Saturday, September 5, 2015

A blitz for bees, but is it enough?

The nation’s honey bees, whose plant pollinating services are said to contribute to one in three mouthfulls of food, are still in trouble.

A blitz for bees, but is it enough?


The nation’s honey bees, whose plant pollinating services are said to contribute to one in three mouthfulls of food, are still in trouble.

So on Friday, at the close of National Pollinator Week, President Obama signed a memo establishing a Pollinator Health Task Force that would study the crisis and come up with a plan.

As if myriad researchers haven’t been working on that already, but anyway. Nice to have the President’s imprimatur — or, as the Christian Science Monitor noted in a thorough and informative story, a boost from “the Beekeeper in Chief.”

"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," Obama said in the memo.

The CSM story also does a nice job explaining the problem of a group of pesticides called neonicotinoids — and the problem of restricting them.

But opposition to the chemicals was reinforced earlier today when the Bee Coalition — including major environmental groups in the United Kingdom — released a review of 800 studies it says confirms harm to bees from neonicotinoid insecticides.

It said use of the chemicals should be significantly reduced or phased out.

Meanwhile, the the U.S. Department of Agriculture boosted a $3 million Conservation Reserve Program with an additional $8 million. It would encourage farmers and ranchers in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and North and South Dakota to cultivate new habitats for honey bee populations.

Why there? More than half of the commercially managed honey bees are in these five states during the summer, the USDA said.

Penn State’s Center for Pollinator Research has done major work on honey bees and other pollinators. You can find out more about their studies and findings by clicking here.

Honey bees are not native to the U.S. and are highly-managed. As their decline continues, officials have looked to wild bee populations as a way to bolster pollination. Some important work was done locally at a Montgomery County farm.

If you’d like to help the native bees in your own yard, check out Penn State’s pollinator-friendly garden certification program.


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About this blog

GreenSpace is about environmental issues and green living. Bauers also writes a biweekly GreenSpace column about environmental health issues for the Inquirer’s Sunday “Health” section.

Sandy Bauers is the environment reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where she has worked for more than 20 years as a reporter and editor. She lives in northern Chester County with her husband, two cats, a large vegetable garden and a flock of pet chickens.

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