source of food from spring to fall. On farms practicing monoculture agriculture, however, achieving the biodiversity needed by bees and other pollinators is a challenge. Beekeepers from the Podkarpacki region of Poland, in cooperation with Heifer Poland, are implementing the Honey–Yielding Plants for Bee Breeders in the Carpathian Region of Poland Project. Through this project, impoverished bee breeders from southeastern Poland will achieve food security and incomes while increasing the area and biodiversity of bee forages.

Among the main barriers threatening the sustainability of beekeeping in the Carpathian region is the shortage of native, nectar producing plant populations during the early and mid-summer months. Additionally, reductions of agricultural land and changes in agricultural practices have led to a further reduction of nectar producing bee forage. Theoretical and practical studies show that cultivation of honey yielding plants, which are attractive to bees, such as Arctic Glow (Echinops sphaerocephalus L.) and White Sweet Clover (Melilotus albus L.), have a positive impact on honey and pollen production. They also show the potential for development of production systems for season-long supply of nectar from herbal bee forages.

The cultivation of Arctic Glow or White Sweet Clover in an area about 1.25 acres near an apiary consisting of ten beehives will increase the yearly quantities of honey production by 441 pounds. The yearly quantities of pollen production will be increased by 44 pounds. This means that an average yearly bee breeder income may increase by around $1,000. Moreover, the cultivation of honey yielding plants, using organic methods, will increase the biodiversity of cultivation plants and improve the quality of bee products.

"We are about to finish the distribution of 52,911 pounds of honey-yielding plants among 2,000 farm families," Zygmunt Paluch said. "Each of them receives 26 pounds of seeds, which is enough for the area of about 1.25 acres. Another 2,000 families will join the project through Passing on the Gift, so we expect that by 2015 the area of bee forages in the region will increase by 4,942 acres."

If bees were to become extinct, the agriculture systems we need to produce food to feed the world would be seriously compromised. It is imperative we do what we can to protect bees and other pollinators and help them flourish. Heifer Poland and beekeepers from southeastern Poland are absolutely convinced their project will improve the situation significantly.

Author

Erin Snow

Erin Snow joined Heifer International in 2007 after earning a degree in Mass Communication from UALR. She lives in Sherwood with her husband and daughter. Passionate about cultivating positive and healthy relationships with her family, friends and the planet, Erin enjoys yoga, meditation, music, creative writing and travel.