National Pollinator Week Marked

Melissa Block talks to Steve Buchmann, the international coordinator of the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign, about National Pollinator Week, which is marked by the federal and most state governments.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

We'd be remiss if we didn't mention that this is National Pollinator Week. And that too involves advocacy on Capitol Hill. It's the creation of the Pollinator Partnership as they try to get more attention and, yes, more money for native pollinating animals that sustain ecosystems and agriculture. And joining us in the studio to talk about the joys of pollination is entomologist Steve Buchmann. You are, we should say, a member in good standing of the Pollinator Partnership. And you are here in D.C. to help spread the word.

Dr. STEVE BUCHMANN (Entomologist, International Director, Pollinator Partnership): Right. I am currently the International Director for the Pollinator Partnership. And we have been spending for example last three days at a very exciting meeting sponsored by the Smithsonian on bringing together scientists who are bumblebee experts. And so we spent three days talking about how we can monitor our bumblebees, which have really been, kind of excuse the pun, flying under the radar…

BLOCK: Hmm.

Dr. BUCHMANN: …everybody's radar. People know about colony collapse disorder with honeybees, but they don't realize that at least four species of our native bumblebees - those big, black and yellow charismatic bees - that pollinate a lot of important crops. They have been declining.

BLOCK: Well, we said you're trying to spread the message broadly. What is the message you're trying to get out there?

Dr. BUCHMANN: The message is that we should, if we like to eat, we should be thanking pollinators three times a day. Basically every…

BLOCK: Or more.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. BUCHMANN: Or more, yes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. BUCHMANN: For every third bite of food, because roughly 35 percent of the global agricultural production is dependent upon pollinators. And when we talk about pollinators we're talking about flies, beetles, wasps, butterflies, moths - a lot. But the champion pollinators are really bees.

BLOCK: Underappreciated.

Dr. BUCHMANN: Underappreciated, right.

BLOCK: I would bet that it would be a big deal in the pollinator community that there are now beehives at the White House.

Dr. BUCHMANN: Yes. We're really excited about that local beekeeper and I believe some USDA bees that are disease resistant bees. We're hoping that the garden that Michelle Obama has planted will help make pollinators known - the plight of pollinators, certainly their decline. So there are certain things we can all do, pollinator friendly practices in our own homes and gardens that will really help conserve pollinators around the country.

BLOCK: What would some of those things be for the backyard gardeners…

DR. BUCHMANN: Yeah.

BLOCK: …things that we can do at home?

Dr. BUCHMANN: One thing we can do is to plant local wildflowers, which you don't have to spend a lot of time and money on. They're also resistant to a lot of diseases. And even if you can't do that, the Pollinator Partnership recommends that people use heirloom varieties of flowers and vegetables because these haven't lost some the characteristics, some of the nectar and pollen. A lot of times modern flowers have been - the floral rewards, the goodies for the pollinators, if you will - have been inadvertently selected out.

BLOCK: Hmm.

Dr. BUCHMANN: As plant breeders select qualities for us.

BLOCK: Oh, okay.

DR. BUCHMANN: We like that big beautiful long-stemmed red rose or we like that gorgeous prom corsage. But you can spend a fortune on a pollinator garden using modern hybrids, especially. You should stay away from those double, ruffly kind of flowers because pollinators will show up and go, hey, where's the nectar.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: Not interested.

Dr. BUCHMANN: Not interested.

BLOCK: So they'd be sorely disappointed with that ruffly flower.

Dr. BUCHMANN: They would.

BLOCK: Steve Buchmann thanks for coming in and talking about National Pollinator Week.

Mr. BUCHMANN: It's my pleasure.

BLOCK: Steve Buchmann is International Coordinator of the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign.

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