USDA grant aims to help increase honey bee population

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)- The buzz of honey bees is sound that's been getting softer over the last decade, but a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture hopes to revive a declining population.

The USDA has announced five states including Wisconsin will split $8-million to create new habitats for bees.

“From a food security standpoint, honeybees are crucial,” Eau Claire bee keeper Drew Kaiser said.

In addition to tending to his own hives, Kaiser is also the leader of a group pushing to bring more honey bees into the urban setting. The local bee keeper says lack of diversity among farm fields has made it tougher for bees to form natural habitats.

“Creating larger pockets of rotating blossoms that are appealing and encouraging to honey bees is going to be really important,” Kaiser explained.

Creating more habitats for bees is exactly what the USDA plans to do with an $8-million grant being rolled out in the coming months. That grant money will provide incentives to farmers to dedicate land toward bee habitats.

“Honey bees need pollen and we can grow things that can sustain them. They also need a place to nest,” UW-Extension Horticulture Educator Erin La Faive said.

La Faive says while the grants are meant to create large habitats for the bees, homeowners can also do their part to keep the local population growing.

“I would caution homeowners from getting rid of hives. If the hive isn't bothering you try to leave those nests alone,” La Faive said.

The Eau Claire County Farm Service Agency says it hasn't heard when or how the grant money will be used locally. They expect to hear more from the USDA on how the money will be used here in the coming weeks.

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