State turning highway median into bee paradise | The Columbus Dispatch: “The state is turning a Ross County highway median into a honeybee paradise.
The Ohio Department of Transportation planted wildflower seeds in two, 1-acre lots along Rt. 207 in June to start a three-year process to create habitats for bees and other pollinators, said ODOT District 9 spokeswoman Kathleen Fuller.
‘The seeds, which are beginning to germinate, are a mix of native Ohio wildflowers, and they were planted as a combined mix so that they will grow successively,’ she said.
That means flowers will bloom from spring through fall, beautifying the roadside and providing much-needed food for Ohio honeybees.
The sites will take about three years to mature, said ODOT engineer Dianne Kahal-Berman.
The flowers will be kept below 6 inches in the first year and below 1 foot in the second. After that, they’ll be allowed to grow to full height.
‘They’ll be stronger at that point. They’ll have a strong root system,’ Kahal-Berman said.
Bee populations have been dropping in recent years, as trends in agriculture affect their food supply, said Reed Johnson, an entomology professor at Ohio State University. ‘There’s been a shift in agriculture toward corn, and corn doesn’t really do anything for pollinators.’
Honeybees also have faced increasing numbers of diseases and pests in recent years that have thinned colonies and threatened the agriculture industry. Between 50 and 80 percent of bees kept by registered Ohio beekeepers died over the past winter.
Last year, Ohio had 4,390 registered beekeepers who tended an estimated 37,000 colonies at 7,199 apiaries. Since 2008, the number of beekeepers has increased by 27 percent.
Ohio farmers rely on bees to pollinate more than 70 crops, including apples, strawberries and pumpkins. Nationwide, honeybees pollinate more than $14 billion in crops each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Declining bee populations are a problem not just for Ohio. States across the country are experiencing the problem, and some have started developing pollinator habitats along roadsides and in other places to boost bee numbers.
Pollinator habitats such as those in Ross County can help boost bee population and honey harvests, which also have seen decreases, Johnson said. ‘Bees depend on flowers. They only eat nectar and pollen, and the only place to get nectar and pollen is from flowers.’”