As some of you may know, August 17 was National Honeybee Day. While some consider them to be a pesky nuisance, we know that they are an integral part of nature and encourage you to take a moment to consider using organic gardening products that won’t harm honey bees and other natural helpers. At Woodlawn, we have a full selection of organic gardening products. Please ask a garden center associate for more information about organic gardening products.
Problems with the bee population have become a booming reflection of the issues within our environment. In recent years, the bee population has decreased and scientists are struggling to determine a single cause for blame. The more the bee population struggles to thrive, the more we suffer as a group. Lifelong beekeepers throughout the world are losing their livelihood and are voicing their concerns.
The phenomenon of the dwindling honeybee population has been labeled as “Colony Collapse Disorder” (CCD). It refers to the circumstances in which worker bees abandon their hive; its Queen; and the young of the colony. This has been a growing issue of concern since approximately 2006.
Colony Collapse Disorder has occurred many times before, but the not to such a drastic extent as we have seen in recent years. Scientists are working hard to recover the population to avoid further fallout within the agricultural industry. According to The Telegraph UK, scientists are cross breeding killer bees with honeybees in an attempt to recover the honeybee population.
In areas where the honeybee population is significantly struggling, the process of pollination must be revised. Transportation of honeybees across the country and artificial pollination are contributing to higher operating costs for farmers. The higher the cost becomes for farmers to produce, the higher the price becomes for us to purchase the crops.
An agricultural report published by the University of California emphasizes the impact of the crisis. The pollination fees for almonds in California, more than doubled from approximately $70 per hive to approximately $150 per hive between 2006-2010.
The increase accounts for the loss and replacement expenses incurred by the beekeeper. Those costs are passed onto the farmers, who then pass on their rising costs to wholesalers, who pass on their expenses to…. you guessed it, the consumer.
The Daily Meal reported, “According to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), more than $15 billion worth of crops are pollinated by bees each year just in the United States alone. Put another way, one of every three bites of food Americans consume comes from a plant visited by bees or other pollinators.”
Some of the crops, which are dependent upon pollination by honeybees, consist of alfalfa; almonds; macadamia nuts; blueberries; strawberries; apples; squash; onions; carrots; cauliflower; broccoli; sunflower; and cotton. Those are just a few—check out the full list here. Some are more dependent on the honeybee pollination than others. For instance, almonds are said to be entirely dependent on honeybee pollination.
Again, scientists have been unable to pinpoint a single direct cause to explain the phenomenon in all its severity. Parasites, pesticides, and electromagnetic waves have all been scrutinized for their involvement in CCD. Many believe the cause is due to an amalgamation of several man-made environmental toxins.
The increasing use of pesticides in recent years seems to be the front-runner for blame. Vanishing of the Bees notes that the leading pesticide manufacturers continue to deny responsibility based on the research conducted and submitted for regulation by their own, internal team of researchers. This clearly marks a red flag in the current process of regulation standards, but that is yet another issue for another day.
In addition to the uncertainty of the cause, there is also speculation regarding the continuously increasing residual levels of pesticides within the farmlands. What may not have been a detrimental level of toxicity to the honeybees upon initial testing may have increased to levels of irreversible harm with the passing of each season. Research conducted by one of the foremost institutions for worldwide agricultural research, INRA, reported that in many areas, bees became significantly disoriented and/or seized to death after contact with crops, which had higher levels of pesticide residuals.
The Urban Bee Project in Seattle shares a video to see how the bees are responding to the presence of pesticides. If you notice this behavior in the bees around your garden, it would be worthwhile to switch to an organic pesticide.
Furthermore, there is concern for the accumulating traces, which have been brought back to the hives over each generation and how even low level toxins may be severely damaging to the natural development of the eggs within the hive. That kind of repetitive damage to the neurology of bee lineage may be responsible for the devastating patterns of CCD.
This point also alludes to the importance of the clean eating movement. How are these levels increasing generation by generation and how are they hindering the natural development of each generation? We may not be as easily affected as the small bee and it may take several more generations; but eventually, we too will reach our thresholds.
How Can WE Help?
While scientists are conducting their research programs and testing their various hypotheses, we can all try to do a small part to contribute to the solution. The website for Vanishing of the Bees makes the following calls to action:
- Plant a Garden
- Get a Beehive
- Buy Organic
- Use Organic Pesticides
Amateur beekeeping may not be ideal for many—in particular, those who may become jumpy and nervous in the presence of a single bee—but taking action in other forms can be just as effective.
CCD is yet another strong cautionary tale, which indicates the need for radical change regarding the laws of toxic pollution in its many forms. We can’t fix it all overnight, but we can project our voices and we can do our part to be heard. The governments of France & Britain, to name a few, are starting to listen; now, we must do our part to speak up. To learn more about the global perspective of this struggle, be sure to check out Vanishing of the Bees.