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Home / Resources by Subject / Colony Collapse Disorder and Pollinator Health

Colony Collapse Disorder and Pollinator Health

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Bee pollinating

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is the sudden die-off of honey bee colonies. Pollination is vital to our survival and the existence of nearly all ecosystems on earth. One-third of our diet comes from insect-pollinated plants, and the honeybee is responsible for 80% of that pollination. CCD threatens not only pollination and honey production but, much more, this crisis threatens to wipe out the production of crops dependent on bees for pollination. 

Pollinators contribute more than $24 billion to the U.S. economy, with $15 billion coming from honeybees alone. Considering this dependency, reduced honeybee and pollinator populations pose a serious risk to domestic agriculture, ecological health, and the U.S. economy. 

There have been many theories about the cause of CCD, but the researchers who are leading the effort to find out why are now focused on various factors (Source: Environmental Protection Agency - Colony Collapse Disorder):

  • Increased losses due to the invasive varroa mite (a pest of honey bees).
  • New or emerging diseases such as Israeli Acute Paralysis virus and the gut parasite Nosema.
  • Pesticide poisoning through exposure to pesticides applied to crops or for in-hive insect or mite control.
  • Stress bees experience due to management practices such as transportation to multiple locations across the country for providing pollination services.
  • Changes to the habitat where bees forage.
  • Inadequate forage/poor nutrition.
  • Potential immune-suppressing stress on bees caused by one or a combination of factors identified above.

Spotlights

USDA. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is allocating more than $70 million to support 383 projects under the Plant Protection Act’s Section 7721 program to strengthen the nation’s infrastructure for pest detection and surveillance, identification, threat mitigation, to safeguard the nursery production system and to respond to plant pest emergencies. Universities, states, federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, nonprofits, and Tribal organizations will carry out selected projects in 49 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico.

The fiscal year 2021 project list includes 29 projects funded through the National Clean Plant Network (NCPN). The NCPN helps our country maintain the infrastructure necessary to ensure that pathogen-free, disease-free and pest-free certified planting materials for fruit trees, grapes, berries, citrus, hops, sweet potatoes, and roses are available to U.S. specialty crop producers. In FY 2021, funded projects include, among others:

  • Asian giant hornet research and eradication efforts: $944,116 in Washington and other states;
  • Exotic fruit fly survey and detection: $5,575,000 in Florida and California;
  • Agriculture detector dog teams: $4,287,097 to programs in California, Florida, and nationally to support detector dog teams;
  • Honey bee and pollinator health: $1,337,819 to protect honey bees, bumble bees and other important pollinators from harmful pests;
  • Phytophthora ramorum (sudden oak death pathogen) and related species: $513,497 in 14 states and nationally for survey, diagnostics, mitigation, probability modeling, genetic analysis, and outreach;

USDA will use $14 million to rapidly respond to invasive pest emergencies should a pest of high economic consequence be found in the United States. Learn more about the Plant Protection Act, Section 7721 on the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) website: www.aphis.usda.gov/ppa-projects.

USDA. Blog.

Bees and other pollinators, including birds, bats, butterflies, moths, flies, wasps, beetles, and small mammals, play a critical role in our food production system. A healthy pollinator population is vital to producing marketable commodities. More than 100 U.S. grown crops rely on pollinators. The added revenue to crop production from pollinators is valued at $18 billion. Pollinators also support healthy ecosystems needed for clean air, stable soils, and a diverse wildlife. That’s why USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) partners with the Land-Grant University System, U.S. government laboratories, and private and non-profit organizations to support research, education, and extension programs advancing pollinator health.

USDA. ARS. Tellus.

Scientists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture are studying ways to keep honeybees stress-free and healthy. These pollinators are important to American agriculture and our nation’s food crops.

USDA. National Institute of Food and Agriculture; University of New Hampshire.
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have found a dramatic decline of 14 wild bee species that are, among other things, important across the Northeast for the pollination of major local crops like apples, blueberries and cranberries.

