Feeding the Bees
Sitting on my little back deck, I love watching the thick black bees feeding on my potted lavender and sage. As the flower stalks drift in the wind, I see each bee buzz up, catch a little blossom, take a tiny sip, then buzz to the next blossom and repeat. For a moment, I'm mesmerized by this meditative dance, delighted that my flowers are contributing to nature's functioning. I imagine the bees buzzing back to their hives and feeding their scented-treasures to their hungry tribes.
This scene has become even more poignant to me recently, as I read that the long-standing threats to our nation's bees have become dire enough to finally reach the mainstream press. A recent AP article starts, "Unless someone or something stops it soon, the mysterious killer that is wiping out many of the nation's honeybees could have a devastating effect on America's dinner plate, perhaps even reducing us to a glorified bread-and-water diet."
Honeybees' pollination is essential to much of what we eat, including many of our tastiest foods, such as apples, peaches, strawberries, avocados, broccoli, and much more. Even cattle (feeding on alfalfa) and chocolate (from the cacao plant) depend on bees. According to a Congressional study, honeybees add $15 billion a year in value to our food supply.
However, bees are now dying at increasingly alarming rates. In the past few months, U.S. beekeepers have lost one-quarter of their colonies due to "Colony Collapse Disorder." A USDA official wonders if bees can weather this storm at all.
What is killing off the bees? Causes discussed include toxics, natural habitat destruction, the stress of industrial beekeeping, GMO's toxic pollen, and cell phone radiation. The AP author says it could be that the bees' genes "do not equip them to fight poisons and disease very well." How interesting to blame the bees' genes, not ourselves, for the harm caused by man-made toxics that are known to both kill and weaken bees, making them more vulnerable to disease.
Often we're told that we need to use toxic pesticides to grow food, feed people, and save money. But the bees' deaths reveal the flaws in this math. A beekeeper I once interviewed said, "If you want expensive food, try having no bees."
It seems clear to me that we're contributing to the bees' demise and thus need to change our ways if we want to save the bees, feed ourselves, and experience nature's wonder.
You can help nurture the bees by: avoiding toxics, planting native flowers, protecting habitat, and buying organic food and honey from the farmers who let the bees live in natural harmony.
SOURCE: "Honeybee die-off threatens food supply," <http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070502/ap_on_sc/honeybee_ die_off_6> "A world without bees is a world without chocolate," <http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/03/03/HOGIROCUE71.DTL>
For an excellent in-depth exploration of the problems with bees, see:
What Was Behind the Honey Bee Wipeout? By Gina Covina, Terrain, October 16, 2007
There's also more information here:
A world without bees is a world without chocolate, By Alison Rood, Special to The Chronicle, March 3, 2007
Honeybee die-off threatens food supply, By Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer, May 2, 2007 [seems to no longer be online]
Bee Crisis May Drive Up Food Costs, By Kimberly Palmer, U.S.News & World Report, April 16, 2007 [seems to no longer be online]
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