WASHINGTON, June 18, 2014 - It’s National Pollinator Week and groups concerned about the decline in the honey bee population are seeking support for a bill in Congress that would encourage state highway departments to develop unused highway right-of-ways for forage for the insect.

H.R. 4790, introduced last month and sponsored by Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., and Jeff Denham, R-Calif., is known as the Highways Bettering the Economy and Environment Pollinator Protection Act (Highways BEE Act).

Pollinator groups say there are about 17 million acres of right-of-ways managed by state transportation departments that could provide habitat and forage for honey bees and Monarch butterflies.

Also this week, the White House is expected to announce an initiative to improve protection for pollinators in light of population declines, particularly among bees.

The announcement is expected to be a multi-stakeholder initiative, but environmental groups like Friends of the Earth and organizations representing crop protection, including CropLife America, clash over the causes of so-called Colony Collapse Disorder.

Friends of the Earth and allies submitted policy recommendations to the White House for the initiative, urging decisive action to protect pollinators from neonicotinoid pesticides, which they say are the main contributor to bee deaths. However, several studies indicate that a variety of factors are responsible, including pesticides, declining forage and the Varroa mite. 

“Many in the beekeeping and scientific community have confirmed that the Varroa mite is the most harmful pest to honey bees,” said Jay Vroom, president and CEO of CropLife America, in a press release. “CLA hopes to see more research conducted on the Varroa mite, as well as potential tactics that incorporate the use of specialized crop protection products.” 


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