Issue Date: September 12, 2016
Biofuel production destroying midwest bee habitat
Ploughing under prairie grasses and replacing them with corn and soybean crops for ethanol and other biofuels is destroying bees preferred habitat and harming midwestern bee colonies, according to U.S. Geological Survey scientists (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2016, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1603481113). Looking at cropland in South and North Dakota, the scientists report that these land use changes affect habitat for more than 40% of U.S. commercial bee colony stock. They note that commercial beekeepers in the U.S. Northern Great Plains want to avoid corn and soybean crops because they are not as favorable for bees as grasslands. The scientists found an increase between 2006 and 2014 in biofuel crops of almost 3 million acres around apiaries mainly located in the Dakota’s prairie pothole region. Most of the commercial honey bee colonies in the area provide pollination services for crops such as almonds, melons, apples, and cherries elsewhere in the U.S., the scientists add. The region has served as refuge for commercial beekeepers because of the abundance of uncultivated pasture and rangelands, the scientists say.
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