US wild bee numbers decline as land is converted for biofuel
By Paul Homewood
h/t Mark Hodgson
Matt McGrath might be headed for the BBC’s Correction Centre!
Wild bees in the US have declined in many farming areas according to the first national effort to map their numbers.
The study suggests that between 2008 and 2013, the numbers of wild bees went down across almost a quarter of the US.
The researchers say that the conversion of land to grow corn for biofuels is a key element in the decline.
If the trend continues say the scientists, it could drive up costs and destabilise crop production….
The most important reason for the decline in numbers according to the authors is the increased demand for biofuels, which has seen more land turned over to growing grains. US law requires that all gasoline sold contains at least 10% ethanol, mostly made from corn.
In the areas that have seen the most serious reduction in wild bees, there have been 200% increases in the amount of corn planted.
"The pattern we show is consistent with the expansion of corn for ethanol, the reduction of areas around fields that weren’t cultivated before," said senior author, Prof Taylor Ricketts from the University of Vermont.
"They are going back into production and those are the areas that were providing good habitat for wild bees."
While concerns over bee decline in Europe have focussed on the impact of neonicotinoid chemicals on insects of all varieties, this study wasn’t able to extract specific information on the use of pesticides.
However the authors are in little doubt that chemicals are having an impact.
"If you look at the maps, the places that show the lowest abundance is essentially a map of intensified agriculture in the US," said Prof Ricketts.
"That’s a footprint of agriculture’s effect on bees, and its a habitat loss thing and it’s also a chemicals and pesticides thing for sure."