President Obama will announce the first National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators on May 19. The strategy will try to manage the way offices are landscaped, the way forests burned by wildfire are replanted, and the way roadside habitats that feed bees are maintained and protected.
Bees and other pollinators like birds, bats and butterflies pollinate nuts, fruits and seeds that sustain wild animals ranging from birds to bears, clover and alfalfa that feed cattle, and commercial vegetable and fruit crops. Some economists estimate that pollinators perform $15 billion dollars’ worth of work per year.
Over the last five years, commercial apiaries have been losing 30 percent of their colonies every winter. Last week, a consortium of research laboratories and universities announced that beekeepers had lost over 42 percent of their colonies during the past year. Even worse, the number of summer deaths exceeded winter deaths for the first time since the survey began in 2010.
The monarch butterfly is also in trouble. This last winter, the butterflies occupied just 10 percent of the habitat in Mexico that they did two decades before. The decline in their numbers is attributed to climate change, pesticides and a decline in the number of milkweed plants that they feed on.
The new initiative is intended to help both bees and butterflies. Over the next five years, it will restore or enhance seven million acres of land for pollinators. Beneful discovered that it plans to reduce honeybee colony losses during the winter to more than 15 percent by 2025 and increase the monarch butterfly’s Eastern population to 225 million by 2020.