Pollinators find growth at DTE's O'Shea Park as bee populations attempt to rebound

Kristen LeForce likes to think of her fellow pollinators as coworkers. And she has more than a few. 

"In our beehives here at O'Shae Park, we have 160,000 bees! I like to say I have 160,000 co-workers that work with me at the solar field," said the DTE wildlife biologist. 

She's also a pollinator expert, and on a mission to help their vital populations rebound. 

It's a mission that everyone would benefit from, she says.

"All the things that are really delicious to eat like chocolate, cherries, and most fruits are all pollinated by bees or butterflies, so they're very important to us as well as to the environment," said LeForce.

Almonds, Apples, Bananas, Blue Berries, Peaches, Pears, and even coffee all require pollinators help to flourish. Studies show they're involved in one out of every three bites of food we take. They are also known to be a part of more than a thousand different foods we grow and consume. 

But the world of bees and butterflies and the integral role they play in our ecosystems are struggling. 

Experts have noted that since 2006, honey bee colonies have declined. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the abnormal condition of Colony Collapse Disorder, where most worker bees disappear leaving only a queen, an abundant supply of food, and a few nurse bees have contributed to their falling numbers.

Studies show it's a mixture of factors that cause CCD.

"It's a mix of pesticides, also parasites like mites they can get, and also climate change. Not just honey bees, but also our native bees," said Melissa Bobowski, a beekeeper with Bees in the D. "Without bumblebees, we would wipe out - I think there's over a thousand different foods that we need pollination for."

Bobowski says there are a few things people can do to avoid further calamity toward the insects. 

"Reduce your pesticide use in your gardens. Also for your climate change - anything you can do to combat climate change," she said.

Companies like DTE have also heavily invested in seeing their populations rebound. At their solar park in Detroit, the utility is taking advantage of available land to help bees thrive.

"We've planted pollinator plants and out seed mix under our solar panels here at O'Shea Park and so something you can do is mimic that in your backyard. You can plant native flowers and grasses that are good for pollinations that they can eat, caterpillars can much on, so you can do that in your own backyards," said LeForce.

Providing nectar resources for bees and other pollinators is essential for them to thrive, she said.

And they're not even that dangerous.

"Honey Bees especially really aren't that scary, they're pretty docile. They don't want to bother you if you don't bother them. So if you give them their space, make sure they don't feel threatened, and you can co-exist with them in your backyard," said LeForce.