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New York State agencies protect pollinators, grow habitats along highways

Sixteen acres of wildflowers now grow along the New York State Thruway and mowing has been reduced on 225 more acres.

Mowing also has been delayed by the state Department of Transportation along the state's highways until the season's monarch butterfly migration finishes.

And, nearly three dozen pollinator gardens are now installed at state parks.

Those are some of the measures taken by state agencies since the statewide Pollinator Protection Plan was put in place across New York last year. The seeks "to promote the health and recovery of pollinators," according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which heralded the start of Pollinator Week on Monday.

The DEC said state agencies also reduced pesticide and herbicide use, removed invasive plant species and produced materials designed to raise awareness about the $344 million economic benefits that pollinators provide state agriculture.

"Insect pollinators are the often unheralded but always crucial partners we rely on for many of the fruits and vegetables grown in New York," said Kathryn J. Boor, a Cornell University dean. "A healthy bee population is vital to our state's growers and everyone who enjoys the food they produce."

The 2016 state beekeeper report published by Cornell and the state Department of Agriculture and Markets found nearly all of the state's hives are affected by invasive mites, viruses or pesticides.

The state included an additional $500,000 in the 2017-18 state budget for pollinator protection programs. The money will boost research efforts to help beekeepers across the state develop "best management practices" to reduce losses to bee colonies and improve viability of beekeeping endeavors.

Pollinators aren't limited to honey bees. Butterflies, beetles, moths and hummingbirds are also among tens of thousands of pollinating species around the world.

Pollinator Week includes events today and Saturday at Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve & Environmental Education Center at 93 Honorine Drive in Depew.

Today, a 10:30 a.m. stroll and discussion for adults is planned at the center. Children are invited at 10 a.m. Saturday for a nature story about pollinators and a guided walk in the woods.

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