WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — Thousands of honey bees have found a home at The Huffman Prairie State Natural Landmark, thanks to the pollination efforts at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (AFB).
“[Wright-Patterson AFB] wants to exemplify environmental stewardship and do our part to enhance and sustain pollinator populations in Ohio,” said Danielle Trevino, Wright-Patterson AFB, environmental protection specialist in the natural resources section of civil engineering.
Located on the Wright-Patterson AFB, The Huffman Prairie State Natural Landmark (Huffman Prairie) currently provides a home for 9 active hives with about 250 to 300 thousand honey bees. The first six hives were added to the base in 2015. Three more were added this year, which were swarms caught in swarm traps.
Dwight Wells with Propolis Projects, LLC (Propolis) cares for the hives. Propolis is an effort developed by the Levin Family Foundation and its mission is to combat the recent decline of pollinators in the Midwest and restore healthier honey bee populations in Ohio.
Wright-Patterson AFB leases the land to Propolis, according to Trevino. Visit propolisprojects.org for more information.
“We collaborate with [Propolis] on a lot of efforts to protect pollinators and create habitat,” said Trevino. These efforts include seed harvesting and collection and turning areas into pollinator-friendly habitat to the benefit of honey bees and other native pollinator species.
Huffman Prairie itself is 114 acres and Wright-Patterson AFB is submitting a proposal to restore an additional 50 acres back to native prairie vegetation. Dave Nolin cares for this land and has been helping to restore the tallgrass prairie remnant on the Air Force base for the last 34 years.
“The restoration effort has become more like farming over the years in some ways. We started with basically a gardening approach, but it needed stronger tools,” Nolin said. Dave Nolin also published the book Discovery and Renewal on Huffman Prairie: Where Aviation Took Wing.
The Parks Service runs the adjacent Huffman Prairie Flying Field, where the Wright Brothers (Orville and Wilbur) perfected the first airplane in 1904-1905. This field is 84 acres.
“Bees and all pollinators are important to our ecosystems for the agricultural industry. One in 3 bites of food we eat is courtesy of an insect pollinator — that’s pretty important and we should all be doing our part to help sustain those pollinator populations,” said Trevino.
People can help pollinators by planting native flowers in their lawn and on their land.
Trevino leads community outreach efforts, including habitat enhancement projects, working with wetlands, urban forest, endangered species and other areas. She has worked at Wright-Patterson AFB for almost two years. She collaborates with a lot of organizations, such as Propolis, Five Rivers Metroparks, Fish and Wildlife, the parks service — “dozens of individuals and several entities.”
Every fall Trevino and a group of volunteers harvest prairie seeds and replant them in areas that need enhancing in habitat. Trevino added that she’s hoping to get airmen involved in some of those volunteer opportunities.
“We have lots of areas on the installation [Air Force base] that are just mowed weekly and so some of our pollinator efforts include taking those areas out of that rotation and save money and also to create habitat that’s more beneficial to pollinators,” said Trevino.
She said that the grass that would be mowed would be killed off and replaced with plants that create prairie habitat, which would require less maintenance and is less of a bird risk with aircraft.
“Historically prairie habitats were burned by Native American Indian tribes or naturally via lightning,” said Trevino. “So every year we try to burn a section of the prairie to recreate the natural occurences that the prairie habitat was originally established in.” This regenerates the land and helps to kill back non-native species to allow more native species to grow. Trevino said that this is essential to any prairie restoration efforts.
Two Monarch Waystation Habitats have been added to the Air Force base, which are basically small monarch butterfly habitats. A Monarch Waystation is at least a 10-by-10-foot habitat full of the requirements for monarchs to sustain their lives and their migration back to Mexico, according to Trevino.
“We did one with the youth center on base, so they [children of the youth center] planted monarch-friendly plants and they care for that,” said Trevino. The National Parks Service also put a Monarch Waystation at the Interpretive Center at the Wright Memorial. For more information on Monarch Waystations visit: www.monarchwatch.org/waystations.
Wright-Patterson AFB just had its second annual Pollinator Expo, which is in conjunction with the military base’s Bee City USA designation. Wright-Patterson is the first United States military base to obtain that designation.
“We worked with about 30 different environmental organizations from across [Ohio] to set up outreach booths and invited the public,” said Trevino. The expo is held at Wright Memorial, which is open to the public. Next year’s Pollinator Expo will be held in June.
There’s also a .7-mile trail that goes through the Huffman Prairie, where Trevino hosted the Huffman Prairie Walk earlier this year.
“People should understand that pollinators are important to all of us and we all have a responsibility to protect our environment,” said Trevino.
Additonal information about Huffman Prairie
Huffman Prairie is located off Route 444 and can be accessed using the Twin Base Golf Course entrance. Huffman Praire became a State Natural Landmark in 1986 due to the Wright-Patterson AFB, Five Rivers Metroparks and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.