Bee Rally Draws Crowd At RI Statehouse

Jun 20, 2018

Lawmakers and environmentalists spoke in front of a crowd of more than 50 people at the Rhode Island Statehouse Tuesday to raise awareness about declining bee populations. 

Currently, more than 25 percent of bumblebee populations in North America are at risk of extinction.

"We need to protect the bees so the farmers can do their thing, so we can have a more robust, resilient climate, environment and food supply," Governor Gina Raimondo said during the event.

Janet Coit, director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, said the department is planting wild flowers on land they own across the state to re-create bee habitats that have been lost to development.

She said DEM is also providing grants to help people start their own hives, but this work is only the beginning.

"There are threats coming from everywhere: invasive species, climate change, habitat loss, so I think there is more that needs to be done," Coit said.

DEM is now pushing for funds for a full-time state beekeeper to support rejuvenation efforts.

The bee rally was hosted by the Audubon Society of Rhode Island.

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This week, the Audubon Society of Rhode Island will be lighting up the Statehouse with yellow and black stripes to draw attention to the decreasing bumblebee population.

"For the U.S. as a whole, the report is that 28 percent of all the North American bumblebee populations are facing the risk of extinction, so it’s pretty dire," Meg Kerr, senior director of policy at Audubon, said. 

Factors such as habitat loss, climate change and disease have been contributing to the population's decline. 

Kerr said the insects are vital because without them, crops like blueberries, cranberries and pumkins wouldn't grow. 

"We need all the different spokes in the wheel in order to keep the ecosystem healthy," Kerr said. "So, even though we tend to think of insects as pests and nasty and we want to get rid of them, they are an essential part of the overall ecosystem." 

Kerr said people can support bees through planting flowers, growing long grass and leaving tree stumps. 

A bumblebee buzzes around purple lupine.
Credit Pam Marsden / Audubon Society of Rhode Island