By NOAH WILSON-RICH
Read full article: New York Times.com
To make our pollination practices efficient once again, we need to pay attention to the data. Just last year, Jeffery S. Pettis of the United States Department of Agriculture and his colleagues published data indicating that honeybees appeared to be getting credit from farmers for work that other bee species were actually doing. We continue to get crops of blueberries, cranberries, cucumbers, watermelons and pumpkins, but honeybee hives in those fields are not filled with pollen from those crops.
If honeybees aren’t pollinating them, then what is? The answer most likely lies with the lesser-known 20,000 or so related species of bee. These other bee species could be affected by factors that caused C.C.D. or other honeybee diseases; we just don’t know. We need more research into these other pollinator species in order to make our agricultural system more efficient, increase crop yields, reduce food costs for the consumer, and get those honeybees off flatbed trucks.
Behavioral economics can help us find solutions to the agricultural efficiency challenge by creating financial incentives for bee-friendly farming practices. Outdated monoculture farming subsidies like those that go to corn growers should be diverted to farmers and growers who are planting a diversity of crops, including wildflowers. Federal tax incentives should go to farmers, beekeepers and everyday citizens who opt for permanent pollinator sources.
Bees are not the only ones that would benefit from these policy changes; many farmers would see an increase in sustainability and profitability. It’s a Band-Aid solution, but it can work.
The future of bees — all bees, not just honeybees — remains obscure. But it isn’t just government policy that needs to change. To make the natural world after C.C.D. a better place, we all need to start doing things differently.