On May 19, the White House released its Pollinator Plan created by a Pollinator Health Task Force it established in June 2014 in response to the serious decline of pollinator populations in the United States and around the world.
According to the Feb. 9, 2015, Congressional Research Service report “Bee Health: The Role of Pesticides,” “The precise reasons for honey bee loss are unknown.” In fact, science suggests multiple factors for the decline in bee health, including parasites, diet and nutrition, lack of genetic diversity, habitat loss, beekeeping practices, weather and disease.
The White House is attempting to address the issue with its Pollinator Strategy that has three overarching goals:
- Honey Bees: Reduce honey bee colony losses during winter (overwintering mortality) to no more than 15% within 10 years. This goal is informed by the previously released Bee Informed Partnership surveys and the newly established quarterly and annual surveys by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. Based on the robust data anticipated from the national, statistically-based NASS surveys of beekeepers, the Task Force will develop baseline data and additional goal metrics for winter, summer and total annual colony loss.
- Monarch Butterflies: Increase the eastern population of the monarch butterfly to 225 million butterflies occupying an area of approximately 15 acres (6 hectares) in the overwintering grounds in Mexico, through domestic/international actions and public-private partnerships, by 2020.
- Pollinator Habitat Acreage: Restore or enhance 7 million acres of land for pollinators over the next 5 years through federal actions and public/private partnerships.
The plan also discusses pesticide-specific provisions that the Environmental Protection Agency has taken or plans to take to protect pollinators from exposure to pesticides. Click here to read about the provisions.
BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES
The landscape industry takes its role as an environmental steward very seriously and is committed to educating others on responsible pesticide use to help protect pollinators.
The National Association of Landscape Professionals promotes the use of the best management practices to protect pollinators (click here to read our BMPs). We agree that there is a need for, as the president said, “an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to promoting pollinator health, including engagement of citizens and communities and the forging of public-private partnerships.”
- The landscape industry supports pollinators through the care of plants in the landscape that are their habitat.
- Landscape professionals practice responsible and vital pest control services that remove pest that are detrimental to the landscape.
- Landscape Professionals use EPA and State registered pesticides, in accordance with application guidelines, to control harmful pests, like ticks, and weeds that cause allergies.
- Many bee colonies are now stable. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates of overwinter bee colony losses have averaged more than 30% annually in recent years, but many beekeepers have been able to replace lost hives.
- Even though the cause of colony collapse is unknown, there are pests that are attacking honeybees, one of which is the varroa mite. A 2013 joint USDA and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report found the varroa mite as the “most detrimental pest of honeybees.”
- Some people have singled out pesticides like neonicotinoids as the primary cause for the decline in bee health, when in fact the exact cause is unknown.