The Buzz About Missing Bees

Honey bees and other pollinators are vanishing across the world at alarming rates. We can help save them by informing ourselves and others, stopping the use of pesticides, planting pollinator-friendly gardens and buying organic foods!

“More than 20,000 species of bees including honeybees, bumblebees and solitary bees are responsible for doing the lion’s share of pollinating of more than 235,000 species of plants on Earth. Honeybees, bumblebees and solitary bees pollinate more than 110 crops that feed almost 7 billion people, daily” according to AJC.com.

Most people don’t realize that the beekeeping industry is responsible for one-third of the food we eat.

In the past six years however, the annual die-off of those little pollinating insects responsible for fertilizing plants – a process essential to maintaining our food supply – has become increasingly dramatic. Fox News calls it, “a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder (CCD).”

Honeybees are perhaps the most important pollinator operating in the agricultural industry.  Pollination is quite simply, transferring grains of pollen from one plant to another, to fertilize the ovaries of flowers.  While some plants rely on the wind to provide pollination, and others are self-pollinating, most flowering plants need the services of natural pollinators, such as honeybees, to do the work. By using honeybees as pollinators, crop yields can be increased by as much as 300%. Local crops such as canola, alfalfa, and sunflower benefit immensely from the use of our honeybees as pollinators. A good pollination system is part of a healthy eco-system.

In addition to the benefits that our honeybees provide to the agricultural industry, they also provide similar pollination services to wild plants and flowers. Many trees, such as willow and poplar, benefit from the pollination services of honeybees, which help to preserve and spread our natural forests. The wealth of flowering plants that blanket the prairies owe much of their existence to the visits of the honeybees:  in fact, many flowers evolved in conjunction with the bees. To remove the bees from the environment would mean the demise of many species of flowers and plants that we take for granted.

Chemicals May Be Killing the Honeybees
Many believe that our increasing use of chemical pesticides and herbicides, which honeybees ingest during their daily pollination rounds, are largely to blame. Commercial beehives are also subjected to direct chemical fumigation at regular intervals to ward off destructive mites. Another leading suspect is genetically modified crops (GMO), which may generate pollen with compromised nutritional value.

It may be that the build-up of both synthetic chemicals and genetically modified crop has caused pollen to reach a “tipping point,” stressing bee populations to the point of collapse. Lending credence to this theory is that organic bee colonies, where chemicals and genetically modified crops are avoided, are not experiencing the same kind of catastrophic collapses, according to the non-profit Organic Consumers Association.

The Buzz About Bees
Did you know that on average it takes the nectar from 10 million flowers to make one liter of honey? That a worker bee can carry half her weight in nectar and pollen and still fly? Beguile yourself with these and other fascinating facts about bees.

“Honeybees have been on this earth for about 25 million years and are ideally adapted to their natural environment. Without honeybees, the environment would be dramatically diminished.”
–Dr Ivor Davis, master beekeeper

So, next time there’s a bee buzzing in your ear, instead of swatting at it, thank it for all the good they do for our environment!

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