MILLERSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture was joined by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and agriculture partners to celebrate honey bees for Honey Bee Day, which is August 20, at the Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art.

Honey bees play a very critical role in food production, food security, and biodiversity throughout Pennsylvania.

The apiary industry in Pennsylvania is valued at more than $76 million, which is attributed mostly to the increased yield and quality in crops that are partially or completely dependent on honey bees for pollination.

Honey bees are very critical to the environment, that is why more than 6,000 registered beekeepers manage more than 61,000 honey bee colonies. Over 80 percent of flowering plants needs to be pollinated in order to reproduce, emphasizing the importance of honey bees.

“Pollinators including bees help many flowering plants reproduce, and in turn are dependent on plants for food and habitat,” DCNR Bureau of Forestry Conservation and Ecological Resources Division Chief Rebecca Bowen said. “Protecting the land, planting native species, and converting lawn to meadows and forests are ways we all can help bees, butterflies, and other pollinators so they can continue to help us produce food and ensure diversity in our ecosystems.”

“Bees are incredible creatures that are as crucial to growing fruits and vegetables as the men and women who help care and protect,” said Jessica Groves, community impact manager, The GIANT Company. “The GIANT Company relies on both greatly; without them, our signature produce departments and mealtimes around the table would look much different, with many of our favorite items missing from plates. We’re proud to join the Pennsylvania Departments of Agriculture and Conservation and Natural Resources, Penn State, and our partner, Planet Bee Foundation, to celebrate Honey Bee Day and raise awareness of the essential role they and all bees play in feeding families in the commonwealth and beyond.”

Honey bees pollinate and help to increase quality and yield of produce grown in Pennsylvania, including produce such as apples, melons, cranberries, cherries, pears, onions, cucumbers, pumpkins, squash, broccoli, almonds, berries, and much more.

Honey bees aren’t the only pollinators in Pennsylvania. There are bees, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, and more, with more than 500 species of bees alone. Pennsylvania also has one of the most diverse crop systems in the U.S., contributing more than $260 million to Pennsylvania annually.

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The Pennsylvania Pollinator Protection Plan was developed by Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, with input from 28 states and national organizations and stakeholder groups, including the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. This plan helps pollinators in Pennsylvania by recommending best practices to help them thrive.

DCNR manages just about 2.5 million acres of forest and park land that acts as homes to pollinators, plants, and wildlife. They work to educate the public about the importance biodiversity and native species and lead a program to convert lawns to meadows and trees for pollinators and water quality.