The bees are disappearing. I know what you’re probably thinking – or at least, how you’re probably thinking. It goes like this: Yeah, yeah. Everyone knows that, you think. Bees. Disappearing. No argument here.
The rest of the thoughts that trail this thought are vague and go something like this: There’s still time, thought….right? I mean, they’ve been supposedly disappearing for years now, right? But they’re still here. There’s still honey in the super market when I want it – tons of it, actually. So it must all be ok. I read stories about bees being trucked across country. So they must be figuring it out, right? And didn’t Monsanto stop making that one pesticide, the one that was basically the culprit behind Colony Collapse Disorder?
But it’s not OK. The bees are not only dying, but dying at a much faster rate than has heretofore been the case. A recent US Department of Agriculture survey reports that 2 out of 5 American honeybee colonies died in the past year – dismayingly, with the worst die-off in the summer.
Some states have it worse than others – Oklahoma, Illinois, Iowa, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Maine and Wisconsin have lost more than 60% of their hives in the past 12 months.
The Importance of Bees
Bee pollination accounts for approximately one-third of all of our food supply and is worth over $14 billion to U.S. crop production. A world without honeybees would also mean a world without fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
Who Will Save the Bees? Just as there is no one cause of Colony Collapse Disorder, there is no one solution to save the bees – we’re all going to have to pitch in. A ban on neonicotinoids is a good first step, but a first step only.
It turns out there are things you, as an individual, can do. Professor Dennis van Engelsdorp, a research scientist at the University of Maryland and a honeybee expert, says we can do three things to help the bees.
- Become a beekeeper. The good news: it’s easier than ever, with entrepreneurs coming up iwth some very innovative ways to urban bee-keep. The start-up Flow Hive raised more than $12 million dollars in just one month’s time in support of it’s elegant, simple beekeeping system.
- Plant a pollinator garden. Professor van Engelsdorp recommends choosing flowers that flower at different times of the year that provide food for bees – but avoid applying pesticides (fact: backyard gardeners use many more times the amount of pesticides when compared to farmers per acre).
- Homeowners, Let Your Lawn Go Au Naturel. Cultivating a natural meadow instead of an unnaturally green, uniform lawn. helps bees and the environment in general.
Bigger Than Bees
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the total number of managed honeybee colonies has decreased from 5 million in the 1940s to only 2.5 million today. And, says Keith Delaplane of the University of Georgia and co-author of the Dept. of Ag study on bees, the problem is bigger than the bees.
“What we’re seeing with this bee problem is just a loud signal that there’s some bad things happening with our agro-ecosystems,” says Delaplane. “We just happen to notice it with the honeybee because they are so easy to count.”