Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

The value of smart land management: pollinators edition

Posted by Daniel Hall on November 10, 2007

The CS Monitor had a recent article that followed up on the collapse of honeybee colonies. It turned out to be a smaller problem than many feared:

Last fall, honeybee hives began showing up mysteriously vacant. Entire adult bee populations seemingly vanished without a trace, often leaving the queen, juveniles, and honey behind.

By spring, what beekeepers had called “autumn collapse” or “fall dwindle dis­­ease” had a new name: Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). CCD hit nearly one-quarter of commercial beekeeping operations in the United States. Affected operations lost between 50 and 90 percent of their hives. …

Ultimately, pollination went smoothly this year. Imported bees replenished domestic stocks, and good weather aided weak hives.

What I found most interesting about the article, however, is that natural wild pollinator species could be doing a lot more of the pollinating for U.S. agriculture if there were smarter land management practices and less reliance on monocultures:

…honeybees’ predicament has brought long-sought attention to the usefulness – and plight – of natural pollinators. …in a forthcoming study in Ecology Letters, Rachael Winfree, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of California, Berkeley, finds that, when present, wild pollinators can do much of the pollinating.

In the New Jersey watermelon farms she studied, they did 90 percent. As compared with the vast monocultural fields of California’s Central Valley or the Great Plains, the eastern agricultural landscape is dominated by many small farms interspersed with patches of natural habitat.

Check the article out, there’s plenty of interesting info, including this tidbit:

Dry conditions also contributed to a record low honey harvest – 150 million pounds compared with the usual 200 million to 250 million…

Expect to pay more for honey this year.

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