Bumble Bee Population Decline: A Policy Memorandum


To: Ms. Alma Adams: North Carolina 12th District Representative US House of Representatives

From: Ramsay Ritchie, Political Science Major at Davidson College

Subject: Developing a Local Strategy to Encourage Bee Population Increase in the Charlotte Area



Local Governments Should Take Helm in Fighting Bumble Bee Decline

For the last 30 years, the United States has been in the midst of what some have called a “pollinator crisis”.[1] All corners of the country have seen a decrease in native pollinators putting ecosystem and food stability at risk.[2] Since 1990, some species of bumble bee in the United States have decreased by nearly 95% putting them at serious risk for extinction.[3] This is problematic on an environmental level because bee pollination plays a crucial role in ecosystem stability throughout North America.[4] Additionally, bumble bee declines hold significant economic consequences as some studies estimate the value of crop system pollination by bees to be around 5.7 billion dollars per year.[5] Local governments have the power to intervene in this disastrous decline and support bee populations through effective legislation and education initiatives.

As a Davidson College student and current North Carolina resident, I take great pride in the diverse ecological beauty that this state holds. I believe that Charlotte, as a leading local government in the state, should take the helm in confronting this issue and serve as an example for the rest of the state to follow. In this memo, I outline three strategies to encourage bumble bee population increase in Charlotte and surrounding areas. I then analyze their effectiveness using a weighted decision analysis system. I find that the most politically and economically feasible strategy to confront this change is to provide government funding for urban and suburban community gardens that support bee habitats.

Three Strategies for Increasing the Bumble Bee Population in Charlotte Communities

Government Mandated Hedgerows Government mandated hedgerows along highways and farmland could provide a relatively protected habitat for bumble bees. According to some studies a simple 6 meter wide field margin that is free of chemicals and crops holds many times more types of flowers and flowering plants than an “equivalent cropped area”.[6] This strategy would require new government restrictions on farming and building practices. In order to ensure enforcement, the government should fine farmers and builders that do not meet these standards.

Government Restrictions/Tax on PesticidesStudies have shown that the use of harmful pesticides in farming practices and even on personal lawns is harmful to pollinators.[7] Further government restrictions on pesticide use or higher taxes for farmers and corporations that use pesticides regularly could serve to reduce the harmful effects that they have on bumble bee populations.

Urban and Suburban Community GardensBees often utilize human-made structures and areas as adaptive habitats in urban and suburban areas. A good example of this is community gardens. Community gardens serve as a safe environment for bumble bees to pollinate and live amongst humans. They also provide a high diversity of plant life necessary for maintaining large populations of bees.[8] Local governments can provide funding and publicity for these community gardens in order to protect bee populations.

Strategy Analysis Based on Four Criteria

The strategy analysis that I use focuses on four criteria for assessing each of these strategies. It should be noted that I assume that each option holds close to the same effectiveness in the analysis. The criteria are as follows: 1) political feasibility 2) social costs and benefits 3) environmental costs and benefits 4) economic costs and benefits. In my analysis I weight every criteria as .3 of a full point except for political feasibility which only has a weight of .1. I will now go into further detail about each of the criteria in order to better explain my final conclusion that government funding for community gardens is the most effective strategy.

Political Feasibility – Given the generally low level of concern that most Americans feel about this issue, remaining with the status quo is the most politically feasible option. Of the non- status quo options however, providing funding for a community garden holds the greatest political feasibility because it focuses on providing a resource to a community instead of mandating restrictions.

Social Costs and Benefits – Government funding for community gardens provides the most social benefits for two reasons. First, community gardens place little obligatory burden on the individuals finances. Second, community gardens provide a social good to the public by building communities and potentially providing fresh foods to urban communities.

Environmental Costs and Benefits – All of the strategies provided are equally beneficially on an environmental level because they each provide for the endangered bumble bee habitat.[9] While they all focus on different aspects of the same problem, each strategy ensures needed protection of bumble bee habitats in one way or another.

Economic Costs and Benefits – Stringent government regulations on pesticide and herbicide use in farming and commercial practice provides the most economic benefits to the government. This is because both of the other two options require either strict government enforcement or government funding. A tax on pesticides could be both economically beneficial for the government and effectively curb the use of harmful chemicals.

Government Funding for Community Gardens is the Most Effective Strategy

As shown by my analysis above and on the table below, providing government funding and support for community gardens in urban and suburban areas is an effective strategy for encouraging bumble bee population increase on a local level. According to some studies, around 2.2 million acres of open or uncultivated land are converted into urban areas every year.[10] This is, for the most part, a good thing as it allows for economic and social growth throughout the country. It is the responsibility of local governments, however, to protect the natural environment against the harm caused by urban sprawl. Community gardens serve as new habitats for bees within a human-controlled environment.[11] Additionally, community gardens can act as a center of education for Americans on ways that we can best support bumble bee populations in our local communities.[12]

Options Political Feasibility Social Costs and Benefits Environmental Costs and Benefits Economic Costs and Benefits Option Score Weighted Option Score
Status Quo 3 1 1 1 1.5 1.2
Government Mandated Hedgerows  












Government Regulation of Pesticides  












Government Funded Community Gardens  












Criteria Weight 0.1 0.3 0.3 0.3


  • Please note that the analysis is assessed on a scale of 1 to 3 with 1 indicating the least advantageous and 3 indicating the most advantageous.


Works Cited

Goulson, D., Lyle, G.C., and Darvill, B. 2007. “Decline and Conservation of Bumble Bees”. Annual   Review of Entomology 53 (September): 191-208

Allen-Wardell, Gordon et al. 1998. “The Potential Consequences of Pollinator Declines on the Conservation of Biodiversity and Stability of Food Crop Yields”. Conservation Biology 12 (February): 8-17

Kearns, Carol A., Inouye, David W., and Waser, Nickolas M. 1998. “Endangered Mutualisms: The Conservation of Plant-Pollinator Interactions”. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 29: 83-112

Kevan, Peter G. and Phillips, Truman P. 2001. “The Economic Impacts of Pollinator Declines: An Approach to Assessing the Consequences”. Ecology and Society 5 (1): 8 [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/vol5/iss1/art8

Cameron, Sydney A. et al. 2011. “Patterns of Widespread Decline in North American Bumble Bees”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108:2 (November): 662-667

[1] Kearns et al. p. 86

[2] Kevan and Phillips

[3] Cameron et al. p. 662

[4] Goulson et al. p. 192

[5] Allen-Wardell et all. P. 15

[6] Goulson et al. p. 200

[7] Kearns et al. p. 91

[8] Goulson et al. p, 201

[9] Goulson et al. p. 193

[10] Goulson et al. p. 201

[11] Kearns et al. p. 96

[12] Allen- Wardell et al. p. 16

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