Wanted Next Generation Beekeepers for Nebraska Farms / Public News Service

As farmers and beekeepers in Nebraska age, bee enthusiasts are encouraging more young people to attend the Great Plains Master Beekeeping Program. The program spans the Midwest, with locations in Grand Island, Lincoln, Omaha and Scott’s Bluff.

Sheldon Brummel, master apiculture project coordinator at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said anyone curious should pay a visit to one of the program’s open apiaries, which have free hives.

“They’ll put on a suit, they’ll answer your questions. They’ll open a beehive, they’ll show you what’s going on in there,” Brummel explained. “Because if you go, and you get dressed, and you stick your head in a beehive and start looking at it, I think the bees themselves will get you hooked because they’re just so fascinating.”

Bees and other pollinators contribute to the direct production of up to $577 billion worth of food each year. Three out of four food crops depend, at least in part, on pollinators. Bee numbers have declined due to a variety of factors, including habitat loss for humans, use of neonicotinoid insecticides and climate change.

The Master Beekeeping program provides free training and guidance for novice and advanced beekeepers to help improve colony survival and get beekeepers paid for their efforts.

Kirstin Bailey, senior project officer at the Center for Rural Affairs, said many of Nebraska’s specialty farmers prefer bees to pollinate their fields because they produce significantly higher quality crops.

“They’re just so good at doing their job,” Bailey noted. “If you’ve ever seen a wind-pollinated strawberry versus a strawberry that’s (be) pollinated, the one that’s (bee) pollinated is usually bigger, it’s more stuffed. And then the wind-pollinated ones, they’re usually smaller, and sometimes they are a little misshapen.”

Brummel added, even if you don’t want to get into beekeeping, everyone has a role to play in helping pollinators produce almonds, fruits, vegetables, chocolate and more. He suggested retiring your lawnmower and planting native flowering plants instead can restore critical lost habitat.

“If everyone replaced about 50% of their lawn, we’d have more square miles of habitat than all the national parks in the bottom 48 combined,” Brummel claimed.

Disclosure: The Center for Rural Affairs contributes to our fund for reporting on fiscal policies and priorities, environment, hunger/food/nutrition and rural/agricultural issues. If you want to support news in the public interest, click here.

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