BUZZZZZ. BUZZZZ. A new sound is greeting visitors to the St. Stephen Powerhouse and Fish Lift; bees hard at work!
“With the continual loss of bees, a main pollinator, we are excited to welcome 10 hives onto the grounds in support of the Administration’s 2015 National Pollinator Strategy and the USACE Pollinator Protection Plan,” said Joe Moran, chief of operations.
Pollination is the act of transferring pollen grains from the male anther of a flower to the female stigma. The goal of every living organism, including plants, is to create the next generation. Pollinators are defined as animals that assist plants in their reproduction and are responsible for assisting with pollination in more than 80 percent of the world’s flowering plants.
To get this new pollinator program up and running, the Charleston District is partnering with Jim Strohm of Charleston Community Bee Gardens, who identified a local beekeeper to place hives at St. Stephen.
“I am bringing five hives to start and will bring five more a little bit later in the summer,” said beekeeper Don Graham. “Each hive will average 20,000 bees in the fall and will build up to around 50,000 in late spring.”
Pollinators like bees, butterflies, and bats contribute substantially to the economy of the U.S. and are vital to keeping fruits, nuts and vegetables in our diets and keeping us healthy. Honey bees alone add more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year by pollinating everything from almonds and apples to blueberries and squash. Pollinators need lots of land, native forage, and a water supply to thrive, making St. Stephen the perfect location.
“Large tracts of land with ample native wild forage are important for honey bees and all pollinators, and are becoming increasingly harder to find,” said Graham. “As a beekeeper, I feel programs like this will help us turn the tide on the dwindling presence of pollinators in our environment.”
Unfortunately, the buzz around the bee industry is bad. Last year beekeepers reported losing about 42 percent of honey bee colonies. The rapid decline is due to infectious diseases carried by varroa mite larvae, Colony Collapse Syndrome, and insecticides. This alarming number is just one of many reasons the District started a pollinator program.
Nearly all of St. Stephen’s 2,500 acres are a South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and the District will be working closely with SCDNR to potentially utilize this initiative as a template for a statewide WMA Pollinator program.
“One of the goals of the Corps’ Pollinator Protection Plan is to improve habitats for pollinators on its 12 million acres,” said Moran. “SCDNR has more than 1.1 million acres in their robust WMA system, and introduction of a WMA pollinator program would greatly increase the numbers of pollinators. The impacts could be substantial.”
The Charleston District looks forward to hosting these new residents at St. Stephen. Future plans include working with our STEM school partners to design and plant pollinator gardens, and to plant milkweed to host monarch butterflies.