The population of wild bees, insects known for being crucial pollinators for several crops, is falling in some of the major agricultural territories in the United States. This has been revealed by a research team that worked to produce the first ever national map sketching bee populations. The study also allowed the researchers to identify a number of trouble spots.
Researchers involved in the study cited a total of 139 counties to be particularly worrisome with a number of wild bees decreasing and farmland with crops dependent on bees as pollinators increasing. The list of 139 counties included some of the most prominent agricultural regions in California, for instance, Central Valley, upper Midwest and Great Plains, Pacific Northwest, southern Mississippi River valley, and west Texas.
The counties tagged by the scientists to be especially worrisome are known for growing crops like squashes, pumpkins, almonds, blueberries, apples, peaches and watermelons, all of which are highly reliant on pollinators. These areas are also known for growing huge amounts of comparatively less-pollinator-dependent crops like cotton, canola and soybeans.
Taylor Ricketts, the director of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont, said that the 139 counties listed by the researchers are home to as much as 39% of America’s pollinator-dependent crop areas and are at maximum risk of facing insufficient pollination in the coming years. Ricketts added that decline in wild bee populations might increase expenditure for farmers and may end up destabilizing crop production.
During the study, researchers found that the number of wild bees decreased in nearly 23% of continental United States between the years 2008 and 2013. This decline is a result of the attempt of artificially converting the natural habitat of these insects into farmlands. The other factors leading to decrease in wild population include diseases and pesticides. Here, it must be mentioned that during the study, researchers analyzed data concerning around 4,000 wild bee species found in the United States.
Ricketts informed that wild bees are required for pollinating a large share of the most nutritious crops grown in the US. These insects provide support to natural ecosystems and contribute more than $3 billion to the country’s economy annually.