USDA Acts To Stop Honeybee Loss | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: July 18, 2007

USDA Acts To Stop Honeybee Loss

Scientists will examine unexplained collapse of nation???s honeybee colonies
Department: Government & Policy | Collection: Critter Chemistry

Government scientists have put together a plan to investigate the significant decline in the honeybee population in at least 22 states, a puzzling development that has the potential to cause billions of dollars' worth of damage to crops nationwide.

"There were enough honeybees to provide pollination for U.S. agriculture this year, but beekeepers could face a serious problem next year and beyond," says Gale A. Buchanan, USDA's undersecretary for research, education, and economics.

USDA has identified four possible causes for the decline: new or reemerging pathogens, new pests or parasites, environmental or nutritional stress, or pesticides.

Under an "action plan" released on July 13, federal researchers will conduct new surveys to obtain an accurate picture of honeybee colony production and health. They will then collect and analyze bee samples to determine the prevalence of various pests and pathogens and exposure to pesticides. The scientists will examine the potential causes of colony collapses and develop strategies for improving bee health and habitat and countering known mortality factors.

Honeybees pollinate more than 130 crops in the U.S. and add $15 billion in crop value annually, according to the Agricultural Research Service, USDA???s scientific research agency. Recently, more than one-quarter of the nation???s honeybees have disappeared, a decrease the department calls colony collapse disorder.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, says she will try to include funding in the 2007 farm bill to further address the honeybee decline.

Last month, Boxer introduced the Pollinator Protection Act, a bill that would authorize $89 million in federal funding over five years for research and grant programs at USDA for work on the honeybee problem.

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