Tuesday, May 19, 2015

U.S. feds have a bee-saver plan

The United States federal government hopes to reverse America's declining honeybee and monarch butterfly populations by making more federal land bee-friendly, spending more money on research and considering the use of less pesticides, reports the Associated Press news agency.

Scientists say bees — crucial to pollinate many crops — have been hurt by a combination of declining nutrition, mites, disease, and pesticides.

In Ontario, politicians have decided that neonicitinoid seed treatment pesticides are the main culprit and have angered crop farmers by proposing drastic reductions in the use of neonicitinoids.

The Ontario cabinet could surely do better by studying and adopting the U.S. approach.

The U.S. federal plan is an "all hands on deck" strategy that calls on everyone from federal bureaucrats to citizens to do what they can to save bees, which provide more than $15 billion in value to the U.S. economy, according to White House science adviser John Holdren.

"Pollinators are struggling," Holdren said in a blog post, citing a new federal survey that found beekeepers lost more than 40 percent of their colonies last year, although they later recovered by dividing surviving hives. 

He also said the number of monarch butterflies that spend the winter in Mexico's forests is down by 90 percent or more over the past two decades, so the U.S. government is working with Mexico to expand monarch habitat in the southern part of that country.

I haven't heard a peep out of the Ontario cabinet about helping Monarch butterflies. Maybe its conservation authorities could plant some milkweed.

The U.S. plan calls for restoring seven million acres of bee habitat in the next five years. 

Numerous federal agencies will have to find ways to grow plants on federal lands that are more varied and better for bees to eat because scientists have worried that large land tracts that grow only one crop have hurt bee nutrition.

The plan is not just for the Department of Interior, which has vast areas of land under its control. Agencies that wouldn't normally be thought of, such as Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Transportation, will have to include bee-friendly landscaping on their properties and in grant-making.

That part of the bee plan got praise from scientists who study bees.