The dwindling honey bee population spells bad news for the U.S. food industry and economy, the White House announced Friday, and a task force is being set up to address the issue.
The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture will work together to determine the best way to boost conservation of honey bees, as well as monarch butterflies and other pollinators, CNN reports. All are vital, as they pollinate fruit, vegetables, and nuts. Their numbers have decreased due to mite infestations, pesticides, and a loss of genetic diversity, the White House said, bringing the number of managed honey bee colonies down to 2.5 million from 6 million in 1947.
Honey bees enable the production of more than 90 commercially grown crops in North America, and contribute more than $24 billion to the U.S. economy. In California, the almond industry is extremely vulnerable, as almonds can only be pollinated by bees, but there are specific crop issues that must be addressed across the nation. "Pollination is integral to food security in the United States," the White House said.