Once flourishing across the upper midwest, the rusty patched bumble bee is endangered. As the prairie disappeared, so did the bee.
Overall, grassland prairie makes great habitat for many types of bees with its long grass, wildflowers in every color, and a gold mine of pollen and nectar. But prairie habitat is a sliver of what it used to be, replaced with farmland.
These same farms can be a part of the solution by planting thin strips of prairie and restoring critical bee habitat. It would also benefit farmers — prairie strips reduce soil erosion and filter water pollution.
Clean water, healthy soil and happy bees is a win-win-win.
The USDA has new money to invest in conservation efforts such as this one. On top of existing funds, Congress allocated nearly $20 billion more to USDA’s conservation programs through the Inflation Reduction Act.
The USDA should use this new funding to prioritize conservation programs that can help pollinators and produce these win-win-win situations. Farmers haven’t tapped into prairie strip funding as much as needed. USDA should change that by increasing the payment rates and expanding the prairie strips program.
Prairie ecosystems are few and far between for pollinators. Creating a little more habitat for bees – spread throughout the heartland – will help them recover. Bees need a little home on the prairie.