This Article is From May 20, 2015

White House Gets Busy to Save the Bees

White House Gets Busy to Save the Bees

File Photo: Honey Bees that produce raw wildflower honey working in their hive at an outdoor Farmer's Market in Washington, DC. (AFP)

Washington: The White House unveiled Tuesday a plan to reverse an alarming decline in populations of bees and other pollinators that play a crucial role in agriculture and the environment.

Honey bee pollination alone adds $15 billion in value to US crops each year, wrote John Holdren, one of President Barack Obama's main science advisors.

But pollinators are struggling, for a variety of reasons, and beekeepers last year reported losing 40 per cent of their honey bee colonies, mostly in winter, Holdren wrote in a blog on the White House website.

Scientists point to a series of factors as causing the decline: sickness, parasites, dwindling food sources and pesticides.

Holdren said the plan also seeks to rebuild populations of Monarch butterflies. Over the past two decades, the number of them that migrate south in winter to escape the cold, mainly to Mexico, has dropped by 90 per cent.

To address the problem the White House aims to limit the mortality of bee colonies in winter to a maximum of 15 per cent over 10 years.

It also aims to restore 2.8 million hectares of habitat for these insects over the next five years through federal intervention and partnerships between the public and private sectors.

As for the Monarch butterflies, the plan is designed to boost their population over the next five years in a 6-hectare span of forest in Mexico, in collaboration with the government of that country.

Many US government agencies will be called on to find ways to grow, on federal land, plants that are more varied and better suited to bees and other pollinators.

Scientists say growing just one crop on a large stretch of land denies bees a source of food.

The plan is based on an "all hands on deck" approach including engagement of citizens and communities and the forging of public-private partnerships.

"Increasing the quantity and quality of habitat for pollinators is a major part of this effort - with actions ranging from the construction of pollinator gardens at Federal buildings to the restoration of millions of acres of Federally managed lands and similar actions on private lands," Holdren wrote.