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Federal agency wants you to help improve honeybees’ diet

Honey bees face a number of threats.
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The USDA is trying to improve the honeybees' diets.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is trying to give honeybees more and better-quality food in the Midwest.

Dan Zay is a biologist with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Michigan. He says the agency hopes a better variety of high-quality flowering plants will help honeybees rebound from major population losses over the last eight years.

“It’s said that one in three mouthfuls of food and drink that we consume involves the efforts of honeybees,” Zay said.

Honeybee populations are sustaining losses in the range of 30% a year. “That level of annual loss is unsustainable,” he said.

There are a few factors that experts believe have led to colony collapse disorder, including pests, disease, poor nutrition and, potentially, insecticides.

This is the first year the USDA is offering grants and technical assistance to those who are interested in growing a variety of plants that are healthy for honeybee foraging. The deadline to apply is Friday.

Zay says he’s transformed a chunk of his backyard near Grand Ledge into wildflowers and prairie grass.

“It takes area of out mowing,” Zay chuckled, “so I mow less yard and it also helps honeybees. Everybody has a little corner of their yard that they can turn back to wild space.”

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station'sAmplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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