Bees are dying at an alarming rate. Amsterdam may have the answer.

Bees are dying at an alarming rate. Amsterdam may have the answer.

- in Science
16

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AMSTERDAM — An unkempt stretch of tall grass, wildflowers and weeds in front of a train station doesn’t look like much — but it may be crucial to solving one of the world’s biggest environmental puzzles.

While scientists around the globe have been sounding alarm bells over the decline of bees and pollinators crucial to the growth of crops, the diversity of wild bee and honeybee species in the Dutch capital has increased by 45 percent since 2000.

The city of 2.3 million people attributes the success to creating bee-friendly environments like the overgrown, sunburnt patch of shrubs that commuters pass by daily.

The installation of “insect hotels” and a ban on the use of chemical pesticides on public land also appear to have played a role.

“Insects are very important because they’re the start of the food chain,” said Geert Timmermans, one of eight ecologists working for the city. “When it goes well with the insects, it also goes well with the birds and mammals.”

Image: Amsterdam bees
Two-thirds of the more than 300 bee species in Holland are endangered, prompting the country to implement a pollinator strategy to revive insect populations.NBC News

The decline of bees and pollinators has been a growing concern around the planet.

A study by the University of Vermont found that the wild bee population in the United States declined by 23 percent from 2008 and 2013. The most worrisome shortfall occurred in key agricultural regions, including California, the Pacific Northwest and the Mississippi River valley, that depend on pollinators.

Amsterdam’s municipal government has made significant investments, including creating a $38.5 million sustainability fund,in improving the environment — not only for bees but the entire ecosystem.

It also set a goal four years ago to convert half of all public green spaces to native plants — like outside the Sloterdijk train station.

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