WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – Taking their commitment of bee revitalization to the next level, Wright-Patterson AFB will be designated as a Bee City USA. Bee City USA is a program for communities to pledge their commitment to reverse the threats currently facing pollinators and to raise awareness and enhance habitats for the bee population.
Wright-Patterson AFB will be the first military installation to be designated as a Bee City USA.
To celebrate the base becoming a Bee City USA, a Pollinator Expo will be held Wednesday, June 21 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Wright Brothers Memorial by Area B. The event is open to the public and will kick off with a reading of the Bee City USA resolution read by 88th Air Base Wing Vice Director Rebecca Westlake.
Bees, also known as pollinators, are vital to the pollination process of a third of the food we consume such as fruits, vegetables and nuts. Due to disease, lack of land to forage on and exposures to pesticides, over the last few decades, there has been a significant decline in the bee population.
The number of bees and other pollinators such as bats and birds have been steadily decreasing at an alarming rate and in June 2014, President Barack Obama started an initiative ‘Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators,’ in efforts to revive and protect pollinators.
“In August 2014, the Ohio Department of Agriculture reached out to us [88th Civil Engineering Environmental Branch] to build a partnership to conduct a project to research and revitalize the Ohio’s bee population at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base,” said Raymond Baker, chief of the 88th Civil Engineering Environmental Branch.
Joining the bee venture, the Propolis Project, an organization that promotes the conservation of bees, assisted in developing a plan to establish honey bee colonies on base and hives were set up on an area of land near the Huffman Prairie in Area A.
“Wells were once operating in that area so it was already fenced in and so it could protect the hives,” said the founder of the Propolis Project, Karen Levin. “It was an excellent place to provide the necessary environmental needs of honey bees; it was a safe place and it could provide water and a fantastic food supply.”
Baker said that Wright-Patterson AFB participation in the project has not only positively impacted the sustainability of Huffman Prairie, it also provides educational outreach opportunities such as providing access to practical hands-on bee keeping experiences.
Part of the bee project is to develop virus resistance traits in bees. The bee colonies at Wright-Patterson AFB were provided by the Purdue University bee breeding program and carry the Varroa Mite Chewing and Grooming behavior traits. A new colony has recently been added that possess different chewing and grooming traits.
Varroa is a mite belonging to the tick family and bite bees to obtain nutrition. Once bitten, the infected bee then exposes viruses into a colony which becomes fatal to the entire colony.
“We are currently mating queen bees on the base then will monitor the behaviors of the new queen colonies to check for evidence of naturally occurring Varroa mite resistance within the genetic gene pool of the bees at Wright-Patterson AFB,” said Propolis Project Beekeeper Dwight Wells.
Each bee colony has a queen, female worker bees and male drone bees. Depending on the season, a typical colony contains 30 to 50 thousand bees primarily consisting of worker bees.
“This is just one of many of the projects occurring on the base that demonstrate our commitment to the conservation of pollinators,” said Danielle Trevino, Natural Resources Technician.
Trevino said more than 25 various organizations ranging from parks to colleges across the state will be in attendance highlighting their efforts to address the decline of pollinators. In addition, attendees can talk to the beekeepers, check out a live demonstration hive and grab a bite to eat from one of the food trucks.
“The decline of pollinators is a global concern. Bees, bats, birds and other pollinators play a crucial role in pollination and it is essential for our ecosystem,” Trevino said. “It has been wonderful to have such strong support of this initiative from base leadership and together we can make a positive impact to our environment.”
For additional information on Bee City USA and how you can help, go to beecityusa.org.