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March 11, 2021

Economic value of insect pollinators in U.S. much higher than thought

A University of Pittsburgh and Penn State University study finds bees and other pollinators play an extremely important role in agriculture. One key finding is that the economic value of insect pollination totaled $34 billion in 2012, the most recent year for which data were available. At the same time, areas most reliant economically on pollination services are where pollinator habitat and forage quality are poor.

Credit: National Science Foundation/Karson Productions

The business of bees.

I'm Bob Karson with The Discovery Files, from NSF -- the U.S. National Science Foundation.

The latest buzz on bees comes from researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Penn State. It seems we've been underestimating the true economic worth of our bumbling little friends. Using the newest available data, the team found that in 2012, the actual economic value of bees in the U.S. was 34 billion -- that's billion with a "bee" -- dollars, much higher than previously thought.

(Sound effect: bees buzzing) The team also found that areas most economically reliant on these tiny pollinators are some of the poorest habitats for bees to live, and it's taking its toll on wild populations, as well as managed bee colonies.

The team hopes the findings of this study will guide farmers and beekeepers in providing more suitable habitats for bees to thrive. They've provided detailed agricultural maps that show pollination hotspots, and areas of shrinking populations. They point out areas where local land use practices can be adapted to support agriculture and bees.

Bees that pollinate food crops play a huge role in ecosystem biodiversity and function, human nutrition, even economic welfare. Time to give our bees a little TLC.

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