CONCORD, N.H. — While judges, lawyers and support staff at the federal courthouse in Concord, New Hampshire, keep the American justice system buzzing, thousands of humble honeybees on the building’s roof are playing their part in a more important task — feeding the world.
The Warren B. Rudman courthouse is one of several federal facilities around the country participating in the General Services Administration’s Pollinator Initiative, a government program aimed at assessing and promoting the health of bees and other pollinators, which are critical to life on Earth.
“Anybody who eats food, needs bees,” said Noah Wilson-Rich, co-founder, CEO and chief scientific officer of the Boston-based Best Bees company, which contracts with the government to take care of the honeybee hives at the New Hampshire courthouse and at some other federal buildings.
Bees help pollinate the fruits and vegetables that sustain humans, he said. The pollination of hay, alfalfa and oats feeds cattle which produce the meat that we consume. And they promote the health of plants that, through photosynthesis, give us clean air to breathe.
Yet, the insects are threatened by diseases, agricultural chemicals, and habitat destruction that cause about half of the honeybee colonies to die each year. Wilson-Rich warned that without human intervention such as beekeepers building new hives the world may face a bee extermination, which would cause global economic collapse and hunger.
The pollinator programme is part of federal commitments to promote sustainability. This includes reducing greenhouse gases emissions and promoting resilient climate infrastructure. David Johnson, General Services Administration sustainability program manager in New England, explained.
The GSA’s program started last year with hives at 11 sites.
Some of those sites are no longer in the program. Hives placed at the National Archives building in Waltham, Massachusetts, last year did not survive the winter.
Since that time, more sites have been added. Two hives, each home to thousands of bees, were placed on the roof of the Rudman building in March.
The program is collecting data to find out whether the honeybees, which can fly 3 to 5 miles from the roof in their quest for pollen, can help the health of not just the plants on the roof, but also of the flora in the entire area, Johnson said.
“Honeybees are actually very opportunistic,” he said. “They will feed on a lot of different types of plants.”
The program can help identify the plants and landscapes beneficial to pollinators and help the government make more informed decisions about what trees and flowers to plant on building grounds.
Best Bees tests the plant DNA in the honey to get an idea of the plant diversity and health in the area, Wilson-Rich said, and they have found that bees that forage on a more diverse diet seem to have better survival and productivity outcomes.
Other federal facilities with hives include the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services headquarters in Baltimore; the federal courthouse in Hammond, Indiana; the Federal Archives Records Center in Chicago; and the Denver Federal Center.
The federal government’s efforts to protect bees are not alone. The hives placed at federal sites are part of a wider network of about 1,000 hives at home gardens, businesses and institutions nationwide that combined can help determine what’s helping the bees, what’s hurting them and why.
The GSA Pollinator Initiative also aims to find ways to maintain a healthy bee population and to model these lessons on other properties, both in the government and the private sector. Amber Levofsky is the senior advisor for GSA Center for Urban Development.
“The goal of this initiative was really aimed at gathering location-based data at facilities to help update directives and policies to help facilities managers to really target pollinator protection and habitat management regionally,” she said.
There is another benefit that has already been realized from the honeybee government program: excess honey is donated to local food banks.
The article Buzzworthy – Honeybee Health Blooming in Federal Facilities Across the Country first appeared on Associated Press .