The orange groves in Fort Myers, Fla., have turned to poison for David Mendes’ honeybees. The onetime winter havens for bees have been treated with a popular pesticide that he says kills his livelihood.
States and the federal government are searching for ways to protect managed bees like Mendes’ and their wild counterparts. The White House issued a strategy in May to promote the health of honeybees and at least 24 states have enacted laws to protect bees and other pollinators such as bats, birds and butterflies.
Of the 100 crops that supply about 90% of the food for most of the world, 71 are pollinated by bees. Pollination has a direct effect on the quality of food and the diversity of crops. Declines in bee populations mean fruit and vegetables are less available and more expensive.
Though the number of honeybee colonies managed by beekeepers appears to be on the rise for the first time since “colony collapse disorder” was identified in 2006, U.S. bee populations have not returned to what they had been before a devastating parasite appeared in the late 1980s, causing the loss of up to 70% of managed bee colonies.