Ah, the gentle background of summer: kids laughing, a gentle breeze and the hum of bees. But wait? I don't here the hum anymore and have heard less of it each year of my life. More common is the photo I took just this morning of a bee, not squished or mutilated from human hand...but simply dead on the side walk. And this is not an isolated incidence. Just last week I found a large bumble bee upside down on the sidewalk struggling for it's life. Again, no human hand involved (directly at least). I gently flipped him over in the grass and said a little prayer that this fighter would survive. I couldn't bring myself to "put it out of misery" when there was no injury.
These types of occurrences should make us all stop and take a long, hard look at what the cause is and what we can do to help. Sure, you may be allergic to stings, you may find bees to be a nuisance but a world without bees would be far less lovely. Not only do bees provide beeswax and honey they also pollinate...FOR FREE! According to one article I recently read that service is values at $1 billion per year in Australia. I repeat, $1 BILLION. And I'm not just talking about flowers here...kiwi, apples, brazil nuts, watermelon, cantaloupe, squash, pumpkin, zucchini, cocoa, vanilla, and that's only the essential ones! See a list here. I can't help but wonder if the drop in the bee population is related to the drastic increase in the price of my favorite summer fruit...watermelon.
So what are some of the causes? There are three main reasons I have found in my research: chemicals, radiation and global warming. I'll give you a brief summary of each:
Chemicals - Build up of chemicals from fumigation (in commercial hives) as well as the drastic increase in genetically modified crop pollen (btw, say NO to GMO!) is stressing the bees to the point of hive collapse.
Radiation- With the growth of technology comes a price. Cell phone and wireless towers have increased radiation emitted and this may interfere with bees ability to navigate. Germany's Landau University conducted a study that found bees would not return to hives when mobile phones where placed nearby. There are other studies being conducted in the US now to see if this is affecting more than just the bees but other insect populations as well.
Global Warming- with higher heat comes more mites, viruses and fungi that can wreck havoc on bee colonies.
But you may ask...what can I do? I'm not going to become a backyard beekeeper. While that is one solution, there are many other things you can do to assist the bee populations.
-grow plants that are "bee-friendly" and if you cannot grow at your home, talk to your town about the plants grown in local parks AND WHAT THEY ARE TREATED WITH
-eliminate garden pesticides and use only organic, non-gmo seeds
-provide a bee habitat...you don't have to be a keeper to give bees a place. They love a mound of loose earth near water or old trees too.
-if you garden, leave a few veggies to go to seed after harvest. This is a way for bees to "fill their pantry" before cold winter months.
-purchase local, raw honey. Not only are you supporting your local beekeepers and their hives but it's also GREAT during allergy season, a spoon full of local, raw honey a day keeps the allergies at bay!
So next time you take a swing at a bee, think twice. And remember, Eco-Live and Laugh and help protect our bees!
Here's some additional books/documentaries/websites on the topic:
Who Killed the Honeybee? BBC documentary on YouTube
A Spring Without Bees by Michael Schacker
The Honey Trail: In Pursuit of Liquid Gold and Vanishing Bees by Grace Pundyk
The Beekeeper's Lament by Hannah Nordhaus
Toward Saving the Honeybee by Gunther Hauk