I have always been fascinated by bees. I guess it’s because my Dad was a hobby beekeeper and a farmer for most of his life. All three of my kids had a bee costume at one time or another (I think it was the same costume recycled) and they also had a bee puppet that we loved to death (literally). I love the bee work ethic. I love honey. I love their coloring. I love their gentle buzzing sound…I find it relaxes me. Sadly, I am sure a lot of you know, there is some bad news in the bee world.
Did you know that one in every three bites of food consumed in the United States is either directly or indirectly pollinated by bees? Did you know that the world’s honeybee population is rapidly declining due a condition called the Colony Collapse Disorder (or CCD)? Add to that pests, parasites, bacterial, fungal and viral diseases AND pesticides and those little honey bees are facing a huge, upward climb to save their population.
The Colony Collapse Disorder, CCD, is a little understood phenomenon in which worker bees from a colony abruptly disappear. The disappearance of the honey bees is a global epidemic, negatively affecting ecosystems in a multitude of environments. Since 2006, North American migratory beekeepers have seen an annual 30% to 90% loss in their colonies; non-migratory beekeepers noted an annual loss of over 50%. Similar losses were reported around the world.
Because there are no bee bodies to examine, scientists are unable to determine the exact cause of death. The initial hypotheses were wildly different with ideas from malnutrition to pesticides to genetically modified crops with pest control characteristics such as transgenic maize. Now most scientists believe that CCD is a combination of many factors all of which work to increase the honey bee’s stress and reduce its immune system. There is a class of pesticides that is definitely linked to bee deaths, they are called neonicotinoids. We need to ban those, there are starting to ban them in other countries.
Bees facilitate pollination for most plant life, including well over 100 different vegetable and fruit crops. Without bees, there would be significantly less pollination, which would result in limited plant growth and lower food supplies. Many years ago Dr. Albert Einstein made a bold prediction, “if the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live. No more bees, no more pollination….no more men”. I don’t think this is a completely true statement, but I think you can agree it is a spectacular, very dramatic statement that carries some weight. We need bees.
Last Friday, June 20, 2014, President Obama announced plans to form a “Pollinator Health Task Force” which is tasked with saving the dwindling bee population. Several different agencies will be involved in searching for the correct answers, the EPA and the Department of Agriculture will spearhead the effort. The plan also calls for establishing safe habitats for the bees and creating a public education plan. It is a large scale plan. Take a look at it here.
This is the opening statement from the White House blog regarding the Presidential Memorandum that was released to all agencies.
“Pollinator losses have been severe. The number of migrating Monarch butterflies sank to the lowest recorded population level in 2013-14, and there is an imminent risk of failed migration. The continued loss of commercial honey bee colonies poses a threat to the economic stability of commercial beekeeping and pollination operations in the United States, which could have profound implications for agriculture and food. Severe yearly declines create concern that bee colony losses could reach a point from which the commercial pollination industry would not be able to adequately recover. The loss of native bees, which also play a key role in pollination of crops, is much less studied, but many native bee species are believed to be in decline. Scientists believe that bee losses are likely caused by a combination of stressors, including poor bee nutrition, loss of forage lands, parasites, pathogens, lack of genetic diversity, and exposure to pesticides”.
How can we help? Remember to love the bee! If you are allergic, just respect the honeybee, respect each other’s distance. We can also help by planting bee attracting flowers or sponsoring honeybee research. Maybe one of you wants to become a beekeeper! I know my father loved it. A great organization to support is www.HoneyLove.org.
Remember we are all connected, we are all “worker” bees, we all need each other! There is only one Mother Earth!
Now for your viewing pleasure, (cue birds singing and bees buzzing) some bee jewelry!
Jeweled bees by Sabbadini, photo courtesy of Sotheby’s.
Two antique diamond and sapphire bee pins mounted in silver and gold, circa 1880. Photo courtesy of Christie’s.
Gumuchian‘s “B” Collection earrings, photo courtesy of Gumuchian.
Theo Fennell pink freshwater pearl and diamond bee earrings, photo courtesy of Harrods.
Deakin & Francis sterling silver and enamel bee cufflinks, photo courtesy of 1st dibs.
Tiffany & Co. diamond and ruby bee brooch, photo courtesy of 1st dibs.
Honey pot from the Gumuchian “B “Collection, photo courtesy of Gumuchian.
Bee Happy, Bee Good!