Help Save the Bees
Edited by Sarah Maloney, Eng
Last month the United States announced a new member to the endangered species list. The rusty patched bumblebee became the first wild bumble bee to join the list. The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service's reports that since the late 1990's, the bumblebee population has plummeted nearly 90%. In September of 2016, Hawaii placed several varieties of bumblebees the endangered species list. . The decline of bumblebees worldwide has actually been documented since World War II, however, in the past couple years the decline particularly in North America has become calamitous with apiarists reporting hives that were once full completely empty and for no perceptible reason.
Although you might think the decline of the bumblebee to be relatively insignificant the consequences of the decline is far reaching and extraordinarily impactful on the global food supply.
Know your Bees
You know those plump, fuzzy, hairy black and yellow bees that hang out in your flowerbed? That's the bumblebee or honeybee! And it is the decline of the bumblebee that is most damaging to our universal wellbeing. There are other species of bees, most are known as solitary bees (they do not have colonies or hives and do not product honey). Most solitary bees do pollinate and there has been an increase in providing resources for these bees given the recent decline of the bumblebee.
This is how it works. The primary responsibility of wild bumblebees (as opposed to commercial bees) is to pollinate and make honey. And although the gorgeous flowers flora and plants in your garden are affected by the decrease in the population, the more significant affect is on the pollination of food plants and vegetation. Reports have documented that nearly one third of the world's global crops are dependent on bumble bees. The BBC reports bumblebees pollinate 70 of the around 100 crop species that feed 90% of the world . Crops dependent on bumble bees includes fruits and vegetables, including wheat, rice corn and nuts as well as their by-products (oil). The impending extinction of bees would mean a real threat to the global food supply.
If you want to know more about the bee decline and our dependence on bees, check out Vanishing of the Bees a remarkable documentary or Marla Spivak's captivating TedTalk available here Marla Spivak TedTalk Bees.
Reasons for the Decline
The main reason for the decline of bumblebees is GMO's (Genetically Modified Organisms). When GMO's were first introduced in the 1990's, they were believed to be the solution to world hunger increasing crop yields and decreasing crop destruction by pests. However, diseases and pests have evolved with the GMO's and have become resistant, causing the need for increased amounts and diversity in the type of pesticides utilized to ensure healthy crops. This gets into a very large and complex debate about finances, Monsanto and other GMO seed producers. What is significant to the bumble bee is the amplified use of neonicotinoids, a pesticide widely used on crops, grass, gardens, flower beds and forests. Neonicotinoids are particularly damaging to honeybees because they are absorbed into the plants entire system, including the nectar and pollen. Worker bees are critical to the health of a bee colony and neonicotinoids have damaging affects on both the queen bee and the worker bees leading to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). CCD was first discovered in 2006 and is the reason for the reports of bee colonies literally disappearing. When the majority of worker bees die or disappear, only the queen, nurse bees and baby bees are left, unable to operate the hive and collapsing (die).
Steps to Help the Bumblebee Population
There has been as universal effort to increase and save the bumblebee population. One of the most prominent campaigns is Cheerios Bring Back the Bees campaign launched with the removal of their bee mascot from cereal boxes last year and the distribution of millions of free wildflower seeds this month. Criticism has arisen since the campaign ranging from concern over Cheerio's use of pesticides and GMO's on their own product and invasive species included in the wildflower packages.
Like so many campaigns and operations it's difficult to muddle your way through the debate. You like bees. You like honey. You decide you want to save the bees. But how do you know what is the right thing to do? This list will give you suggestions and initiative that really will help the bees.
- 1Plant a Bee Friendly Garden. Visit your local greenhouse or look online. There are a lot of seeds and plants that very prominently display themselves as "bee-friendly," so even if you aren't an experienced gardener, you can very easily find the best bee friendly choices for your garden. Bee balm, cosmos, Echinacea, forget-me-nots and daisies are all great choices. It doesn't have to be a big garden and if you've got a little bit of space, there are many hardy perennial choices that are low maintenance. As a plus, a lot of the bee-friendly flowers are also butterfly attractants. NPGN website.Advertisement
- 2Plant some Clover. I personally love the look of clover mixed in my lawn. It is lusher than grass, lower maintenance and a beautiful vibrant green even in the drought of August. White clover provides the small white flowers for pollination. The only consideration here is clover does attract bees low to the ground (in the grass) and if you're got little ones or pets you have be careful running around barefoot.Advertisement
- 3Check for Neonicotinoids. If you are an avid gardener, ensure you are inspecting the plants you are buying for the use of neoniotinoids. Many plants are treated with the pesticides to make them pest or animal resistant. If you see a plant with a label resistant from aphids or deer resistant, it's probably been treated with neonicotinoids. The labels must state their treatment (usually on the back).
- 4Avoid Using Pesticides. There are many all natural pest control options. Have a look online or ask your local garden centre.
- 7Keep bees. Beekeeping has become a popular hobby in recent years. As part of the First Lady's White House garden, Michelle Obama initiated a space for 70,000 bees. The bees produce White House honey that is given to visiting dignitaries and can be purchased in the gift shop.
- 9Don't Destroy Hives or Swarms. A bee swarm can look frightening. Bees swarms when they are reproducing a new queen and working on establishing a hive. Though it can look menacing, the bees are non-aggressive and will usually move off after a day or two. If you see a bee hive, depending on its placement, you may want to remove a hive. In either case find an agency that guarantees removal without destruction. Beekeepers will often remove the bees.
- 11Bee Roads. Bee roads have become popular in Europe and are just starting pop up in North America. Unfilled green spaces across municipalities on highways and roads have been planted with wildflowers creating bee fielding pollinating gardens in spaces once unused. Visit your local council and inquire about starting your own Bee Road.
- 12Advocate. Since the decline of bumblebees has become a prominent issue in the news and on social media, there are a lot of groups working as advocates for the promotion of bee advocacy. Greenpeace, Honey Councils, The Honeybee Conservatory, Avaaz and local Beekeeping groups all have advocacy campaigns. Check out your local council and groups or check out organization's websites online.
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Categories : Green Living
Recent edits by: Sarah Maloney