Kentucky’s Pollinator Conservation Plan


Honey bees are important pollinators in Kentucky and play a valuable role in agriculture. Photo credit: Bob Peterson

Honey bees are important pollinators in Kentucky and play a valuable role in agriculture. Photo credit: Bob Peterson

If you are reading this blog, then it is probably because you are interested in pollinators. You are probably also aware that honey bees and other insect pollinators are declining. Facebook and other social media outlets are full of memes designed to raise awareness about declining honey bee populations and the importance of pollinators. In recent years, many articles have been published in magazines and newspapers about the plight of honey bees and other pollinators.

Kentucky has a diverse array of native pollinators including the monarch butterfly and many other species of butterflies. Photo credit: USFWS

Kentucky has a diverse array of native pollinators including the monarch butterfly and many other species of butterflies. Photo credit: USFWS

Because of the agricultural importance of honey bees, we know more about them than we do about our native bees. However, the studies that have been done on native bees indicate they are suffering from similar population declines. Monarchs are our most well-known and well-studied butterfly. Recent studies show they are declining, but little is known about all of the other butterfly and moth species that call Kentucky home. Not to mention the flies, ants, and beetles that are also pollinators.

Current research on honey bee declines suggest there is no single reason for the population declines. It appears to be a combination of issues including loss of foraging habitat, pesticide use, new pests, and diseases. The loss of foraging habitat and pesticide use can also affect native pollinator populations. I’m not aware of any studies that have looked at pest and disease issues related to native pollinators. In addition to pesticides and loss of foraging habitat, native pollinators can also suffer from a lack of nesting habitat and wintering habitat.

Honey bees and butterflies are our most well-known pollinators, but Kentucky’s insect pollinators also include beetles, flies, moths, and ants. Photo credit: Benny Mazur

Honey bees and butterflies are our most well-known pollinators, but Kentucky’s insect pollinators also include beetles, flies, moths, and ants. Photo credit: Benny Mazur

Last year, a group of people including members of the Kentucky Dept. of Agriculture, the Kentucky Transportation Dept., Kentucky Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Resource, the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Services, the National Garden Club, beekeepers, and many others began meeting to discuss pollinator conservation in Kentucky. Together they have drafted a Pollinator Conservation Plan for the state. Included in the draft plan are highway right-of-way plantings and voluntary alerts for pesticide spraying near honey bee hives.

A series of public forums are being held to gain input on the plan. The first public forum will be in Frankfort at the Kentucky Dept. of Agriculture Building on Wednesday, February 24 from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time. The agenda for the first public forum can be found here.  A second public forum is being planned for July in Bowling Green. Details for that forum will be announced later. The possibility of a third public forum is being discussed.

Anyone who is interested in pollinators is invited to attend the public forums. If you can’t attend a public forum, you are still welcome to submit comments and suggestions about the plan to the Kentucky State Apiarist. Her name is Tammy Horn Potter and she can be reached at Tammy.Horn@ky.gov.

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