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To The Surprise Of Many, Manhattan, Alone, Is Home To Hundreds Of Rooftop Hives That Pollinate Central Park & More; But Bees In NYC & LI Have Been Dying Off & Recent Fed Decision Imperils Their Future & Our NY Economy 

With USDA Recently Announcing Its Intention To Stop Collecting Data On Honey Bee Colonies In Places Like NYC & LI, Schumer Pushes Plan To Reconsider, & Step-Up Work, Not Stop It 

Schumer to Feds: Honey Bees Pollinate The Big Apple & LI; They Keep NY Buzzing  

Standing amidst a swarm of advocates, at the Bryant Park beehives, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer revealed, today, how a recent under-the-radar decision on bees could sting New York City and Long Island, their local economies, and even a budding jobs niche that supplies our summer farmers’ markets and hundreds of local restaurants. Schumer detailed a recent fed decision by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to stop collecting data on honey bees that puts the species, the Big Apple & the Long Island economy at risk. Schumer said that New York is a hive of productivity, but that this recent decision by the feds could derail much of what keeps our state competitive and robust as an agricultural hub. He called on the USDA to reverse course immediately, and instead, step-up their work on bee populations.

“Now it sure helps, but you don’t need to be a beekeeper to understand that bees pollinate the Big Apple and Long Island, said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “Really, all you need to do is look around the city and the Island and you will see that we are a hive of productivity—and it’s because of the bees. From farmers’ markets, to farm-to-table restaurants that act as an economic boost, to Hudson Valley farming that solidifies our area as an agricultural hub, we have a lot to tout—and it is because of bees. So, to know that in an arguable under-the-radar move from Washington, the USDA has gone and clipped the wings of a critical data collection program on honey bee colonies, impacting jobs and productivity in places like the city and Long Island, really stings."

The dwindling bee population is of particular concern for New York City and Long Island, which is a hive of economic activity. For example, bees on Manhattan rooftops pollinate flowers and plants in Central Park. And according to USDA, agricultural production on Long Island alone reaches upwards of $250 million, due significantly to the work of the 450 species of wild pollinators across New York. Suffolk County in particular is one of the top agricultural regions in New York State and the entire country for the sale of fruit, vegetable, nursery, greenhouse, and floriculture products. Suffolk, the State’s largest producer of tomatoes and cauliflower, and the third-largest producer of grapes, peaches and strawberries, accounts for $225.6 million in agricultural sales, according to the USDA’s 2017 agricultural census. Their agricultural output comes in first in total sales in crops. Schumer said that with honey bees responsible for helping pollinate roughly 1/3rd of the nation’s consumed crops, their extinction puts the future success of downstate farms, and the many jobs they provide, in jeopardy.

Bees play a vital role in New York agriculture—an estimated seventy of the top one hundred grown crops, including apples, require pollination from bees, while approximately one third of food is dependent on bee pollination. A colony, which typically contains 50,000 bees, can pollinate 4,000 square meters of fruit trees. Even in less agricultural areas of the state, amateur and professional beekeeping has been on the rise to help preserve the bees and their positive impact. In New York City, 124 beekeepers registered 381 hives with the city health department in 2018, an increase from 42 keepers and 68 hives in 2010. Approximately, bees tend to pollinate a three mile wide area, meaning bees from these hives traverse across the whole city and beyond. On Long Island, beekeeping has grown in recent years, with multiple municipalities removing restrictions on beekeeping, and others planning to do so. Long Island remains an active agricultural region, with plenty of farms and over 100 different crops comfortably growing there. 

The annual Honey Bee Colonies report began in 2015 due to the worrisome decline in bee population, however, bee populations have been steadily declining since 2006. Three surveys has been cut under the Trump Administration: the Honey Bee Colonies report; the Cost of Pollination Survey, which tracked how much farmers paid to pollinate their crops as a result of the declining bee population; and the Honey Survey which gathered information on honey production. According to a report from USDA, the number of active honey bee colonies plummeted from 6 million in the 1940s to roughly 2.5 million in 2017. More recently, during the winter of 2018, beekeepers suffered their worst losses on record, including beekeepers in New York City and Long Island. Data from the University of Maryland’s Bee Informed Partnership shows that beekeepers lost 37.7% of their colonies during this season, 8.9% higher than the average for winter. Schumer argued that this historic population decline shows that USDA should ratchet up its honey bee data collection, not shut it down.

Schumer said that between January and December of 2017, New York State beekeepers lost a total of 17,700 colonies of honey bees. Meanwhile, in the first six months of 2018, New York State beekeepers lost 7,000 colonies. Schumer said these losses, combined with the fact that crops dependent on honey bee pollination are worth $1.2 billion annually to the state, according to a June 2018 New York State Department of Agriculture report, present a critical need to understand what exactly is causing them and how they can be reversed. This data is critical to protecting honey bee-reliant New York.

“We need this data to keep New York an agricultural juggernaut,” added Schumer. What’s the real stinger here is that the bees are part of the economy. They keep local businesses and jobs buzzing. To enact a new policy that discounts bees and their impact on New York is bad environmental, economic and agricultural policy. We are here today to say: reverse the decision, and instead step things up as this insect’s population spirals,” added Schumer.   

The extinction of honey bees also presents a significant to challenge to New York State’s burgeoning honey industry. In 2017, 3,046,315 pounds of honey were collected from New York State farms and sales totaled $8,660,000. Schumer said that should honey bee colony numbers continue plummeting, not only would these sales be jeopardized, but New York City and Long Island restaurants and farmers markets would be forced to pay more for, or be completely stripped, of the freshest, locally-sourced honey.