Where the Wild Stings Are

For the first time, researchers have mapped wild bee habitat across the United States.

December 30, 2015

Koh et al, 2015Illustrated by Koh et al., 2015

Back in 2014, President Obama released a memorandum calling for assessments of native pollinators and their habitats. “Over the past few decades, there has been a significant loss of pollinators, including honeybees, native bees, birds, bats, and butterflies, from the environment,” the president wrote. “The problem is serious and requires immediate attention.” Researchers rose to the occasion, and now, for the first time, we have a map of wild bee habitat across the Lower 48.

We also now have even more reason to worry. Along with the wild bees' whereabouts, the researchers mapped their declines, finding that populations dropped a stinging 23 percent between 2008 and 2013. Some of the biggest regions of loss were agricultural hot spots like California, the Pacific Northwest, the upper Midwest and Great Plains, western Texas, and the southern Mississippi River valley. Even worse, many of the key crops in these areas, such as pumpkins, peaches, apples, and blueberries, need wild pollinators in order to be their most fruitful. 

With more than $3 billion of the U.S. agricultural economy relying on the busywork of native pollinators, we can't afford to let our bees continue to buzz off.

Koh et al, 2015Illustrated by Koh et al., 2015

onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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