Department of Agriculture suspends tracking of dwindling honey bee population

The U.S. Department of Agriculture abruptly suspended all data collection for the Honey Bee Colonies report on Monday, saying that federal budget cuts are responsible for the decision, which comes as the population of honey bees continues to fall across the country, according to HuffPost:

“The number of honey bee hives, vital to pollinating crops for the agricultural industry and other plants for wildlife, plummeted from 6 million in 1947 to 2.4 million in 2008. The worst honeybee hive loss on record occurred last winter as beekeepers reported a 40% loss of their colonies over the year.”

Rebecca Boehm, an economist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the move by the Agriculture Department is part of a larger effort by the Trump administration to ignore problems instead of trying to solve them:

“(This is) yet another example of the Trump administration systematically undermining federal research on food safety, farm productivity, and the public interest writ large.”

Tracking of honey bees is critical to agriculture, because bees are essential as pollinators:

“Bees help pollinate a third of the crops we eat, including almonds, apples, avocados and grapes, but bee populations have been steadily declining since 2006. That’s caused alarm not just in the US but in Europe as well. Pollinators like bees are under threat because of parasites like varroa mites, widespread pesticide use, habitat loss and the climate crisis.”

And this is just the latest move the White House has made that could severely impact honey bee colonies. Just last year the administration reversed an Obama-era rule barring the use of neonicotinoids in wildlife refuges. The chemicals are suspected of contributing to colony collapse disorder, and are deemed “highly toxic” to bees.

Mace Vaughan, co-director of the Pollinator Conservation Program at Xerces Society, told CNN that scrapping the honey bee tracking is a monumental mistake, noting:

“We need some sort of thermometer to be able to determine, at a big scale, are we actually helping to turn around hive loses, to turn around pollinator declines. Understanding what’s going on with honeybees is incredibly important to having a sense of what’s impacting pollinators in general.”

Two other surveys on bees have also been cut back since Trump took office. Those collected data on how farmers pay for honeybees to pollinate their crops and information on honey production in the United States.

 

Featured Image Via Flickr

 

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