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Trade Policies Could Kill Off Native Bees

Patagonia Bees are Under Attack From Its Own Government

Trade Policies Could Kill Off Native BeesBee populations around the world have been in decline for years, but many world government and conservation agencies are fighting back by restricting certain types of pesticides and encouraging the growth of native bee populations. However, in Patagonia, trade agreements may be the final nail in the coffin for the region’s native bees.

Invasive Populations

Science Daily highlighted a paper published in The Journal of Applied Ecology that says there will be severe conservation, economic and political consequences of government policies that are supporting an intentional bee species introduction in Patagonia.

One of the countries that makes up the Patagonia region is Chile. They allow continuous importation of alien bumblebees to pollinate agricultural crops. The policy has been in place since 1997 and has led to the importation of more than a million bumblebee colonies. The native bees are now disappearing.

As the article points out, bees do not respect country borders and now the alien bees are moving into surrounding countries like, Argentina. Now another species is on the verge of entering Bolivia and Perú. The other countries have a ban on the importation of non-native bees but need all Patagonia regions to cooperate.

Alarming Consequences

So far, the largest casualty is the Patagonian giant bumblebee. In fact, it’s the only native bee in southern South America and one of the world's largest bumblebees. It is now on the verge of extinction. As new bees move in, the Patagonian bumblebee cannot compete for resources and is being wiped out by new diseases brought by the invaders.

But the problems won’t stop there, according to the paper. The new bees will impact native and crop plants. Bees that enter a new region may not be able to properly pollinate native pants, leading to a decline. Plants can be damaged, and this includes profit producing crops like raspberries. Even the local honey market will be impacted.

Plus, alien plants can also be introduced to the region with the bees and then compete with native plants. The environmental costs could be spectacular and the scientists behind the new study hope all regional governments will listen to their warning.

The scientist are urging a “coordinated approach to reduce the potential for transnational species invasions.” They are calling for policies concerning the importation of potentially invasive species to be discussed by Patagonia as a region and not just decided by individual countries.

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