They buzz and sting, but we need bees to pollinate our food crops. These winged allies are endangered and a new congressional bill aims to give them a hand.
About 75 percent of Earth’s edible food varieties rely on pollinators to propagate. In the U.S., commercial crop farmers typically hire beekeepers to bring honeybees to fructify their flowering crops like almonds and apples. But between 2015 and 2016, 44 percent of domestic beekeeper-kept honeybee colonies were destroyed.
What’s driving the decline in pollinator populations? According to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, “changes in land use, intensive agricultural practices and pesticide use, alien invasive species, diseases and pests, and climate change,” are the primary factors threatening bees and other pollinators. Excessive use of the insecticide neonicotinoids is a key driver of bee species depletion.
Oregon State Senator Jeff Merkley has proposed a bill, the Pollinator Recovery Act of 2016 that, if it passes, will set a goal for federal organizations like the USDA and Forest Service to preserve three million acres of pollinator-friendly habitats with lush fields of blossoming plants.
The proposed legislation would also fund research on pollinator populations; promote information on best practices for pollinator preservation to pesticide applicators and farmers; and provide financial benefits for farmers who plant such habitats and use bio-control methodology in place of pesticides to deter pests.
Merkley isn’t the only one buzzing about bees. Last week, bee activist James Cook and allies on the Keep the Hives Alive tour, drove more than 2.5 million dead bees to the EPA’s headquarters in Washington, along with a petition with four million signatures, to insist the Agency ban pesticides, like neonicotinoids, that threaten the nation’s pollinators.
“If some fundamental things don’t change, it’s going to be really hard for beekeepers to adapt to the environment around us,” said Cook.