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It's Pollinator Week, and these insects are vital to Delaware's agriculture

Bombus morrisoni, a species of bumblebee

This week was Pollinator Week—and pollinators play an important role in Delaware’s agricultural sector.

Debbie Delaney, an associate professor of entomology in the University of Delaware’s college of Agriculture and Natural Resources, says pollinators—like honey bees and squash bees—are needed for many commodity crops in Delaware to bear fruit. 

“Watermelon being one of them, melons in general … strawberries also,” she said. “Pickling cucumbers are another one that’s really important.”

Native pollinators—like sweat bees—are also vital to natural ecosystems. 

According to the state Department of Agriculture, First State farmers bring in about 3,000 bee colonies each year for crop pollination. That’s in addition to the state’s 270 registered beekeepers who have 2,000 to 3,000 hives.

Honeybee colonies are threatened by Colony Collapse Disorder and various mites, diseases and pesticides. Delaney says pollinators face other challenges, too.  

“Probably the biggest problem is development and loss of habitat for pollinators in—I wouldn’t just say Delaware, probably the mid-Atlantic—just because we are so urbanized and suburban,” she said.

Delaney says the first step to helping pollinators is educating yourself, and avoiding using chemicals such as Sevin and Raid.

The state also provides best management practices for beekeepers, growers, landowners and pesticide users.

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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