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|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2012-06-13                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than a year old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ General Media Contact: Business Hours, 512-389-4406 ]
[ Additional Contacts: Michael Warriner, 512-389-8759, michael.warriner@tpwd.texas.gov or Mike Cox, 512-389-8046, mike.cox@tpwd.texas.gov ]
June 13, 2012
Pollinator Week Raises a Buzz for Bees
AUSTIN--Gov. Rick Perry has signed a proclamation making June 18-24 National Pollinator Week in Texas. This includes the Lone Star State in an international celebration recognizing bees, birds, bats, beetles and butterflies for their service to farmers and gardeners alike.
"The annual value of bee-pollinated crops to the U.S. economy is estimated at over $15 billion," says Michael Warriner, invertebrate biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. "In North America, most plant pollination is carried out by bees."
Roughly one third of all the food we eat is because of pollination that happened in a farmer's field, Warriner says. During a single day, a female bee may visit several hundred flowers, depositing pollen all along the way.
Bees are tremendously successful pollinators for two main reasons. Many people think that bees go from flower to flower to collect nectar for their hive and just so happen to be dusted with pollen but bees collect the pollen from the flower deliberately. Pollen is used as a food source not only for the bees themselves, but also for their young. The other reason is because bees tend to visit certain species of plant per trip, preventing cross pollination or pollen being wasted on a different species.
People are not the only species who are overwhelmingly impacted by the day-to-day life of bees pollinating. With producers such as plants, shrubs, grasses and trees being the lowest form of the food chain, they are a vital source of survival for most animals who consume those berries, nuts, fruits and vegetables. Native bee populations are vital to the ecosystems we are surrounded by today. The pollination service provided to U.S. agriculture by native bees has been estimated in excess of $3 billion annually.
"Bumblebees are among the most familiar native Texas bees," Warriner says. "Their black and yellow bodies are easy to recognize as they buzz from flower to flower. Like honeybees, bumblebees are social insects that live in colonies comprised of a queen and her daughter workers. Bumblebees, in particular, are more effective pollinators than honeybees of such crops as blueberries, eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes."
Although bumblebees are a crucial part of our ecosystem, they have been relatively unstudied until now, Warriner says. Recently, there has been a worrisome decline of bee species on several continents. The United Kingdom, being the first to report this decline, now has three species extinct. North America has been experiencing its own decline but researchers did not supply quantitative evidence until now.
Researchers from universities across the country have begun to study the cause and contributors of the decline and if it will continue. Some researchers came to find the decline was due to loss of optimal habitat for the bees. Other conclusions were the influx of commercial bumblebees onto wild colonies, pesticide use and competition with non-native bumblebees.
Warriner has also created a website where tips can be found on how to identify bumblebees as well as information on the nine species that occur in the state. Visit www.texasbumblebees.com to learn more about this endeavor and how you can help during Pollinator Week and beyond.
"Contributing to this process can be as simple as casually snapping images of bumblebees on flowers, recording the date and location, and submitting the image online," Warriner says. "There is a real need to evaluate the status of these insects in our state to assess how their populations are faring and if conservation actions are needed."
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[ Note: This item is more than a year old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ General Media Contact: Business Hours, 512-389-4406 ]
[ Additional Contacts: Chris Holm, Superintendent; 210-336-2360; chris.holm@tpwd.texas.gov ]
June 13, 2012
Prescribed Burn Planned for Government Canyon State Natural Area
SAN ANTONIO - Natural Area Superintendent Chris Holm announced today that Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staff plans to conduct prescribed burns at Government Canyon State Natural Area starting in June and continuing through January.
The burns are expected to be conducted and completed in two to three days each. An open public meeting will be held at Government Canyon at 7 p.m. on June 19, 2012 to provide information about the prescribed burn program and to answer any questions about the burns.
Prescribed burns are used as a management tool in natural areas and state parks to improve habitat for wildlife by restoring woodlands and savannahs in the Natural Area that were historically maintained by natural fires. They also are conducted to reduce the amount of available fuels, such as leaf litter, fallen branches, understory growth and dead trees that accumulate naturally and from storm events. By decreasing the amount of available fuels, prescribed burns reduce the chance for a potentially destructive wildfire to occur.
Natural Area staffers already have begun preparing for the upcoming burns by clearing vegetation and other fuels from the fire breaks established around the perimeter of each area that will be burned this year. Fuels and vegetation also are cleared away from utility poles, structures, signs and sensitive resources to protect them during the prescribed burns.
Prescribed burns in natural areas and state parks are conducted by TPWD personnel who have undergone training and met national wildland firefighting certification standards. The Natural Area's prescribed burn plan defines the conditions under which a prescribed burn may be conducted, taking into account wind speeds and direction, air temperature, relative humidity, and fuel moisture levels. The plan also guides fire crew members in managing burns to prevent them from escaping into adjacent properties and to minimize the effect of smoke in nearby residential areas.
Because specific weather conditions are required to conduct an effective and safe prescribed burn, TPWD staff cannot provide a specific date for the burns at this time. However, local emergency management officials will be notified before a prescribed fire is implemented. Holm said that during the burn, the Natural Area would be closed to the public. During the burn there may be smoke that reduces visibility on neighboring roads and Holm cautions travelers to reduce their speed and use their headlights when smoke is present.
For more information regarding the planned burn or to request notification on the days when fires are ignited, please contact the Natural Area at 210-688-9055 or e-mail chris.holm@tpwd.texas.gov.
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