A quantitative study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Aplary Inspectors of America has found that summer losses of managed honey bee colonies have exceeded winter losses. The environmental devastation has decimated 42.1 % of the number of colonies managed over the last year (total annual loss, between April 2014 and April 2015), which is up from 34.2 percent for the previous year.
President Obama had appointed a pollinator task force last year. The White House Task Force on Pollinator Health, co-chaired by USDA was expected to release recommendations last year but has to date not released a plan on bee protection. The U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittee on Horticulture, Biotechnology and Research at a congressional hearing failed to advance policy solutions that would protect pollinators from the unnecessary use of pesticides.
“What we’re seeing with this bee problem is just a loud signal that there’s some bad things happening with our agro-ecosystems,” said Keith Delaplane, PhD at the University of Georgia. “We just happen to notice it with the honeybee because they are so easy to count.”
The research study was based on a survey analysis of beekeepers. “We traditionally thought of winter losses as a more important indicator of health, because surviving the cold winter months is a crucial test for any bee colony,” said Dennis van Engelsdorp, Ph.D. “But we now know that summer loss rates are significant too. This is especially so for commercial beekeepers, who are now losing more colonies in the summertime compared to the winter. Years ago, this was unheard of.”
“EPA has already found that neonic-treated soybean seeds are not providing our nation’s farmers any added benefit,” said Nichelle Harriott, science and regulatory director at Beyond Pesticides. “In light of safer alternative options, Congress should be directing USDA and EPA to encourage farmers to get off the toxic treadmill and return to more sustainable agricultural practices.”
Grass root environmental organizations have expressed considerable concern as to the environmental impact of pollinator decline and the possible economic losses and environmental devastation this may cause.