One in three bites of food require pollination. Over $85 billion in North American agriculture relies on honey bees. Commercial beekeepers face a multitude of problems in maintaining their hives so they can provide this invaluable service to the food chain. At the same time, a lack of consensus on the underlying causes and understanding of the science combined with a lack of trust among many of the key stakeholders, growing anxiety among the general public, and the ever-more specialized nature of modern agriculture, had marooned the vital honey bee.
In the spring of 2013, CollaborateUp helped organize a first-of-its-kind Honey Bee Health Summit with over 100 stakeholders to get clear on the causes of declining bee health and how each different stakeholder could help. We then worked with the Keystone Policy Center to form the Honey Bee Health Coalition consisting now of of over three dozen cross-sector member-organizations, including beekeepers, farmers, crop associations, agribusinesses, chemical companies, retailers, food manufacturers, consumer packaged goods companies, trade associations, conservation organizations and other nonprofits, state and local government agencies, and multiple national government agencies including the Canadian Honey Council, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the White House.
We also led “Bee Understanding”, an innovative job-swap program letting stakeholders “walk a mile in the other guy’s boots” to understand how their decisions impact bee health and capturing their experiences in two award-winning documentary films.
In response to then-President Barrack Obama’s call for public-private partnerships, the Coalition became one of only two true public-private partnerships included in the President’s National Pollinator Strategy has established:
- Bee Healthy Roadmap: Used a multi-stakeholder approach to develop a plan of action for materially improving honey bee health across the four priority areas. The Roadmap used very plain-language to communicate very complex scientific topics that multiple stakeholders and the general public could understand and act upon. It also outlined how the Coalition would support the President’s National Pollinator Strategy.
- Governance: Established a Steering Committee and Working Group structure to oversee progress on the Roadmap.
- Health Improvement Projects: Each working group launched a series of pilots to test whether it can materially improve honey bee health, evaluate, and choose which to scale on a national or regional basis. To date these programs have produced:
- Material improvements in honey bee health, reducing losses to within manageable ranges.
- A “quick guide” for reporting bee losses to strengthen the data and science underlying our understanding of bee health.
- The first-ever best management practices for guide for controlling Varroa destructor mites, considered by many scientists as one of the leading causes of honey bee health declines. The guide has been downloaded over 20,000 times by beekeepers in over 120 countries.