Bee population shrinking, government action required

Caroline Davenport, Contributing Writer

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This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

This month, the United States added seven bee species found in Hawaii to the national endangered and threatened species lists. This addition follows news that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed adding the rusty-patched bumble bee to the list. This bee was present in the upper Midwest and Northeastern U.S., and, if added, it would be the first bee species in the continental U.S. to make the list.

Though this news is certainly alarming, the disappearance of bees is nothing new. The federal government, however, must propose a concrete plan addressing the problem, or our ecosystems and food supply will suffer.

Over the past several years, beekeepers have seen their populations plummet. The U.S. Department of Agriculture found that from 2014 to 2015, beekeepers saw their populations drop 42.1 percent. It was first thought to be due to colony collapse disorder, which can reduce hive numbers by 30 to 90 percent. Recent investigations into the phenomenon have brought other factors to light.

Many influences – pesticide use, global climate change, the introduction of invasive species, habitat loss and illnesses – all play a role in bee deaths.

President Barack Obama’s 2014 task force of Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture scientists found neonicotinoid pesticides to be one of the primary threats to bees’ survival. The use of these “neonics,” which has increased 11-fold since 2013, makes bees more susceptible to illnesses. Despite inquiry and research into this problem, there is no definite scientific consensus and no path forward has been outlined.

Urban beekeeping has gained traction in many cities across the country. Citizens are becoming aware of the crisis, and many have taken action to combat it. One example is Tulane’s own Apiculture Society. The organization, created last year, hopes to raise bees on campus in the future. Efforts such as these are concentrated and limited, and they are ultimately not enough to save the bees.

We need extensive government intervention to protect the world’s most important pollinator. Possible solutions include de-escalating our use of neonics and protecting bee habitats.

The disappearance of bees is real, widespread and imminent. One third of the food on our plates is dependent on bees’ pollination, and by dragging our feet on this issue, our long-term food security is in jeopardy. Weak government intervention on the issue scatters our efforts to combat the problem.

Caroline Davenport is a student at Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached at [email protected]