Wild bee decline threatens U.S. crop production

The first national study to map U.S. wild bees suggests they're disappearing in many of the country's most-important farmlands.

Rufus Isaacs

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, a USDA-funded effort that supported the new research. 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.

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