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Hawai'i CFS

Center for Food Safety Launches Groundbreaking App to Save Pollinators: Wild Bee ID

April 16, 2019
Center for Food Safety

Center for Food Safety Launches Groundbreaking App to Save Pollinators: Wild Bee ID

App and Website Helps Declining Wild Bee Populations Find New Homes in Residential Gardens Across the Country

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — Today, Center for Food Safety (CFS) launched the Wild Bee ID website and app to help anyone identify the wild bees—and the plants those bees pollinate—native to their own backyards. Several species of wild bees, like the Patagonia and rusty patched bumblebees, have gone extinct in the last few years in part due to the decreasing diversity of our agricultural landscape and increased use of pesticides. CFS built the Wild Bee ID app to make it easy for anyone to identify the bees buzzing outside their homes and to choose their favorite flowers.    

"If bees go extinct, so will we," said Rebecca Spector, West Coast director of CFS. "Seventy percent of the plants we eat need pollinators to survive, so we built the Wild Bee ID app to help people support these threatened pollinators by identifying which plants will best provide different types of bees with the pollen, nectar, and habitat that those bees needs to survive."

Wild Bee ID identifies North American wild bees with striking photographs, both the scientific and common names of the bee, where they're typically found, what behaviors they exhibit, and which floral resources will best allow different bee genera to thrive. Available on both iPhone and Android, the app also features guides on how to start a wild bee garden, bee nesting habits, and bee anatomy.

"As the owner of a sustainable honey business that's spanned three generations, I will definitely be using the Wild Bee ID app to identify more plants and resources I can use to save our bees." said John Wright, owner of the Bee Wild in Smyrna, Georgia. "And now everyone can do their part in their backyards or balconies too!"

The fact that many bee species are facing extinction has become increasingly well known, but most of the attention has been focused on the honey bee, which is not a native bee to North America. Unlike the honey bee, wild bee species native to North America are uniquely qualified to pollinate the plants from the same region because the interactions between flowering plants and their regional pollinators have led to increasingly sophisticated and mutually beneficial partnerships. The collective characteristics exhibited in a plant's flower—including its color, size, shape, scent, and bloom period—are designed to attract the most effective pollinators of the region. Variations which have occurred in body size and shape, tongue length, mode of pollen collection, and foraging habit have enabled native bees to glean the greatest possible pollen and nectar rewards from their botanic partners.

"Wild bee populations have been declining at alarming rates due to pesticide poisoning and habitat loss," said Wild Bee ID author Celeste Ets-Hokin. "As natural areas are steadily diminished, our residential gardens can provide valuable habitat for many bees. It's not often that the average citizen can play such an important role in the conservation of a critical species, but in the case of native bees we can all make a real difference by learning to create habitat in our backyards and community gardens. It's our hope that gardeners across the country will use the Wild Bee ID app to actively participate in the conservation of these vital pollinators."   

For bee enthusiasts who also want to protect wild bees in Congress and from the food industry, Wild Bee ID offers pollinator-related actions to write your legislators or companies, urging them to improve policies and practices. Wild Bee ID currently features an opportunity for users to urge their representatives to support the Save America's Pollinators Act, which would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take immediate action to protect bees from neonicotinoid insecticides.

CFS is one of the leading organizations fighting to preserve managed and native pollinator species and protect human health by stopping the prolific use of neonicotinoid pesticides. This includes receiving a victorious decision from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California when the judge ruled that the EPA systematically violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) when it approved bee-killing insecticides known as neonicotinoids. As a result, EPA will be required to address the impacts of the dangerous pesticides clothianidin and thiamethoxam on endangered species and the industry will also withdraw 12 different neonic pesticides from the market and their pesticide registrations will be revoked. CFS also filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) demanding the agency list monarch butterflies as an endangered species. As a result of a settlement, the agency must now propose protection for the monarch, deny protection, or assign it to the "candidate" waiting list for protection by June 2019. 

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