According to the USDA, one out of every three bites of food depends on bees, butterflies, bats and other organisms that offer an estimated $20 billion worth of pollination for American crops each year.
That crucial role pollinators play is the driving force behind the Pollinator Partnership's National Pollinator Week, which kicked off Monday and runs through June 23. The designation has been adopted also by the Department of the Interior and the USDA.
The week is intended as a period of reflection on pollinators' role in crop production, providing healthy watersheds, supporting terrestrial wildlife and contributing to the ecosystem.
"Six years ago 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 Partnerships' dedicated website explains.
Dwindling populations have cast a light on the otherwise quiet issue, and recent movements in Europe and from several top agricultural companies have kept the message of pollinators' importance going strong.
Concern hit a fever pitch this spring with the European Commission's April decision to move forward with a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides, which some believe have an effect on bee health.
The decision came the same week Bayer Cropsciences and Syngenta unveiled a plan to improve research on bee health and as Syngenta's CEO John Atkin put it, address the "real causes of declining bee populations."
Though a similar bee health program had been previously established, the companies' new program focused on the EU, establishing more monitoring programs, investment in research and technology and better bee habitats.
Bayer said Monday it would continue its efforts to foster bee health through several Pollinator Week activities, including an employee-focused event to promote pollinator education. The mobile Bee Care Tour exhibit will also be on display.
“Bayer strongly believes that pollinator education and awareness are at the core of increasing support for pollinator health,” said Jim Blome, company CEO. “National Pollinator Week affords us the opportunity to shine a spotlight on pollinator health and collaborate with stakeholders and the broader community.”
Bayer also renewed its Pollinator Pledge as part of the week's activities, which renews promotion efforts and a partnership with the North American Pollinator Campaign, a tri-national collaboration focusing on all pollinating animals.
Through the Pollinator Pledge, Bayer will contribute $1 for each person who requests a free packet of wildflower seeds to start their own pollinator garden.
Though an exact cause for declining pollinator populations – specifically bees – is unknown, the USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency in a report issued in May described the issue of bee decline as a "complex problem" and will require continued research to fully understand.
Officials cited parasites, lack of genetic diversity and poor nutrition as possible causes. Additionally, the report called for greater research and collaboration to procure timely information regarding colony collapses and die-offs.
As the Pollinator Week caps off a year of bee-focused reports and action plans, a special festival July 21 in Washington, D.C., will cap off the week. The festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. outside of the USDA headquarters.