The plight of the United States bee population has reached a fever pitch in terms of awareness in recent years, and yet few things have changed in terms of what’s being done to protect them and prevent colony collapse disorder.
While environmental organizations and individual people (including actor Morgan Freeman, believe it or not) have taken it upon themselves to help support the bees, the U.S. government and the EPA have been slow to act, failing to take the same steps that Europe has taken to protect pollinators (such as banning the controversial neonic class of pesticides).
Now, an “alarming” landmark has been reached, as the plight of seven species of bees in one state has been drawing national attention.
“The Bees Were Doing a Lot Worse Than We Thought”
According to several reports including this one from Science Alert, seven species of bees in Hawaii have been added to the endangered species list, making them the first bee species in the United States to gain protection at the federal level under the Endangered Species Act.
The hope now is that steps will be taken to save these bee species of the yellow-faced variety, which include the following: Hylaeus anthracinus, Hylaeus longiceps, Hylaeus assimulans, Hylaeus facilis, Hylaeus hilaris, Hylaeus kuakea, and Hylaeus mana.
According to researchers, the bees, which traverse a wide variety of terrain and rely on nectar from native plants, are being threatened mainly by a combination of human development and invasive species.
“What we saw was really alarming—the bees were doing a lot worse than we thought,” says Cynthia King, an entomologist with Hawaii’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife.
There is also the question of whether pesticides may be having an effect, although the aforementioned two potential causes are said to be the biggest.
Over the years most of Hawaii has remained a paradise, but several sections of it are now anything but as the islands have become a testing ground for Monsanto and other agrochemical corporations.
While acres and acres of GM crops are being tested, toxic pesticides are also being sprayed en masse, and many of them are linked to the destruction of bee habitats and bees themselves. Neonicotinoid (seed coating) pesticides can also spread through the environment and kill bees.
Eric Lee-Mäder of the non-profit organization that petitioned to label the bees as endangered, the Xerces Society, said the following to CNN: “Native pollinators in the U.S. provide essential pollination services to agriculture which are valued at more than $9 billion annually.”
“These bees require a habitat with a diversity of plants that flower throughout the year so that a consistent source of pollen and nectar is available,” the organization continued.
While the bees are localized in Hawaii, the news of their dwindling numbers has made national headlines and raised more awareness as to the plight of bees in general.
Recently, environmental activists sued in order to add the rusty patched bumblebee to the endangered species list.
And has also been reported that U.S. beekeepers lost as much as 44% of all colonies in the past year, a loss that is deemed “unsustainable” for the country’s beekeeping industry.
For more information on the Hawaiian bees and their inclusion on the endangered list, you can check out the full article from Science Alert here.