Good News for Bees

The U.S. government is working to save the bee population

June 23, 2014

A beekeeper holds a frame of a beehive. Millions of bees have disappeared in recent years.

In the last eight years, millions of honeybees have disappeared. Now, the U.S. government is stepping in to help fight this problem. Last Friday, President Barack Obama announced the start of the Pollinator Health Task Force. This group will work on keeping the U.S. bee population healthy and strong, and will educate people about what they can do to help bees.

“The problem is serious and requires immediate attention,” President Obama said in a statement. “It is critical to expand Federal efforts and take new steps to reverse pollinator losses and help restore (bee) populations to healthy levels.”

Bees are important because they are pollinators and help crops grow.  Bees and other animals such as birds and bats pollinate flowering plants by moving grains of pollen from one plant to another. Through pollination, plants can grow seeds and fruit.    

Bees pollinate flowers and crops.

Bees pollinate flowers and crops.

Colony Collapse Disorder

In recent years, scientists have been studying why millions of bees have been leaving their hives and not returning, which is known as colony collapse disorder (CCD).  Scientists believe that a fungus, a virus, pesticides, and parasites may be among the causes of this disorder.

The new Pollinator Health Task Force will partner with state and local agencies to protect honeybees , and develop new habitats for pollinators. It also plans to start a public education campaign to increase awareness of the importance pollinators, and steps that can be taken to protect them. The task force will reach out to individuals, businesses, schools libraries and museums.  President Obama has requested $50 million in his 2015 budget to fight this problem.

Why We Need Bees

Even though many people may think bees are a nuisance, they are an important part of how we grow food in the U.S.  At least 90 commercial crops including nuts, fruits and vegetables rely on honeybees for pollination. Honeybees are the “glue that holds our agricultural system together,” wrote the journalist Hannah Nordaus in her book The Beekeeper’s Lament.

Each year, bees provide more than $15 billion in value to the agricultural crops in the U.S., according to the White House.  

Obama noted that helping save the bee population will avoid additional economic impact on the agricultural sector, and will help protect the health of the environment.

The president also noted the population decline of Monarch butterflies, another important pollinator. The number of migrating Monarch butterflies sank to the lowest recorded population level in 2013-14. The task force will also work to bring their populations back to healthy levels.

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