What’s the all the Buzz about?

This image was selected as a picture of the we...

This image was selected as a picture of the week on the Malay Wikipedia for the 46th week, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have heard a lot of buzz lately from the media, USDA and environmentalists   regarding the state of honeybees.  The decline of the Honeybee population has been well documented since 2006. According to USDA studies, 31% of North America hives have collapsed each winter since 2006. The trend is similar throughout Europe and Asia.

Recently Whole Foods hosted an  awareness campaign  of the honeybee decline on their website in partnership with the Xerces Society. The company should be acknowledged for its commitment and work on this cause.

Why should we care about the Honeybee buzz? The Honeybee pollination is responsible for many of our most delicious and favorite foods. It is estimated that one mouthful in three in our diet directly or indirectly comes from honey bee pollination. The most affected are crops like almonds and other tree nuts, berries; fruits and vegetables. All are dependent on pollination by honeybees in order to bear fruit. These are the foods that give our diet diversity, flavor and nutrition. Whole Foods recently posted a startling photo highlighting the produce section without these products. As you can see if honeybees went away entirely it would drastically alter our eating habits and destroy the livelihoods of many.

The causes of this massive die off have not been completely identified. Various origins may include pesticide use, GMO contamination, parasites, pathogens, migratory stress and environmental pressure caused by climate change.

It’s a little known fact that the farmers in the central valley of California import millions of honeybees from all over the world to pollinate their abundant crops. When the fields are amass with pink and white blossoms each spring, bees from around the world are brought in for a few weeks of work. Without the massive import of bees we wouldn’t have our fruit and nuts. Could it be that this world wide forced migration is introducing new viruses and diseases to our native honeybee population?

Meanwhile a report published by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) concluded that a class of pesticides known as Neonicotinoids  posed an acute high risk to pollinators.  This caused the European Union to impose a 2 year ban on the pesticides beginning this December.  The BBC reported here on the findings and response by farmers in the EU.  In North America, Greenpeace launched a grassroots campaign urging the EPA to impose a similar moratorium in the US. You can sign The Center for Food Safety letter  urging the new leader of EPA to suspend the indiscriminate use of toxic pesticides.

The root of this rapid decline is most likely a perfect storm of stressors related to unsustainable agricultural practices along with environmental change and degradation. There are several groundbreaking studies indicating that organic agriculture benefits honeybee survival. One study found a higher abundance of bumble bees on organic versus conventional farms, which was partly related to higher flower abundance on organic farms.  This study  shows that bee abundance is higher in diversified and organic fields. Another interesting  study shows that bees nesting on conventional farms experience negative effects from being isolated from natural habitats, while bees nesting on organic farms were buffered from negative effects, because they could switch to food growing on the organic farm when natural areas were too far away.

Research shows that the most important thing you can do is to Eat and Buy Organic Products. The second most important thing you can do is urge all your friends, families and loved ones to do the same.  Let’s keep our pollinators around for years to come. Tell me what you’re doing to help keep them buzzing.

11 thoughts on “What’s the all the Buzz about?

  1. Another terrific piece! I just tweeted it out…

    BTW – you have a misspelling in the first line: a lot not allot. Easy to do…

    Annie Brown Business Membership Coordinator Rodale Institute 611 Siegfriedale Road Kutztown, PA 19530 303-241-0282 annie.brown@rodaleinstitute.org

  2. I appreciate your blog very much. You have been tackling important issues well, and with admirable tact. A friend who has kept bees in his garden for many years says that bees are attached to their home, so when they get moved far they become disoriented and unhappy, vulnerable to predators and diseases. Learning from him,we plant every garden bed and every edge with flowers that bees and other beneficial insects enjoy. The garden is pretty, and so are our tables! The vegetables and fruits all get pollinated, we savor the surplus honey, the bees are happy all year-round. I’m sending a photo Thank you again for your very good work! Laurel Robertson [image: Inline image 1]

    • Paul, thank you for sharing that link. I encourage everyone who is concerned to sign the pledge to protect our bees and pollinators.

      Melody L Meyer
      VP Policy and Industry Relations UNFI
      phone 401.528.8634 ext 62225
      Fax 831/462-5718
      SKYPE melody.meyer

  3. Pingback: To bee or … no bees | Focus on food safety

  4. Pingback: Pollinator Problems: How pesticides are hurting our beneficial insects | Økoko

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