May 21, 2015 5:33 AM EDT

Insects generally aren’t a constituency that gets much attention from the White House. But when you add $15 billion in value to agricultural crops through pollination–as the honeybee does–you might even get your own task force.

On May 19 the Obama Administration announced the first National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. The bees need it: for years honeybees have been dying at mysteriously high levels (TIME looked at the consequences in a 2013 cover story), and in the 12-month period since April 2014 beekeepers lost nearly half their colonies.

It’s not clear why honeybees are dying in such large numbers, though scientists have pointed to the use of pesticides and the loss of nutrition as native flowers are replaced by monoculture farming. The White House plan will help address the latter, aiming for the restoration of 7 million acres of bee-friendly habitat. But some environmentalists criticized the strategy for doing little to address the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, which seem especially toxic to bees. At least the bees know they have a friend in the Oval Office.


This appears in the June 01, 2015 issue of TIME.

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