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Experts Say Bee Shortage Would Leave A Sting, Aim To Educate Public

Bees can be pesky, but they're vital to the ecosystem. Take bees out of the equation, and many of the foods on the dinner table disappear.

In an effort to protect them, experts plan to talk about the threats to bees and pollinators at Bee Wise: Plant Natives on June 8, hosted by the Allegheny County Master Gardeners and Penn State Allegheny Extension.

The USDA reported a 17 percent loss of colonies from January to March of this year. And unfortunately, said Master Gardener Philip Bauerle, bees aren't the only pollinator in danger. Other pollinators include moths, hummingbirds, bats and butterflies

“Honeybees are the most recognizable, people know them most often," he said. "But there are diverse populations of native pollinators that are also suffering from the same decline that honeybees are."

Bauerle said one goal is to educate the public in identifying the types of flowers that benefit native pollinators and explain how they help.  

Pittsburgh is a good location for beekeepers. Bauerle said the city's ecologic diversity, as well as its parks and gardens, benefit native pollinators. He said that's why there are more than 200 beekeepers in Pittsburgh.

Speakers at Bee Wise will also focus on the importance of rain gardens, a type of garden in which bees often thrive. Bauerle said rain gardens have multiple benefits. In many cases, they're positioned to absorb storm water runoff.

“The plants not only look beautiful and provide space for active pollinators, but they also help purify the water and remove some of the contaminates that can come off the roof,” he said.

Last year's Bee Wise event drew about 175 people. Organizers said they're expecting similar numbers this year.