“We know that wild bees are greatly at risk and not doing well worldwide,” said Sandra Rehan, assistant professor of biological sciences. “This status assessment of wild bees shines a light on the exact species in decline, beside the well-documented bumble bees. Because these species are major players in crop pollination, it raises concerns about compromising the production of key crops and the food supply in general.”

Selected Resources

The section below contains highly relevant resources for this subject, organized by source. Or, to display all related content view all resources for Colony Collapse Disorder and Pollinator Health

Partnership
Pollinator Partnership.
The Pollinator Partnership’s mission is to promote the health of pollinators, critical to food and ecosystems, through conservation, education, and research. Signature initiatives include the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NPPC), National Pollinator Week, and the Ecoregional Planting Guides.
See also: North America Pollinator Protection Campaign: Wildlife Fact Sheet - Invasive Species (PDF | 156 KB) and North America Mite-A-Thon (national effort to collect infestation data and to visualize Varroa infestations in honey bee colonies across North America within a one week window.

Pollinator Partnership.

National Pollinator Week is a time to celebrate pollinators and spread the word about what you can do to protect them. In 2007, the U.S. Senate’s unanimous approval and designation of a week in June as “National Pollinator Week” marked a necessary step toward addressing the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. Pollinator Week has now grown into an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles.

See also: Pollinator Week Proclamations Span the United States and Galvanize Citizens (Jul 19, 2019 | PDF 65 KB) -- June 17-23, 2019
ALL 50 state governors (and many mayors), have signed proclamations supporting the observance of National Pollinator Week. In addition, more than 350 events (breaking all previous records) across North America and the world are registered through P2’s Pollinator Week web site.

US National Native Bee Monitoring Network.

There are more than 4,000 native bee species in the United States, with many species yet to be described. These native bees pollinate our native plants and agricultural crops, add beauty to our world, and are deserving of protection. The US National Native Bee Monitoring Research Coordination Network (RCN) is a USDA-funded effort to coordinate and support efforts to monitor native bee populations in the US, with the broader goal of conserving our nation's native bee fauna.

From 2020-2023, native bee biologists from across the US will work together to develop a national plan for native bee monitoring. The plan will include components such as monitoring protocols and the designation of priority areas for monitoring. The RCN will also develop new educational and training opportunities in areas that are fundamental to native bee monitoring.

See also: How You Can Help Count and Conserve Native Bees (New York Times, Dec 9, 2020)

Federal Government

USDA. National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced seven grants totaling $6.8 million for research and extension projects to sustain healthy populations of pollinators, which are crucial to the nation’s food security and environmental health. The funding is made possible through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

“An estimated $15 billion worth of crops, including more than 90 fruits and vegetables, are pollinated by honey bees alone,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “With the recent declines in pollinator populations owing to various factors, it is imperative that we invest in research to promote pollinator health, reduce honey bee colony losses, and restore pollinator habitats.”

White House. President Barack Obama (archives).
See also: Announcing New Steps to Promote Pollinator Health (May 19, 2015), which includes the "National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators" and the "Pollinator Research Action Plan" both released in May 2015.
USDA. Agricultural Research Service.
USDA. ARS. Bee Research Laboratory.
USDA. National Agricultural Statistics Service.
In 2016 NASS began to collect data on honey bee health and pollination costs. Provides reliable, up-to-date statistics help track honey bee mortality.
USDA. APHIS. Plant Protection and Quarantine.
DOI. Fish and Wildlife Service.
USDA. Forest Service.
Environmental Protection Agency.
Pesticide risk management must be based on sound science, consistent with the laws under which pesticides are regulated in the United States. EPA has been working aggressively to protect bees and other pollinators from pesticide exposure.
Professional

National Conference of State Legislatures.

National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) tracks environment and natural resources legislation to bring you up-to-date, real-time information on bills (from 2015) that have been introduced in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. Database provides search options by state (or territory), topic, keyword, year, status or primary sponsor. Topics include: Wildlife-Invasive Species and Wildlife-Pollinators.

National Conference of State Legislatures.

Includes a summary of federal and state actions (including state pollinator laws).