The Plight of Our Honey Bees
Photo: Rufus Isaacs
According to a Cornell University study, the value of honey bee pollination to U.S. agriculture is more than $14 billion annually, Crops from nuts to vegetables and as diverse as alfalfa, apple, cantaloupe, cranberry, pumpkin, and sunflower all require pollinating by honey bees. Pollination can be a grower’s only real chance to increase yield for fruit and nut crops.
When pollination is this important, farmers cannot depend on feral honey bees that happen to nest near crop fields. That is why farmers contract with migratory beekeepers, who move millions of bee hives to fields each year just as crops flower. The importance of bees to our economy and food supply is huge. Bee pollination is responsible for more than $15 billion in increased crop value each year. About one mouthful in three in our diet directly or indirectly benefits from honey bee pollination.
Just how important, you ask. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, these under-appreciated workers pollinate 80 percent of our flowering crops, which constitute 1/3 of everything we eat. If honeybees were to disappear, they could take most of our insect pollinated plants with them, potentially reducing humanity to little more than a water diet. Commercial production of many specialty crops like almonds and other tree nuts, berries, fruits and vegetables are dependent on pollinated by honey bees. These are the foods that give our diet diversity, flavor, and nutrition.
However, our bees are dying at an alarming rate. The culprit is said to be something called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Until now the causes of CCD have been unknown, but recent studies suggest that instead of a single disease or pesticide, a cocktail of factors are responsible for destroying the honey bee population.
That’s a big part of the problem, but it is not the total cause. According to Mother Nature Network, “Humans’ intense agricultural practices have greatly affected the pollination practices of bees within the United States. The increased use of pesticides, the reduction in the number of wild colonies and the increased value of both bees and pollinated crops have all added to the importance of protecting bees from pesticides. Furthermore, many homeowners believe dandelions and clover are weeds, that lawns should be only grass to be mowed down regularly, and that everything but the grass should be highly treated with pesticides. This makes a hostile environment for bees, butterflies and other pollinators. Many bee poisoning problems could be prevented by better communication and cooperation among the grower, pesticide applicator and the beekeeper.”
We have to change the way we handle things in nature. In many ways, we are our own worst enemy. We need to be more conscious about what we plant and more cautious about what we destroy. Bees are especially attracted to white, blue and yellow flowers, and prefer flowers that bloom in the daytime. We need to be a better partner to the bee and give to them as much as we take from them.
First published with The Wellspring Collective.