When President Obama exclaimed, “Bees are good!” while the insects sent small children screaming in fear around the White House lawn during this year’s Easter Egg Roll, he wasn’t only trying to get kids to be quiet so he could read Where the Wild Things Are.
No, he was apparently also making a policy statement! Today, the White House announced the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, which happens to be bureaucratese for “Bees Are Good.”
As the Department of Agriculture reminded the U.S. this week, honeybees have been dying in large numbers the past few years; scientists credit the mass deaths to parasites, pesticides, and a loss of plant diversity due to fields that only grow one type of crop — which doesn’t give the bees a very varied diet.
Since honeybees play a large role in giving Americans healthy food, and their future absence could cause food prices to skyrocket, the White House would like to keep them alive by restoring 7 million acres for pollinator habitats. It is also researching pesticides to determine how safe they are — and if they can be improved.
"Honey bee pollination alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year," Dr. John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, wrote in a White House blog post today, explaining another reason the White House might be interested in saving the bees. The White House is also interested in protecting the monarch butterfly, which has not done so well in recent years, and other pollinators like birds and bats.
It might not be possible for the White House to do everything in its new plan — the president is asking Congress to appropriate an additional $34 million to honeybee research and protection, the type of ask that hasn’t fared too well during the Obama presidency.
Obama has also seemed pretty determined about saving the bees for a while, as the Washington Post reported this morning. When a honeybee-pin-wearing National Medal of Science winner thanked him for his focus on bees, the president replied, “I do care about bees — and we’re going to fix them!”