Minnesota lawmakers to pay homeowners to landscape for bees

Bees are an important factor in producing much of the food grown in the United States, and they continue to decline in numbers. With a lot of habitats in danger, Minnesota lawmakers are giving money back to people who make their property “bee friendly.”

The state legislature and Gov. Tim Walz signed off on a new spending plan and will set aside $900,000 over the next year to help pollinators.

“If we didn’t have honeybee’s a lot of the food we eat wouldn’t be available anymore,” said Ted Sennes, owner of B & B Honey Farm.

Sennes, has 20 years experience in this busy industry and is now the new owner of B & B’s 400 hive operation.

“I started in high school extracting honey for them,” Sennes said. “Anything and everything to do with beekeeping we’ve got it.”

The Houston based company supplies beekeepers with equipment and bees. It also provides bees for pollination that they send all over the Tri State area and the country.

“Our hives go to California in the winter for almond pollination,” Sennes said.

Honey production and pollination are becoming more difficult for the average beekeeper.

“I think there are around 40 percent fewer hives today than there were in the 1960s and 70s.”

Sennes said Varroa mites are one problem. They take away a bee’s ability to survive the winter.

“They go into winter at about half strength,” Sennes said. They don’t even make it to the middle of winter, and they are dead.”

Overused pesticides and habitat decline are other reasons for lost colonies.

Minnesota lost 53 percent of its colonies in 2017-2018 while Iowa lost 60 percent, according to beeinformed.org.

Harsh winters have taken a bigger hit on Sennes’ business the past couple of years.

“Back to back years, we had a 90 percent loss and then the following year 80 percent loss,” Sennes said.

A new Minnesota State Budget program is setting aside money to give homeowners incentive to make their yard bee friendly. Grants will reimburse homeowners 75 percent of the cost it takes to landscape their yard to support bees.

Sennes said people need to be aware of the impact they have on bees.

“Spraying for dandelions might not be the best thing to do,” Sennes said. “Spraying for every weed in your lawn might not be the best thing to do.”

Get your weather forecast from people that actually live in your community. We update with short, easy-to-use video forecasts you can watch on your phone every day. Download the iOS or Android app here.