Honey Bee Losses in USA – White House Demands Federal Action

On June, 20th a Presidential Memorandum was issued by the White House  titled Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. 

The memorandum states that:

“Over the past few decades, there has been a significant loss of pollinators, including honey bees, native bees, birds, bats, and butterflies, from the environment. The problem is serious and requires immediate attention to ensure the sustainability of our food production systems, avoid additional economic impact on the agricultural sector, and protect the health of the environment.”

On May 20th, National Geographic Daily News covered a USDA report that Losses over the 2013-2014 winter in the USA were lower than most previous years.  But commented:

Even so, the USDA’s survey of beekeepers found that nearly a quarter of the bees in managed honeybee colonies—a total of 23.2 percent nationwide—perished from October 2013 to April 2014.

That was far better than the average annual loss of 29.6 percent reported since 2007, and the 30.5 percent loss recorded during the winter of 2012-2013. But it’s appreciably higher than the threshold of 18.9 percent losses that beekeepers consider economically sustainable, the USDA said.

“This year’s survey results, while encouraging, do not provide much comfort because it is not known why the bees seemed to do better this past winter than previous winters,” said Gene Robinson, director of the Institute for Genomic Biology and an entomology expert at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “We can’t rest until we really understand the factors that drive differences in losses.”

The White House Memorandum requires a “National Pollinator Health Strategy (Strategy)” to be developed within six months.

The food industry in the USA is huge and has become reliant on intensive use of chemical pesticides included neonicotidoids which have been banned since late 2013 for a two year trial period in the EU.  Will be interesting to see what action results from this – is it too little too late?

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