U.S. Creates Honey Bee Health Strategy

Back in the middle of June 2014 the United States Federal Government (love them or hate them) released a memorandum, one of thousands I'm sure.

The federal memo was addressed to the heads of United States executive departments and agencies with a subject that read: "Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators".

Personally, I tend to largely ignore the TV news. I don't subscribe for a printed newspaper (you want me to pay for news that's outdated as soon as it's printed?).  I also don't listen to the news on the radio on any sort of regular frequency.

If you're like me, then this bit of news likely slipped past you also.

I'm both shocked and excited that the U.S. government took an interest in the issue of pollinator health.

For additional information, I also found a quick reference fact sheet that highlights some of the main reasons the U.S. government decided to create the strategy. Here are a few for your reading pleasure:
  • Reduction in Beekeepers: 6 million colonies (beehives) in 1947 to 4 million in 1970, 3 million in 1990, and just 2.5 million today.
  • Economy: Pollinators contribute more than 24 billion dollars to the United States economy, of which honey bees account for more than 15 billion dollars through their vital role in keeping fruits, nuts, and vegetables in our diets.
  • Winter Losses: Since 2006, commercial beekeepers in the United States have seen honey bee colony loss rates increase to an average of 30% each winter, compared to historical loss rates of 10 to 15%.
  • Colony Loss in General: Beekeepers in the United States have collectively lost an estimated 10 million beehives at an approximate current value of $200 each.
Some of the stated goals of the strategy include:
  • Directing the Federal Government to use its research, land management, education, and public/private partnership capacities to broadly advance honey bee and other pollinator health and habitat;
  • Establishing a new Pollinator Health Task Force, co-chaired by United States Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency, to develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy.
  • Directing Task Force agencies to develop plans to enhance pollinator habitat on federal lands and facilities in order to lead by example to significantly expand the acreage and quality of pollinator habitat, consistent with agency missions and public safety
So all this sounds great, huh? How soon can we expect results you wonder? The memo goes on to indicate:
"Within 180 days of the date of this memorandum, the Task Force shall develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy (Strategy), which shall include explicit goals, milestones, and metrics to measure progress. "
I'll be interested to check back in November 2014 to see what their proposed strategy looks like, what private/public companies they've partnered with, etc.

What's your take on the proposed initiative? Do you think that the federal government's efforts will produce real change? Do you think the initiative might push us towards a solution against varroa and disease? Or do you think it's a waste of the time and resources of the federal government? Do you think other nations and countries should join in the effort, as bees pollinate food all over the world and not just the U.S.?

Whatever your thoughts are, please leave them in the comments below, I'd love to hear them.

To start the conversation, here's my (initial) thoughts, which I reserve the right to:
1. Be wrong. I try not to be wrong, but sometimes I can't help it.
2. Change my opinion as more information/progress is made available to the public.
I'm excited that honey bees and pollinators in general are getting publicity. I'm also excited that another large entity has recognized the issue and has stepped up to help create a plan.

I'm optimistic that those who have the technology and resources available will step in to help.

I am, however, also a little unsure at what the outcome might include. What if the outcome includes more regulations, fees of some sort, mandated registries, obstacles and restrictions for urban or hobbyist beekeepers? I'm not sure I want the government to be that tightly integrated into my beekeeping adventure/hobby. I welcome the extra help, research and funding to determine how to help honey bees and other pollinators, but I can't help being just a little pessimistic. OK I'll admit it, I'm probably way too pessimistic and need to focus more on the optimistic side.


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