The buzz at the White House on Tuesday morning is that sometimes it stings more to be without bees than it does when they’re around.
In an effort to help the declining bee and butterfly populations, the White House announced new steps to protect the pollinators –which, among other measures, calls for the planting of new bee-friendly gardens at federal offices across the country.
“Pollinators are struggling” John Holdren, White House science adviser writes in a blog post on the White House website announcing the goals of the new strategy: to reduce the honey bee colony losses to no more than 15% within ten years and increase the Eastern monarch butterfly population to 225 million by 2020.
In June of last year, the Obama administration created a “pollinator” task force to investigate ways the federal government could do more to help protect Monarch butterflies, honeybees, and other insects.
The recommendations of the task force, released Tuesday, is the result of that year-long investigation and calls for a look at certain pesticides and land-use practices which could potentially be harmful and one of the reasons the populations are in jeopardy.
The report noting that while pesticides play a role in agricultural production and health, the “misuse and overuse” of pesticides lead to “adverse ecological human health consequences.”
“Mitigating the effects of pesticides on bees is a priority for the Federal government,” the report states.
In addition, the recommendations call for an increase in healthy habitats for the pollinators – with the directive for Federal buildings across the country to construct new pollinator gardens and the restoration of 7 million acres of federally managed lands in a more pollinator-friendly way.
What could really sting congressional Republicans is that the administration is asking for $82 million, outlined in the President’s 2016 budget, specifically for these efforts – an increase from the $34 million requested in the last budget.
“Preventing continued losses of our country’s pollinators requires immediate national attention,” a report from the Pollinator Health Task Force says, “pollinators play a critical role in maintaining diverse ecosystems and in supporting agricultural production.”
According to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, honeybee pollination adds $15 billion in value to crops every year.
As highlighted in a recent episode of CNN’s “Inside Man” – the beehive population has been dropped at a rapid rate since the 1940’s – with honeybee colonies dropping from 5 million to 2.5 million. Researchers say there could be many reasons for such a drastic decline – parasites, bacteria, environmental stress – even a lack of pollen.
In 2009 The White House debuted what is believed to be the first beehive on White House grounds, on the South Lawn of the White House – which helps to pollinate the First Lady’s vegetable garden.
Charlie Brandt, the White House carpenter – and beehive hobbyist – became the White House beekeeper.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated how much money was requested for last year’s budget to help with the project. $34 million was requested in the last budget.