US Wild Bee Populations Waning

Study shows declines in bee abundance where pollination services are increasingly in demand.

Dec 23, 2015
Tracy Vence

Anthidium florentinumWIKIMEDIA, ALVESGASPARPopulations of wild bees in the U.S. are dwindling near agricultural sites and other areas where pollination services are needed most, a team led by investigators at the University of Vermont reported in PNAS this week (December 21). The team’s modeling data show drops in bee numbers across 23 percent of the country’s land area between 2008 and 2013.

“If you look at the maps, the places that show the lowest abundance is essentially a map of intensified agriculture in the U.S.,” study coauthor Taylor Ricketts of Vermont told BBC News. Regions that have suffered bee losses overlap with areas that have seen increases in corn planting, the BBC reported.

“Wild bee declines may increase costs for farmers and, over time, could even destabilize crop production,” Ricketts told The Guardian. “Our results highlight the need for strategies to maintain pollinator populations in farmland, and the importance of conservation programs that provide flowering habitat that can support wild bees and other pollinators,” added study coauthor Rufus Isaacs of Michigan State University.