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The Smallest Hurricane Victims: The Campaign to Help Caribbean Honeybees

Saving Puerto Rico's Bees | Imagine Plush | DC

When Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico, it not only decimated homes and businesses, it destroyed almost 80 percent of local honeybee populations and their hives. Even worse, it devastated most of the island's farms, plants and trees, leaving behind a stripped landscape that can't feed the few honeybees that survived.

With almost no nectar or pollen left on the island, honeybees are scouring empty soda cans and trash heaps in search of food. And they're in danger of starving. If that happens, Puerto Rican farmers may lose more than this year's crops (estimated at a whopping $780 million): Honeybees and other pollinators are key factors not only in Puerto Rico's agricultural recovery, but also its future.

In the aftermath of two Category 5 hurricanes, honeybees in the U.S. Virgin Islands are in the same precarious position.

Beekeepers in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands need two things to weather this crisis: Supplemental protein to feed their bees while the region's plants recover, and hives to house honeybees that are now swarming people's storm-damaged homes, businesses, schools and other structures, often causing fear and chaos.

"When we first learned about the desperate challenges faced by these Caribbean beekeepers, we moved quickly to help," said Val Dolcini, President and CEO of the Pollinator Partnership, which is spearheading a Caribbean Bee Rescue Campaign.

Given the pressing need for hives and food, the organization's GoFundMe campaign's goals are simple: Provide food for 3,000 hives, and 1,000 replacement hives in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands over the next six months, strengthen beekeeping and pollination services on the islands, and assess how the Partnership can help other pollinators affected by the hurricanes.

The first relief package arrived in Puerto Rico earlier this week, and is being delivered to beekeepers now, and supplies should reach the U.S. Virgin Islands soon, Dolcini said. However, the campaign is still far short of its $50,000 goal, and every donation is important.

Click here to help the Pollinator Partnership buy food and hives for struggling honeybees in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Photo by Leila Warner, taken on location at Kew Gardens, London, England.

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