CATCH THE BUZZ – U.S. Agencies Need Better Data to Protect Bees, Watchdog Says

By Puneet Kollipara, Science Magazine

Federal agencies need to patch some scientific holes in their ongoing efforts to protect struggling bee populations, according to the nonpartisan watchdog agency of Congress. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) lacks a plan for monitoring populations of certain non–honey bee species, a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) audit argues. And the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) needs to collect data on pesticide mixtures to more accurately assess the risks bees face from the chemicals, GAO says.

Although USDA and EPA have taken “numerous actions to protect the health of honey bees and other species of bees,” beekeepers “continue to report rates of colony losses that they say are not economically sustainable,” the GAO audit says. “Finding solutions to address the wide range of factors that may affect bee health …will be a complex undertaking that may take many years and require advances in science and changes in agricultural and land use practices.”

The 11 March report highlights potential vulnerabilities in how the federal government is acting on recommendations unveiled last May by a multiagency task force convened by President Barack Obama. That task force called “for action, but the GAO report calls for monitored, responsible action,” wrote entomologist Marla Spivak of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, in an email. “I’m happy to see this … report and hope it is heeded.”

For about a decade, beekeepers have reported losing an unusually high number of their colonies each winter. Although scientists are still trying to pin down what’s behind the trend… for the rest of this article click (here)