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Summer Bees are Buzzing, But For How Long?

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Thursday, June 27, 2019   

ST. PAUL, Minn. – One out of every three bites of food you eat is dependent on pollinators doing their jobs – and threats to those pollinators are at an all-time high.

About 400 native pollinator species live in Minnesota, including the rusty patched bumblebee, recently named the official state bee.

For decades, it was one of the most commonly seen bumblebees in the Midwest, but it's now limited to only a few spots, mostly around urban areas, including the Twin Cities.

Daniel Raichel, a staff attorney for the Pollinator Initiative of the Natural Resources Defense Council, says the main reasons bee populations are declining globally can be traced to pesticides, loss of habitat and climate change.

"We're recording the highest winter losses for honeybees ever, and those are an indicator species, right?” he points out. “That's kind of the canary in the coal mine."

Raichel says upwards of 75% of plants require animal pollinators, such as bees or butterflies.

In an effort to boost their populations, Minnesota's governor signed a law this month that provides nearly a million dollars for the Lawns to Legumes program to pay homeowners up to 75% of the costs of converting their turf lawns to native pollinator-friendly habitat.

In Minnesota, $60 million of agriculture products depend on pollinators. But Raichel says the widespread use of new pesticides known as neonicotinoids or neonics, has proved lethal to bees since their introduction around 2006.

"That's almost exactly the same time that you see widespread use of these neonic pesticides across the country, and that's use in agriculture, home gardens, use on golf courses," he states.

The European Union has banned the use of three neonics for outdoor use, while France has banned five.

The rusty patched bumblebee was the first bumblebee to be designated as an endangered species, but remains under threat as the U.S. Interior Department continues efforts to weaken protections for listed species.


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