Monday, June 23, 2014

A Federal Strategy for Bees

The President signed a Memorandum Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, The memorandum directs several departments of the federal government to immediately address issues leading to the loss of honey bees and native pollinators. The memorandum speaks clearly of the need for action: “Pollinators contribute substantially to the economy of the United States and are vital to keeping fruits, nuts, and vegetables in our diets. Honey bee pollination alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year in the United States. 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 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.” Honey bee losses have been clearly recorded, but the losses of other pollinators are more difficult to assess. Bumble bees live underground, and many native bees nest in foliage, often unseen. Monarch butterflies, often viewed as indicators of the health of the environment, reached their lowest recorded population level this year, and their migration is considered to be in danger of failing.

Among the action plans presented in the memorandum are the development of affordable seed mixes of native pollinator-friendly plants for honey bees and other pollinators, finding best management practices for reducing pollinator exposure to pesticides, restoring and enhancing pollinator habitat along road, power line, pipeline, and utility rights-of-way and federal lands. In one example of the efforts described in the memorandum the Departments of Agriculture and Interior will establish a reserve of native seed mixes for habitat rehabilitation after fires. The memorandum moves us closer to seeing our cities connected by flowering pollinator corridors along the interstate highways. Today’s photo: native Blue Orchard Bees find a nest in a package of staples in Peace Bee Farm’s woodshop.