Bees Endangered? Here’s The Rest Of The Story

Bees Endangered? Here’s The Rest Of The Story

Bees on flowers

Growers are more aware of the need to protect pollinators, particularly on plants that are highly attractive to bees. Photo courtesy of Jason Gibbs/Michigan State University Extension.

Recently, mainstream media has reported that certain bee species have been placed on the endangered species list. But the situation isn’t as dire as you might think, namely that the bees in question are relatively obscure species that only live in Hawaii.

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gave endangered species status to seven species of yellow-faced bees native to Hawaii.

According to the Xerces Society, a wildlife conservation organization that advocated for the new designation, these are “the first bees in the country to be protected under the Endangered Species Act.”

Indeed, horticulture industry professionals agree that maintaining pollinator health is vital, and the action to protect the seven species of bees, the only ones native to Hawaii, is important. However, it’s also significant to distinguish that overall, bee health is improving.

According to data released by USDA this year, in 2015, there were 2.66 million commercial honey-producing bee colonies in the U.S. While that number is down slightly from the 2.74 million colonies counted in 2014, which represented a two-decade high, the number of commercial bee colonies in existence is significantly higher than in 2006, when massive die-offs due to colony collapse disorder began to be documented.

Meanwhile, wild bees have their own struggles, and measures put in place by the horticulture industry, including always reading and following chemical labels, implementing integrated pest management into production practices, increasing production of pollinator-attracting plants, and promoting the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge initiative, continue to be important to support pollinator health.

Learn more about how you can get involved in the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. Read about the best annuals and perennials for pollinators in this new publication from Michigan State University.