Entrepreneurial Alfalfa Farmers Increase Profits by Recreating Alkali Bee Habitat

(p. C3) Remedies for bee decline can be as simple as planting flowers and reducing pesticide use, but the results are often transformational. With the right mix of flowers and nesting habitat, nearly any patch of ground can be turned into a bee garden and provide everything small bees need to forage, nest and reproduce over the course of a season. For larger, farther-ranging bee species, such gardens are important flower and nectar resources, like pit-stops scattered across the landscape.
For a glimpse of what is possible on a larger scale, bee campaigners everywhere look to a small community in rural Washington state. For three generations, alfalfa farmers in the Touchet Valley have been raising more than a valuable seed crop. Scattered across their blooming fields are wide, barren plots of salted earth, specially tended and irrigated to mimic the nesting habitat of a tiny burrowing bee. Honeybees don’t like alfalfa, but the native alkali bees thrive on it, and with the farmers’ help their numbers have skyrocketed. As the local saying goes, “You get more flowers, you get more bees.” And every bee brings increased yields and profits.

For the full essay, see:
Thor Hanson. “‘The Plight of the Humble Bee.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, June 30, 2018): C3.
(Note: the online version of the essay has the date June 29, 2018.)

Hanson’s essay is closely related to his book:
Hanson, Thor. Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees. New York: Basic Books, 2018.

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