When perusing the produce section at our local grocery stores for the ripest fruits and greenest veggies or deciding which drink to order at our favorite coffee shop, we fail to acknowledge the hard workers that make such picky selection an option. The honeybee plays a big role in the pollination of numerous major crops and is responsible for pollinating various treats from avocados to coffee beans. One in every three bites of food that we take relies on bees for pollination.
For those of us who are unaware of basic bee behavior, here’s an amusing discussion of “How Bees Work”:
But all jokes aside- our bees are in trouble. They are an agricultural commodity that is losing its footing in nature. People are starting to pay attention as more and more bees inexplicably go missing. This crisis is affecting the global population and accelerating far too quickly.
A band member in the UK has used modified popular song lyrics to call attention to the threatening extinction of our bees on his Twitter page.
Bees are dying off at alarmingly high rates. In the past five years, bees have seen anywhere from a 29% to 46% decrease and Colony Collapse Disorder is on the rise. The institution of neonictinoids has caused the demise of more than one in every three honeybee colonies for the last decade. Neonictinoids are insecticides used to dust an estimated 150 million acres of farmland to keep pesty bugs off of the crops. The problem with the implementation of this treatment is the adverse effects it is having on the pollinators.
Bees are crucial to pollinating an impressive 70 of 100 major crops and neonictinoids are having unfavorable effects on these helpful little bugs. Without bees, over one third of our crop supply could be in danger of disappearing. With such a dip in food supply, we could struggle to sustain our global population. Furthermore, without the help of our bees, cross-pollination, a grueling and costly task, must be done by hand. That translates to pricey produce for consumers.
Insecticides are designed to have short-lived effects, but studies have shown that chemical residue is found in the atmosphere, waterways, and on the ground. The collection of residue in various places inevitably manifests into pollutants, which affect both the bee population and the human population.
“In the last four years, the chemical industry has spent $11.2 million on a PR initiative to say it’s not their fault, so we know whose fault it is.”
Jon Cooksey, writer, director, How to Boil a Frog.
For example, soil health is negatively impacted by toxic insecticide residue and is resisting various crops. Naturally, soil that is polluted with toxic chemical substances hinders the growth of crops. Additionally, puddles house pesticides when they collect on the ground and dose the bees with the toxins when they ingest the puddle water for fuel. These chemicals have long term affects not only on the bees, but on us as well. If our pollinators shouldn’t consume it, neither should we.
Seeds coated with neonics germinate into crops laced with the chemicals that shut down the nervous system of any insect that consumes the plant. The neonictinoid pesticides cause disorientation and, consequently, bees cannot pollinate properly.
Honeybees are also big targets of the varroa mite, which is a vicious parasite that sucks the hemolymph of young bees soon after they hatch. The mite suppresses the bees’ immune systems, further weakening their overall health and works in synchrony with neonictinoids to make the bees more prone to viruses.
The video below shows the way bees develop and hatch in their honeycomb cells. This is prime time for a tiny, brown varroa mite to infect the bee larvae as seen in the clip:
Bees are at the mercy of numerous predators, but we are the most formidable enemy to their existence. A world without bees means a devastating impact on our food supply, a rise in the cost of food production, negative effects on wildflower habitats, and the ensuing extinction of honey.
A few ways to help:
- Plant bee-friendly flowers in your garden, some of which include sunflowers, aster, and goldenrods pictured below.The plant variety will benefit the
bees greatly as they need contrast in their diet and will aid in the growth of these plants for your garden.
- Bees, like us, need to hydrate. Providing a pond, fountain, or other form of fresh water source is advantageous and largely beneficial to the honeybees. You can also create your own hydration station with a bowl, some clear marbles for the bees to land on, and water.
- Don’t buy at-home pesticides sold in stores. They’re just as harmful and dangerous as those used on large farms. Invest in local organic produce and raw honey from local apiaries.
Our actions mandate a change. It’s not too late, we can still save the bees. Through eliminating the use of insecticides, we can give strength to our bees and encourage the growth of their population. By acknowledging the threats to their existence and working to counteract those threats, we can give our hardworking bees the home and resources they deserve.