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Why The Federal Government Is Bailing Out Honeybees

The USDA is drafting farmers and ranchers to help save the honeybee.

Why The Federal Government Is Bailing Out Honeybees
[Source photos: USGS Bee Survey]

Wild bee populations decimated by colony collapse disorder are being boosted thanks to a multi-million dollar government grant. In response to declining bee populations, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $8 million into boosting America’s bee population. It’s an unusual step designed to shore up ecosystems effected by a sharp decline in the world’s bee population.

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The $8 million will be disbursed to farmers and ranchers to build new habitats for honeybees. “American agricultural production relies on having a healthy honey bee population,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “In recent years, factors such as diseases, parasites, pesticides, or habitat loss have contributed to a significant decline in the honey bee population. This $8 million is part of the Administration’s ongoing strategy to reverse these trends and establish more plant habitat on Conservation Reserve Program lands to restore the bee population.”


Ranchers and farmers who receive money through the program will use their fund to terraform their land to be more bee-friendly. Existing vegetation on their land will be augmented with seed mixtures designed to grow wild flowers for bees.

The $8 million investment comes on top of a $3 million investment made earlier this year. In both cases, the federal government invested funds into making sure healthy bee populations exist in the wild.

But this government program isn’t for the entire country. The USDA decided, in this case, to invest entirely in Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. These five states are responsible for approximately 65% of all commercially managed honeybees in the United States. Bees aren’t only commercial moneymakers in terms of the honey they produce; because of their role in pollination, they are integral for American agriculture (and the ecosystem in general).

For the government, helping to boost bee populations just makes sense. The bee population in the U.S. is plummeting. In 1947, there were 6 million managed honeybee colonies in the United States. As of 2014, that number has dropped to just 2.5 million. Colony collapse disorder is a poorly understood challenge which causes bee colonies to suddenly disappear. A number of causes have been suggested for the syndrome, which has still never been fully explained by scientists.

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