Why Bee Declines Should Worry You

May 20th 2015

Laura Donovan

The Obama Administration has come up with a new plan to decrease bee colony decline. Pollination contributes billions of dollars annually to agriculture, but beekeepers reported losing 42 percent of honey bee colonies in summer 2014. 

"Pollinators are critical to the Nation’s economy, food security, and environmental health," John P. Holdren wrote on the White House site Tuesday. "Honey bee pollination alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year and helps ensure that our diets include ample fruits, nuts, and vegetables. This tremendously valuable service is provided to society by honey bees, native bees, and other insect pollinators, birds, and bats."

Nearly a year ago, President Barack Obama released his first plan deal with bee declines, and now the Task Force has come up with a strategy under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The plan aims to restore millions of acres of land for pollinators. The strategy also involves planting more flowers so bees can have a place to nest.

"It's a big step in the right direction," Nigel Raine, a professor who studies pollinator conservation at Canada's University of Guelph, told NPR. "It's making sure they have sufficient flowers to feed on."

What about pesticides?

But some argue the White House isn't doing enough to eliminate neonicotinoids, pesticides in seeds that some say are responsible for bee deaths

"To truly save bees and other pollinators, we must drastically cut down on today's pervasive use of neonicotinoids and other pesticides," Peter Lehner, executive director of the The Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a press release.

Bryan McGannon, deputy director of policy at the American Sustainable Business Council, said in a statement that bee loss hurts businesses and that President Obama must take more aggressive efforts at managing pesticides. 

“Our business network members are very concerned with the continued and unsustainable losses of bees and other essential pollinators and their impact on the bottom-line of our industries and economy," McGannon said. "The Obama administration must listen to the business community and growing body of science by taking immediate action to address the threats pollinators face from pesticides to protect our economy, food system and all of us."

In 2013, Europe banned neonicotinoids, and late last year, Ontario, Canada, proposed an 80 percent reduction in neonicotinoid use.