The White House is finally addressing a serious, and misunderstood, problem with a new “bee plan.” The bee plan is a federal strategy to stop the sharp decline of pollinators, most notably bees, and restore pollinator populations to their previous buzzing glory.
Can the White House end a problem that has alluded scientists and policy makers for over a decade?
The bee plan is focused on habitats… and bureaucracy.
The first step of the plan is form a task force. The group will include representatives from 14 major federal departments (click here for the full list).
Once the bee dream team is assembled, it will start to create or improve pollinator habitats. According to the White House, the department of Agriculture will increase both the acreage and forage value of pollinator habitats in the Department’s conservation programs. The Department of Transportation will identify opportunities to increase pollinator habitat along roadways and implement improvements.
The White House memorandum paints of a picture of every department tucking bees and butterflies into every nook and cranny, as appropriate.
The bee plan will be fully implemented within 180 days of the White House memorandum.
So what are pollinators? And why are they so important?
The White House was quick to point out that the strategy isn’t just for bees.
Pollinators are insects and animals that carry pollen from one plant to another. The most iconic is the honey bee, but others include Monarch Butterflies, humming birds, and even some kinds of bats.
About 60 – 80 percent of the world’s flowering plants require insects or animals for pollination. Many of those plants are ones we eat, and sell.
According the White House’s estimate, pollinators contribute about $15 billion to the U.S. economy through pollination. Whole industries would crumble without pollinators, and items would vanish from the grocery store. It would mean goodbye to affordable apple pie.
In 2007, beekeepers reported an unprecedented bee die-off, as high as 70 percent in some places, aggravating a problem that has now alluded scientists and policy makers for over a decade.
Understanding why the bees are disappearing is complicated.
No single factor seems to be responsible. Instead, scientists have proposed multiple possible explanations, most of which probably contribute to the problem to some degree.
Pesticide misuse is the most cited reason, others include parasites, loss of habitat, air pollution, and global warming.
The White House hopes to solve the mystery, including a section for task force research in the bee plan.
Better late than never.
The White House bee plan has difficult challenges to overcome, like bureaucratic coordination, but the hopes of many farmers ride on their success.