PNS Daily Newscast - April 24, 2019 

The Supreme Court considers U.S. Census citizenship question – we have a pair of reports. Also on the Wednesday rundown: A look at how poor teacher pay and benefits can threaten preschoolers' success. And the Nevada Assembly votes to restore voting rights for people who've served their time in prison.

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The Stinging Truth About the Honeybee Decline

Honeybee bees are responsible for more than $20 billion of the U.S. economy. (Pixabay)
Honeybee bees are responsible for more than $20 billion of the U.S. economy. (Pixabay)
May 18, 2016

LANSING, Mich. - Honeybee populations in the United States dropped by 44 percent last year, according to a new national survey.

Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food futures campaigner with the group Friends of the Earth, says bees are essential to agriculture, responsible for more than $20 billion of the U.S. economy, and they contribute $217 billion globally.

She isn't convinced that varroa mites, cited in the report as one contributing factor, are to blame because she says beekeepers have been effectively managing mites for decades.

"What's new and used pervasively, in agriculture and in our own backyards, is pesticides," says Finck-Haynes. "These pesticides are problematic because they'll kill bees outright. They also weaken their immune system."

Scientists with Bayer, a leading pesticide producer, say bee losses can be mitigated if mites are managed better and the company suggests colonies can simply be replaced.

Finck-Haynes argues that losing more than 40 percent of all bees every year is unsustainable. She points to meta-analysis of more than 1,200 peer-reviewed studies connecting bee declines to exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides used heavily on plants that bees pollinate.

Finck-Haynes says just two years after Italy banned neonicotinoids, bee populations nearly doubled. She adds the controversial pesticide is prohibited in Europe, but continues to be widely used in the U.S.

"What we need from EPA is for them to adopt a federal unified plan, and to place very strong restrictions on these pesticides and really pull them from the market, because we know that's the best way that they can protect the bees," Finck-Haynes says.

Last year, the EPA passed a moratorium on new uses of neonicotinoids, and in January, the agency released a preliminary report that confirmed the risk to bees.

Finck-Haynes predicts the longer the U.S. waits to act, the worse the situation becomes for farmers, beekeepers and the ecosystems that support the nation's food supply.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI