Friday, August 27, 2010

Pollinating the West

I completed my travels across the American West, crossing 11 states and covering well over five thousand miles. Along the way, I kept my eyes open to bee yards, blooming plants, honey bees, and native pollinators. I observed changes in the landscape. Leaving the Arkansas Delta, I passed through the mountains of Arkansas and then through the arid expanse of the Great Plains. Travelling through the Rocky Mountains, I crossed the Continental Divide at several points. Rains falling west of this high ridge ultimately flow into the Pacific Ocean; rain falling to the east flows into the Gulf of Mexico, thousands of miles away. Spring water feeding the Monroe River in Yellowstone National Park in Montana and Wyoming feeds the headwaters of the Missouri River and passes within a honey bee’s flight of our bees near the Mississippi River at Memphis. Along the way I passed agricultural fields, grasslands, and forests. I observed areas where honey bees were plentiful and areas where none could be found. Half way up the 14 thousand foot elevation of Pikes Peak, I observed many species of bees pollinating abundant wildflowers, but no honey bees. Across the West, many of the migratory honey bee yards were providing pollination for alfalfa seed production. Stationary bee yards, like those of the Rich family near Spokane, Washington, provide pollination for gardens and orchards. The Rich children chose the colors and painted the bee hives. Their bee yard, protected from the wind by a fence, is on the Palouse, a fertile high plain growing wheat in fields that rotate with crops like garbonzo beans

While mine was only a brief observation across a narrow path through the American West, it provided an interesting view into the state of our important pollinators. With honey bees and certain other pollinators currently declining in numbers, collecting information about populations is quite important. Fifty thousand people in North America participated in The Great Sunflower Project,, last year. Twenty percent found no bees at all.

No comments:

Post a Comment