In my recent visit to UC Davis in California with Best Food Facts, I became fascinated with the current “bee crisis”. I think this is something everyone should be following along with, especially if you like to eat. I recently shared some facts about bees and honey everyone should know. I am now sharing some information on the current situation and how every day people like myself can help.
In regards to the media and the current “bee crisis” how concerned should consumers be in regards to bee/other pollinators? One-third of global food production volume relies on pollinators to some degree as does $18 billion in American agriculture. Honey bees and other insects pollinate 80% of flowering plants worldwide. The decline in honey bee health has put agriculture, healthy lifestyles and worldwide food security at risk. One in every three bites of food you eat is pollinated either directly or indirectly by honey bees. Source: Best Food Facts
What is Colony Collapse Disorder?
Honey bees, which are a critical link in U.S. agriculture, have been under serious pressure from a mystery problem: Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), which is syndrome defined as a dead colony with no adult bees or dead bee bodies but with a live queen and usually honey and immature bees still present. No scientific cause for CCD has been proven.
Why the decline? 1. Pests and Disease 2. Lack of forage and nutrition 3. Incidental pesticide exposure 4. Hive Management- Management and breeding practices may reduce genetic diversity. Read more here & here.
What can we do to help? Choosing and planning a variety of flowers and flowering plants that are attractive to pollinators. If you need help deciding what to plant, reach out to your local gardener or nursery. Also make sure to support your local beekeepers. Beekeepers are responsible for maintaining healthy hives and producing honey and bee byproducts, they may also provide pollination services to neighboring farms. Make sure to check out Honey Bee Health Coalition.
What types of plants/flowers/etc. should people plant to attract/help pollinators? Bees pollinate almonds, blueberries, apples, most of the berry crops, melons, squashes and cucumbers. They also pollinate vegetables that produce the seed that allow the crop to grow, like carrots and broccoli. For more tips on what to plant, check out Pollinator Health. The University of Georgia has an amazing list of what to plant and when for pollinators.
As a farmer, how can we help this situation? The growing consensus is that farmers should always have meadows so that they don’t plant straight acreage of crops. There needs to be pollinator strips within the boundary, so that there is healthy bee forage. Here is an example.
Most importantly, bee populations are actually on the rise! Check out these statistics from USDA, FAO an StatisticsCanada.
As you can see there are various reasons for the current state of our bees. There are also some very simple ways for both consumers and farmers to help. As you are planning for spring, make sure to add beneficial plants/flowers to your list. I know I will. I am also excited to explore having buffer strips around the farm and working with our local bee keepers.