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Jun 20, 2014 12:47 PM by Dave Fields

White House takes steps to save bees nationwide

President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum Friday to create a federal strategy to promote the health of honey bees and other pollinators.

Recently, an increased loss of honey bee colonies has been attributed to a loss of natural forage and inadequate diets, mite infestations and diseases, loss of genetic diversity, and exposure to certain pesticides. The number of managed U.S. honey bee colonies has been in a free fall during the last 60 years, from 6 million colonies (beehives) in 1947 to 4 million in 1970, 3 million in 1990, and just 2.5 million today. Given the heavy dependence of certain crops on commercial pollination, reduced honey bee populations pose a real threat to domestic agriculture.

The White House Press Office reports that "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%. In 2013-14, the overwintering loss rate was 23.2%, down from 30.5% the previous year but still greater than historical averages and the self-reported acceptable winter mortality rate." The high rates of loss, the White House says, is part of "a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder (CCD), in which there is a rapid, unexpected, and catastrophic loss of bees in a hive."

U.S. beekeepers estimate their losses at 10 million beehives worth an approximate current value of $200 each, the White House adds.

The presidential directive is intended to accomplish the following:

--to direct federal resources on research, land management, education, and public/private partnership to improve the health and habitats of honey bees and other pollinators

--to establish 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 that will coordinate efforts between businesses, organizations, and public education

--to direct Task Force agencies to lead and develop plans to increase acreage of pollinator habitats on federal lands in compliance with public safety concerns

--to direct Task Force agencies to partner with state, tribal, and local governments; farmers and ranchers; corporations and small businesses; and non-governmental organizations to protect pollinators and increase the quality and expanse of habitat on which pollinators may forage.

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