Local Beekeepers React to Plan to Save Bees, Other Pollinators

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COLUMBIA- Local beekeepers said Monday the death rate in their hives is similar to those released by the White House over the weekend. 

President Barack Obama released a memorandum for heads of executive departments and agencies regarding a federal strategy to help save honey bees and other pollinators. 

"Pollination is integral to food security in the United States," the memo said. "Over the past few decades, there has been a significant loss of pollinators, including honey bees, native bees, birds, bats, and butterflies, from the environment."

Jim Davidson, a member of the Boone Regional Bee Keepers Association, has been keeping bees for three years now.

"The first year's hive got robbed out," meaning the bees died, Davidson said. "The second one got through the winter but around the early part of spring, everyone started spraying [pesticide]."

Commercial beekeepers in the United States have seen honey bee colony loss rates increase to an average of 30 percent each winter. The historical loss rate falls in the range of 10 to 15 percent.

In 2013-14, the over-winter loss rate nationally was 23.2 percent, a seven percent decrease from the previous year, but still greater than historical averages and the self-reported acceptable winter mortality rate, according to the White House.

Pesticides are one of the leading causes of bee population decline and colony collapse according to both Davidson and the White House. 

"If you asked ten different people, you'd get ten different answers," Davidson said. "I'm afraid there is no one answer."

Continued loss of honey bees and other pollinators could have a profound impact on the food industry and national economy.

"Pollinators contribute more than $24 billion to the United States economy, of which honey bees account for more than $15 billion through their vital role in keeping fruits, nuts, and vegetables in our diets," the White House said. 

Honey bee pollination allows the production of more than 90 commercially grown crops in North America.