The United States is launching an effort to save some of its busiest workers: honey bees. President Barack Obama created a task force comprising various agencies to address the issue of rapidly diminishing honey bees and other pollinators.
Honey bees pollinate fruit, nuts and vegetables, and are crucial for the nation’s food industry.They have declined sharply in recent years due to various factors, including pesticides, mite infestations and loss of genetic diversity,the White House said Friday.
“Pollination is integral to food security in the United States,” it said. “Honey bees enable the production of at least 90 commercially grown crops in North America. Globally, 87 of the leading 115 food crops evaluated are dependent on animal pollinators.” During pollination, insects, birds, butterflies and bats transfer pollen between plants, which allows them to make seeds and reproduce.
In addition to food sustainability, honey bees boost the economy. “Pollinators contribute more than $24 billion to the United States economy, of which honey bees account for more than $15 billion through their vital role in keeping fruits, nuts, and vegetables in our diets,” the White House said.
In California, the almond industry is at risk because it depends on 1.4 million beehives annually for pollination. Almonds rely exclusively on bees for pollination. The number of managed honey bee colonies in the United States fell sharply from 6 million beehives in 1947 to 2.5 million today, according to the White House.
Obama said the Environmental Protection Agency and United States Department of Agriculture will spearhead an effort to determine why honey bees, monarch butterflies and other pollinators are dwindling and find ways to boost their conservation. In addition, Obama’s budget for next year recommends about $50 million for multiple agencies to help boost research, increase the number of acres dedicated to pollinators’ conservation programs and boost funding for research on pollinator losses.
“Researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and University of Maryland have found that low levels of pesticide exposure from crop pollination make honey bees more susceptible to the deadly gut parasite Nosema ceranae, contributing to declines in bee populations.
The study’s findings, released July 24 in the journal PLoSONE, expand on a recent report released by the USDA that found parasites, disease, genetics, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure as synergistic factors in the observable nationwide honey bee decline, but focused on technological stopgap measures without questioning the sustainability of widespread systemic neonicotinoid pesticide use. Adding urgency to USDA’s research, another study released July 22 in the Proceedings from the National Academy of Sciences shows that pollinator losses can have a detrimental effects on plant reproduction.”
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, International Business Editor, The Telegraph, 8:30PM GMT 06 Feb 2011
“Almost a third of global farm output depends on animal pollination, largely by honey bees. These foods provide 35pc of our calories, most of our minerals, vitamins, and anti-oxidants, and the foundations of gastronomy. Yet the bees are dying – or being killed – at a disturbing pace.”
“Albert Einstein, who liked to make bold claims (often wrong), famously said that “if the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, man would have only four years to live”. ”
“The reservoir of bees is dwindling to the point where ratios are dangerously out of kilter, with the US reaching the “most extreme” imbalance.”
BY Ariel Schwartz
“The world honey bee population has plunged in recent years, worrying beekeepers and farmers who know how critical bee pollination is for many crops. A number of theories have popped up as to why the North American honey bee population has declined–electromagnetic radiation, malnutrition, and climate change have all been pinpointed. Now a leaked EPA document reveals that the agency allowed the widespread use of a bee-toxic pesticide, despite warnings from EPA scientists.”
Colo. beekeepers stung by mysteriously vanishing colonies By Claire Martin
“Like other Colorado beekeepers, Jeff Theobald knows that between 2 percent and 10 percent of his bees typically won’t survive winter, but this year, the loss rate is 40 percent and rising as entire colonies vanish without a trace.”