Late last week, the White House announced the formation of a Pollinator Health Task Force, a multi-departmental effort charged with “understanding, preventing and recovering from” mass declines in the U.S. honeybee population.
While, to some, a task force for honeybees might seem like just another case of government waste, the issues related to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) have long been a matter of concern in the United States. As reported earlier, one study noted that parasites and exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides correlated to CCD, but the reliability of that particular study is now being called into question.
According to a fact sheet distributed by the White House, the honeybee population is at 2.5 million in 2014, less than half of what it was in the mid-20th century. Since 2006, commercial beekeepers in the United States have seen honeybee colony loss rates increase to an average of 30% each winter.
The presidential task force will investigate and combat decreased populations for a number of pollinator species, including bats, birds and butterflies, but it is the honeybee population that is the most troubling.
In his 2015 budget proposal, President Barrack Obama outline $50 million for pollinator preservation – but compare that to the roughly $15 billion honeybees alone contribute to the U.S. economy and you can see the importance of doing so, according to the White House.
The task force will be made up of 16 executive departments and agencies, including the Departments of Defense and State. It will be headed by the Secretary of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator. Part of its agenda will be to “determine the relative contributions of, and mitigation strategies for, different stressors leading to species declines and colony collapse disorder.”
“The problem is serious and requires immediate attention to ensure the sustainability of our food production systems, avoid additional economic impact on the agricultural sector, and protect the health of the environment,” the presidential memorandum released June 20, 2014 rea.