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Wild Bee Decline Still Threatening Crop Production
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 12/22/2015

The first national study to map U.S. wild bees suggests they're disappearing in many of the country's most-important farmlands. If losses of these crucial pollinators continue, the new nationwide assessment indicates that farmers will face increasing costs and that the problem may even destabilize the nation's crop production, said Michigan State University's Rufus Isaacs, co-author and leader of the Integrated Crop Pollination Project. The findings were published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The research team, led by Insu Koh at the University of Vermont, estimates that wild bee abundance between 2008 and 2013 declined in 23 percent of the contiguous U.S. The study also shows that 39 percent of U.S. croplands that depend on pollinators--from apple orchards to pumpkin patches--face a threatening mismatch between rising demand for pollination and a falling supply of wild bees.

In June of 2014, the White House issued a presidential memorandum warning that 'over the past few decades, there has been a significant loss of pollinators, including honey bees, native bees, birds, bats and butterflies.' The memo noted the multibillion dollar contribution of pollinators to the U.S. economy--and called for a national assessment of wild pollinators and their habitats.

Researchers didn't have a national mapped picture about the status of wild bees and their impacts on pollination, even though each year more than $3 billion of the U.S. agricultural economy depends on the pollination services of native pollinators like wild bees, Koh said.

Northwest, the upper Midwest and Great Plains, west Texas and the southern Mississippi River valley that have the most worrisome mismatch between falling wild bee supply and rising crop pollination demand.

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