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GSA Strategizes to Address the Drastic Decline in Honey Bee Population

Honey bees and other pollinators have seen a drastic decline in population nationwide. According to annual surveys taken by beekeepers since 2006, over-wintering losses alone average around 31%, which far exceeds the 15 to 17% over-wintering loss rate that commercial beekeepers state is an economically sustainable average.

These pollinators, mostly honey bees, are responsible for one in every three bites of food we take and increase our nation’s crop values each year by more than 15 billion dollars. With pollinators playing a critical role in maintaining diverse ecosystems and supporting agricultural production, President Obama, established a Pollinator Health Task Force in June 2014 with the Secretary of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator as co-chairs.

The task force created the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators in order to improve the health of honey bees, other managed bees, wild bees, butterflies, birds and bats. The major goals of the strategy are to reduce overwintering honey bee colony mortality by 50% within ten years, increase the Eastern wintering population of the monarch butterfly to 225 million in the next 5 years, and restore/enhance 7 million acres of land for pollinators over the next 5 years.

Federal agencies, including GSA, are fully committed to promoting pollinator health, reversing pollinator decline and providing citizen education and engagement on the subject. GSA revised their guidance documents for designed landscapes and federal buildings by applying pollinator-friendly practices into site landscape performance requirements. The first step was to identify those sites appropriate for the adoption of the Best Management Practices and provide estimates of increased pollinator habitat development. This effort, which started in May 2015, will be undertaken during the next 12 to 18 months. GSA will then assess pollinator health by tracking and evaluating:

  • Population trends and basic biology
  • Environmental stressors
  • Land management
  • Habitat restoration
  • Data gathered

In addition, the agency has provided staff with training on sustainable land development and design through the Sustainable Sites Initiative and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and has an agreement with the U.S. Botanic Garden to develop and provide GSA with a learning module on pollinator basics for design and construction professionals.

While the strategy focuses on federal agencies, both residents and children in communities nationwide can also join the crusade. How?

  • Create a pollinator garden by choosing plants and flowers that provide nectar and pollen throughout the year
  • Carefully read and follow all label directions on pesticides, which can kill pollinators several days after application
  • Take time to learn about the needs of local pollinators

Read more about GSA’s building design standards and criteria.

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