As an ecosystem ecologist working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pollinators are near and dear to me. Not only are they vital to agricultural production, providing billions of dollars in pollination services for the fruits, nuts and vegetables that contribute to a healthy diet, they are also important members of natural ecosystems, pollinating the plants that many other organisms rely on for food and habitat. Yet pollinators have been having a rocky time, lately. Beekeepers have struggled to maintain their honey bee colonies, the primary pollinators for our crops in the United States. They are managing a suite of simultaneous and interacting stressors to bee health, including severe weather episodes, inadequate nutrition, exposure to pesticides, and numerous damaging pests and diseases. Native pollinators also seem to be struggling with some of these same stressors, as well as land use change and habitat loss. Because of the incredible diversity of native pollinators, we know much less about their individual populations and the factors affecting their health. Read more »
Work at USDA’s National Science Laboratories helps researchers and beekeepers better understand the effects of pesticide residue exposure on honey bees.
This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
In agriculture, buzzing can be music to our ears—especially if that buzz means pollinators are busy helping produce our fruits, nuts, vegetables and field crops. Unfortunately, the sound of my favorite pollinator, the honey bee, has grown fainter in recent years due to higher rates of over-winter colony loss. These losses were initially attributed to a condition described as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
Many factors involved with CCD are not yet fully understood. Honey bee research is focused on gathering data from multiple angles to increase the understanding of overall honey bee health. Many USDA agencies and industry partners are conducting research to better understand the complexities of honey bee health and working to develop best practices to improve the honey bee population. Read more »