The U.S. federal government is getting serious about the decline in bees and other pollinators, forming a federal task force to address the crisis.
“Given the breadth, severity, and persistence of pollinator losses, it is critical to expand Federal efforts and take new steps to reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels,” President Barack Obama wrote in a presidential memorandum on Friday.
Simply put, insects ensure that we have fresh food to eat. Honeybees allow farmers to produce at least 90 crops in North America, according to a White House fact sheet. Certain crops, like almonds, need honeybees to survive. California's almond crop alone depends on 60 percent of all beehives in the country for successful crops.
On a global level, 87 of the top 115 crops depend on animal pollinators.
It's getting harder and more expensive to keep bees alive. There has been almost a 60 percent decline in the number of managed beehives in the United States over the past 60 years, the fact sheet stated.
Kept bees, as well as wild bees, bats, monarch butterflies and others, are in deep trouble and have been for years because of disease, loss of genetic diversity, exposure to pesticides and other, less-understood factors. Around 30 percent of honeybee colonies fail each year, twice the pace of historical averages.
A major problem for honeybees is Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a phenonmenon where a hive suddenly dies. The exact causes of CCD aren't known.
Pretty dire picture, right? Now the government is taking some concrete steps: throwing $50 million at the problem in next year's budget, for one. They’re also forming a task force (which usually produces a yawn), but then telling that task force to do things like clean up and expand pollinator habitats. A public education push is also planned so that everyone understands how important pollinators are to our future food safety.
The White House actually hit the nail on the head: "Pollinators contribute substantially to the economy of the United States and are vital to keeping fruits, nuts, and vegetables in our diets. 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 poses a significant challenge that needs to be addressed to ensure the sustainability of our food production systems, avoid additional economic impacts on the agricultural sector, and protect the health of the environment."
No pollinators, no fresh veggies, fruits or nuts, unless we pollinate crops ourselves, which is happening in countries like Korea and India, where insect pollinators are disappearing, leaving humans to flit from flower to flower.
Hat tip to the BBC