To Bee Or Not to Bee is A More Important Question Than You Think
I need to confess something: I’m not a fan of bees. They excite me for the wrong reason. Sure, I’ve had a few beekeeper friends over the years. One beekeeper buddy in the mountains of West Virginia swore by the benefits of bee sting therapy for chronic pain and for auto-immune disorders. Fortunately, I’ve never had a need to try that nor would I recommend it. Despite my angst over bees, the beekeepers I know very much love and appreciate them. They know that bees play a critical role in our natural food cycle. And I’ve always admired their passion for their stewardship.
Nowadays, if you don’t care for bees — like me, we need to rethink this perspective — and fast. Bees are dying all over this planet at massive and alarming rates. According to the U.S. Agriculture Department, 25% of the American food diet depends on pollination from honeybees. (See this article from New York Times reporter Michael Wines http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/29/science/earth/soaring-bee-deaths-in-2012-sound-alarm-on-malady.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0). Crops like almonds, watermelons, onions, apples, cherries, and many others critical crops depend on bees. Need I mention the impact on honey supplies? The fewer the bees, the smaller the harvest and the higher the costs for a significant portion of American crops. It is very possible in the future, that such crops become unavailable due to severe shortages. Thus, the greater our food supply continues to become at risk.
Consider what has happened in just the last 30 to 60 days before the date of this blog entry. Just over 30 days ago: the largest mass bumblebee death ever recorded occurred in Wilsonville, Oregon. http://www.xerces.org/2013/06/21/pesticide-causes-largest-mass-bumble-bee-death-on-record/ Over 50,000 honeybees were found in and around a Target store parking lot. Just like that: dead. Within the last 30 days, after the Oregon honeybee massacre, in Elmwood, Canada, an unbelievable 37 million bees were found dead http://www.collective-evolution.com/2013/07/01/over-30-million-bees-found-dead-in-elmwood-canada/ Within the past 60 days, the British Beekeepers Association reported its largest loss of honeybees ever on record. http://www.collective-evolution.com/2013/06/13/largest-honeybee-loss-ever-recorded-in-the-united-kingdom/ This is serious.
Why? The culprits are pesticides. In the Oregon and Canada related honeybee mass deaths, pesticides were directly linked as the cause. So a battle is brewing at the government level between major pesticide manufacturers and beekeeper associations and environmentalists about what to do. Nationally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continue to drag their feet in confronting this issue. Earlier this month, national beekeeping associations filed suit against the EPA for its recent approval of more pesticides linked to bee deaths. http://earthjustice.org/news/press/2013/beekeeping-industry-sues-epa-for-approval-of-bee-killing-pesticide On the other hand, the European Union recently voted to ban a number of pesticides found to be toxic to bees and other pollinators http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/30/business/global/30iht-eubees30.html
And don’t expect much from Congress on this issue, although within the past few weeks, H.R. 2692 the “Saving America’s Pollinator’s Act of 2013″ was introduced and filed in the U.S. House of Representatives. This bill, if it became federal law, would suspend the use of certain toxic insecticides linked to bee deaths and would require the EPA to conduct a full review of such insecticides on the market. http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/energy-a-environment/312023-lawmakers-take-action-to-stem-decline-in-bees-and-limit-toxic-pesticide-use Introduced by two Democrat legislators in a GOP controlled House of Representatives; the bill will likely sit for a long time unless there is meaningful GOP Congressional support.
What can be done? We can support local organic farmers who avoid pesticides in their crops. We can support local beekeepers. We can avoid the use of pesticides in our yards and gardens. We can promote the presence of bees on our land with non-toxic pollinator crops. We can urge state and federal environmental agencies to take this issue seriously and to act fast to protect honeybees. We can support organizations that are lobbying and filing lawsuits to address this issue. Such petitions can be found at http://action.foe.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=13389 and at http://www.beyondpesticides.org/pollinators/petition.php We can donate to organizations, who are authors of some of the web links in this blog, addressing this issue on our behalf. Even the smallest of gestures can help. It’s not too late.
For more information:
The National Geographic Society recently published a very comprehensive explanation of this issue:
Dr. Mercola also has some good tips on this issue: