Federal government announces plans to support bees amid population decline

RICHMOND, Calif. (KTVU) - The alarming plunge in bee populations, with 40 percent fewer colonies than a year ago, now has the full attention and resources of the White House.

Whether it's due to bacteria, environmental disruptions, parasites, pesticides or the simple lack of food due to less things to pollinate, bees are dying in enormous numbers.

The federal government announced efforts Tuesday to support the bees that contribute mightily to the U.S. economy.

As they feed themselves, bees are responsible for pollinating 90 commercial crops from almonds to zucchini. They are critical to California agribusiness and consumers.

The White House announced plans to dedicate 7 million acres of federal land, a total acreage larger than the state of Oregon, to plant bee, monarch butterfly and other pollinator friendly plants.

Federal buildings and facilities will also be landscaped with bee friendly food source plants. The Administration also plans to vastly increase research money to get to the bottom of what's causing the die off.

Researchers, such as Elina Nino of the UC Davis Bee Lab, say farmers should plant bee friendly plants before and after their main crops. "They should be providing forage for the honey bees or other pollinators before and after the crop that the honey bees are pollinating," says Professor Nino. "It's also very important for the general public to do what they can to contribute to this," she says.

At Annie's Annuals and Perennials in Richmond, water tolerant but bee friendly plants are emphasized because backyards and gardens can provide many millions more acres of pollinator friendly habitat. "We have, you know, the ability to have the diversity in our urban planted spaces too.

"A lot of agricultural stuff, it's one enormous crop," says Pixie Brownell, a bee and plant expert. He adds we can save the bees and our crops. "I think it's pretty easy. I think if you focus on making your planted spaces pollinator friendly, it kind of takes over for itself," says Pixie.