The USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency Thursday released the results of a scientific report on honeybee health, finding that a multitude of factors are linked to a honeybee population decline, including parasites and disease, genetics, poor nutrition and potential pesticide exposure.
Bob Perciasepe, acting EPA administrator, said Thursday the combination of stressors that bees are experiencing is a "complex problem" and will require continued research to fully understand.
"The report we've released today is the product of unprecedented collaboration, and our work in concert must continue. As the report makes clear, we've made significant progress, but there is still much work to be done to protect the honey bee population," Perciasepe said.
USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan added that bee health is a critical component of the pollination process in agriculture, and represents an important part of long-term productivity.
According to the USDA and EPA, an estimated one-third of all food and beverages are made possible by pollination, mainly by honey bees. In the United States, pollination contributes to crop production worth $20-30 billion in agricultural production annually.
The report concludes that there are several ways to tackle the issue thorough continued research and a good look at potential causes for decline. Recommendations of the report include a focus on:
…Parasites. The parasitic Varroa mite is a major factor in colony loss. The EPA said there is widespread resistance to the chemicals beekeepers use to control mites within the hive, and new species of the mite have been identified.
…Genetic Diversity. EPA and USDA researchers found that greater genetic diversity is needed to improve the way bees handle temperature variation. Inability to thermoregulate, the study found, is the cause of decreased productivity. Additionally, breeding should emphasize traits that are resistant to pests, such as the Varroa mite.