Honey bee census must continue, Sen. Schumer says

Sen. Chuck Schumer discusses the benefits of a bee census in Bryant Park.
Sen. Chuck Schumer discusses the benefits of a bee census in Bryant Park. Photo Credit: Shelby Knowles

The federal government’s decision to halt its honey bee census has U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer buzzing mad.

He said a census typically conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture helps track the population of vital insects and could help determine why they are disappearing in large numbers in New York and around the country.

“Bees are dying off, and hives are dying off,” Schumer, the U.S. Senate minority leader, said on Sunday while standing in front of hives at Bryant Park. “One of the most important things we can do is collect data.”

Earlier this month, the USDA announced it would suspend data collection, saying in a statement that the decision was “not made lightly but was necessary given available fiscal and program resources.”

Officials said the annual Honey Bee Colonies report due Aug. 1 will have data from Jan. 1, 2018 through April 1, 2019.

Schumer said he hoped the decision was not prompted by the pesticide industry, which could lose big if the honey bee decline is linked to pesticides. He pledged to work to restore money for the census in upcoming appropriation bills.

There are 124 beekeepers registered with 281 hives in the city, according to Schumer’s office.

“Every one of these hives pollinate about a three-mile area,” Schumer said. “Our trees, our grasses, our plants, our flowers don’t happen by magic. You need bees to pollinate them.”

Fewer honey bees is also bad news for agriculture businesses in Suffolk County, the congressman said.

Andrew Coté, owner of Andrew’s Honey and president of the NYC Beekeeper’s Association, said he lost about 40% of his beehives last year.

“The less we know, the less effective we can be,” Coté said. “We don’t know why it happens, but we have some very good ideas. The loss of this data could be devastating to us moving forward in a positive way.”