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USDA efforts to assist honey bees, address colony collapse

Recent studies have shown that beekeepers are losing approximately 30 percent of their honey bee colonies each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, up from historical norms of 10 to 15 percent overwintering losses experienced prior to 2006.

Since 2006, when heightened numbers of honey bee colony losses were first reported, USDA reports significant progress has been made in understanding the factors associated with Colony Collapse Disorder and the overall health of honey bees. The USDA is actively pursuing solutions to the multiple problems affecting honey bee health.

The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) maintains four laboratories across the country conducting research into all aspects of bee genetics, breeding, biology and physiology, with special focus on bee nutrition, control of pathogens and parasites, the effects of pesticide exposure and the interactions between each of these factors.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) supports bee research efforts in Land Grant Universities. The Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) conducts national honey bee pest and disease surveys and provides border inspections to prevent new invasive bee pests from entering the U.S.

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) and NRCS work on improved forage and habitat for bees through programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and EQIP.

Additionally, the Economic Research Service (ERS) is currently examining the direct economic costs of the pollinator problem and the associated indirect economic impacts, and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) conducts limited surveys of honey production, number of colonies, price, and value of production which provide some data essential for research by the other agencies.

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