NOTE: This post was first published July 2014; since then, more research has been done on the effect of pesticides sprayed on crops (neonicotinoids) and why those pesticides are harmful to honeybees … and ultimately, to us.
Perhaps I’m afflicted with delusions of grandeur, and all I need to do is take a chill pill. One minute, I’m stressing out about turning 60 and declaring, “The REAL ME has finally arrived!” And the next, I’m marching across the World Stage, brandishing a “No More War” sign.
The 60-thing is really not such a big deal to me; I just needed to vent. My non-interventionist stance, however, I’m very serious about. But, I’m not delusional enough to believe that our country’s Middle East maneuvers — or any other foreign policy — is in my hands. Nor do I have the energy for organizing anti-war rallies at my age. I’ll leave that up to The Millennials and their many social media accounts.
What can I control? What I do in my own backyard, and perhaps what others do in theirs if this post is “Shared.” And, so I say to you, Dear Readers: Bee fruitful and pollinate the Internet with my words. (I know … Corny! 😉 ) Corn, by the way, does not need honeybees or other valuable bugs to produce. Click here for a list of edibles that do/do not need pollinators.
First, a little history: Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)
CCD — bee colonies disappearing without a trace — has been making headlines in the U.S. since 2007. Pennsylvania beekeeper Dave Hackenberg had delivered 400 honeybee colonies to a Florida farm in October 2006, to pollinate crops. When he returned for them/their boxed hives the following February, what he saw was mystifying. Hackenberg said, “There were no dead bees, no bees on the ground, just empty boxes.” At the time his story was reported in National Geographic News, he estimated that he had lost 1,900 of his 2,900 hives, and other operators had lost up to 90 percent of their hives.
According to National Geographic News — in an article more than two years earlier than Hackenberg’s story — scientists were reporting, after decades of study — that domesticated U.S. honeybee populations had declined by about 50 percent. Mites and other parasites that infected the bees were well known culprits. Pesticides sprayed on crops (neonicotinoids) were suspected then — and have since been called out as “bee murderers.” Mass deaths of butterflies and significant risks to earthworms and birds have also been attributed to neonicotinoids, which are used to control a variety of pests. Unfortunately, they can — at the same time — cause serious harm to the honeybees’ integral system for foraging, homing, communication and larval development.
According to scientific research, “Bees have a particular genetic vulnerability to neonics because they have more (excitable neural) receptors than other insects, as well as more learning and memory genes for their highly evolved system of social communication and organization. Unlike many insect pest species, which are able to detoxify harmful chemicals, bees possess fewer genes for detoxification.”
To ban or not to ban neonicotinoids? Those arguing against banning the pesticides warn that there will be a drastic decrease in food production, which will result in converting more wild land into crops, and that the more-harmful pesticides used before neonicotinoids could return. For the time being, moderation seems to be the rule — as in Europe (last year) placing restrictions on their use and President Obama’s announcement last month of “A Pollinator Health Task Force.”
Also, many entomologists and soil and plant experts are advocating for an IPM (Integrated Pest Management) approach: “This concept of pest management seeks to control pests using a variety of strategies that are safe, effective and economical and will lead to a sustainable level of control.” Click here to read more about IPM, according to a Clemson University article specifically directed to the attention of today’s beekeepers.
Creating a haven for honeybees in our own backyards
Einstein supposedly said, “If the bee disappears from the face of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.” Whether Einstein said it or not is debatable. Also, the “only four years to live” thing is a clear example of hyperbole. But, it’s true that most of the fruits and vegetables we’ve grown to love and count on for important nutrients won’t be available to us. In fact, our diet could consist mostly of pork and grain products. Click here for a pictorial: “What Our World Would Look Like Without Honeybees.”
So, if you want to save yourself from a lifetime of sausage sandwiches, consider some of these ways to help our precious honeybees survive:
- Plant a bee-friendly garden: Native wildflowers, flowering herbs, berries, cucumbers, tomatoes, melons, flowering broccoli, tulips, sunflowers, bee balm and fruit trees are just a few plants that bees rely on for food and energy. Also, consider trees such as maple, willow, black locust and sumac.
- Eliminate or restrict the use of pesticides on your lawn and gardens.
- Learn to appreciate weeds: Dandelions, clovers, loosestrife, milkweed, goldenrod and other flowering weeds are very important food sources for bees.
- Become a beekeeper: Before Googling for a bee club in your area or buying a good how-to book, check out the regulations in your community, then talk with your neighbors about your plans. Most people will be eager to learn about your new hobby and supportive. Click here for some basic tips.
- Start a petition to ban and/or restrict the use of neonicotinoids … Hello, Millenials! The world is relying on your tech-savvy ways of communicating and marketing important messages. Start spreading the buzz!