All posts tagged honeybee

Health Status of Mother Earth? Look No Further Than the Honeybee.

For many of us, our understanding of the role honeybees play within our ecosystem is little at best, completely unknown at worst.  If you live in a city, you probably don’t even see them that often, and if you do they are a pest, we shoo them away for fear of being stung.

The truth about bees is that they are integral to the health of our planet and especially important when it comes to our global food supply.  As Marion Nestle pointed out in a recent post on this issue, bees pollinate 71 of the 100 crops that provide 90 percent of the world’s food.  Please read that stat again…it’s stunning.

Briefly, here’s a summary of the state of affairs for bees:

  • In the 1970s there were approximately seven million hives in the United States, today there are just two million (that’s about 250 billon fewer bees)
  • In some cases there is up to a 90% death rate within hives and total colony loss during winter months is up to 30% (from 10% in previous years)

The cause behind these rapid declines is not formally known although factors such as changes in diet (they are sometimes fed high fructose corn syrup) and exposure to pesticides such as neonicotinoids are suspected.  The New York Times just ran a piece this morning that summarizes some of this debate.

Another debated topic is conventional handling practices such as the smoking techniques beekeepers use to calm hives.  Research has demonstrated that this technique can hinder bees’ sense of scent (they use scent to navigate) for up to ten days, leaving them disoriented and disabled.

If the information I’m sharing here is new to you, I hope that you are concerned.  I definitely am.

If you are interested in learning more as well as connecting to institutions who are advocating for more protection and research for honeybees, check out the following links:

A sincere thank you to the Rodale Institute, who provided much of the background information for this post.

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Image by wondermac