What You Should Know About The Drastic Decline Of Wild Bees

We owe a lot to wild bees.

The buzzing insects are crucial pollinators for many agricultural crops, from pumpkins and squashes to peaches and apples. It turns out, however, that wild bee populations are on the decline in some of the main U.S. farmlands that need them the most.

A team of researchers across the country identified these at-risk regions this month in the first national map of dwindling bee populations, which was published Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

HuffPost Science recently posed a series of questions about wild bee populations and why we should be concerned to Dr. Insu Koh, a post-doc research associate at the University of Vermont who led the team. What follows is a lightly edited version of our discussion.

Your research showed that populations of wild bees have declined significantly since 2008 in many of the nation’s key agricultural areas. Where was the decline most severe?

We identified 139 counties in key agricultural areas, including California Central Valley, the Pacific Northwest and the upper Midwest, that are suffering from wild bee population decline and high demand of crop pollination. I made an app to show where these mismatches are currently.

Bee populations have long been known to be in decline. Was there anything surprising in your finding?

Now we have a map of the hotspots. It’s the first national portrait of pollinator status and impacts in the U.S. This study highlighted that this decline occurs in agriculturally intensive areas, rather than natural areas. These areas are also the most important areas for U.S. agricultural production, comprising 39 percent of the U.S. cropland.

Surprisingly, the study suggests some of the crops most dependent on pollinators — including pumpkins, watermelons, pears, peaches, plums, apples and blueberries — have —> Read More