Sunday, April 4, 2010

Why We Really Must Save Our Honey Bees

By Janette Marshall

Bee populations in North America are in danger of extinction, this is true. However, this is now fast becoming a world-wide problem, one which we should all take a certain amount of responsibility for. The cause of the precipitous decline in population is still not known, but the world's scientists are certainly worried since bees are central to maintaining both ecological balance and maintaining agricultural production. This article examines the reasons why bees are important, what is causing the collapse, and looks at how people can work together to help save the honey bees.

Though often thought of as a nuisance due to their irritating stings, bees are a vital part of the ecosystem as they are tasked with the pollination of many different species of plants. In order to gather the nectar and pollen it needs to survive, bees travel from plant to plant. As they travel, pollen is transferred between flowers, causing the plants to become fertilized and allowing them to produce fruits and seeds. Due to this process, several species of wild plants have become dependent on bees for reproduction.

Due to this same process, agricultural production also relies on bees. Apples, peaches, oranges, cucumbers, squashes, and pumpkins, indeed nearly all vegetables and fruits, depend on bees for pollination. Therefore, the sharp drop in bee numbers is a threat to the continuance of agricultural production.
As such, many people are worried about the reduction in the number of bees. Wild honey bees can no longer be found in many parts of the North America. Furthermore, both amateur and professional beekeepers have lost many of their hives.

Known as Colony Collapse Disorder or Disappearing bees' syndrome, the scientific community still does not know why bee populations are declining, but they do have some ideas. For example, bees have become vulnerable to many different parasites, including fungi, mites, and viruses. Furthermore, the use of pesticides continues to increase and this also is very likely one of the factors in the bee decline.

In the case of California, from 1994-2005, pesticides were used in 35 X the number of fields as before, and this seems to be correlated with the decline of bees in that state. Beekeepers tend to feed bees nectar from one plant source, which also may make bees vulnerable as some studies have shown that this single-source diet is linked to weak immune systems. They like variety just as we do.

Though the situation is grave, there are many ways in which people can help. One thing that you can do is grow bee-friendly flowers around your house. Disc-shaped flowers and tall flowers are particularly attractive to bees. Leave mowing the lawn so often, the bees just love those weeds such as dandelions!

Your local home garden store should be able to help your choose flowers that will grow best in your climate. Reducing your use of chemicals, especially pesticides, is important as well.

You can also buy honey produced by local beekeepers in order to help support local bee populations. This is particularly important since cultured bees are the only types of bees that live in most regions of the United States. Honey from local producers comes in a variety of flavors, depending on what flowers the bees visit.
If you have the time and the space in your yard, you can try beekeeping for yourself. Contact your local apiary society for information on how to proceed. Furthermore, by writing to state, local, and federal officials, you can ask that they support funding for more research into the causes of Colony Collapse Disorder. After all, no honey bees = no us!

Janette Marshall writes and owns She is passionate about the benefits of honey and the honey bees who produce this as part of their extremely important work which is vital to our very survival.

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1 comment:

  1. One thing you forgot! You could also keep bees to save the bees! It's getting a little late to order bees for the spring of this year, but not too late!