Speaking to one of Arkansas’s garden clubs, I became keenly aware of the environmental stresses our honey bees face. I mentioned to the group that gardeners and beekeepers share a close relationship just as flowers and bees share a close relationship. Flowering plants depend upon bees for reproduction; bees depend on flowers for food. The mere existence of each is dependent upon the other. Bees and native pollinators are important to us, and they have the same requirements as humans: a dry house, food, water, and an environment free of toxins. An agricultural state, much of Arkansas is depicted by miles and miles of monocultural plantings of a few agricultural crops: cotton, corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, and sorghum. Today’s industrial agriculture involving the complete destruction of weedy forage plants and heavy usage of pesticides make these row crop areas a harsh environment for bees and pollinators. Eastern Arkansas, one of the nation’s principal honey producing regions, is now one of the most threatened for honey bees. Of particular concern to beekeepers is the heavy use of insecticides and fungicides applied to soybeans, cotton, corn, and sorghum.
Beekeepers play an important role of protecting both the honey bees and native pollinators. While most of the pollinators are bees and other insects—fragile creatures with no voice—they are important to us as they play an essential role in providing one third of our human food supply. They rely upon environmentally aware and concerned gardeners, farmers, extension agents, golf course managers, and beekeepers. The gardeners were eager to design their plantings as pollinator gardens. Beekeeper Alan Isom and 45 enthusiastic citizens have been instrumental in getting the City of Searcy and White County, Arkansas designated as a Pollinator Friendly Community. See http://m.thedailycitizen.com/community/image_948687a5-66c3-5e88-af43-77239cfe832f.html?mode=jqm. The city celebrated their first-in-the-state effort at Searcy’s City Hall. Congratulations to our friends in White County! Other communities can explore how to protect pollinators and receive recognition for the effort at http://www.beecityusa.org/. These Arkansas strawberries require healthy pollinators.