Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is the phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind a queen. Image: Google
Since the late 1990s, beekeepers around the world have observed the mysterious and sudden disappearance of bees, and report unusually high rates of decline in honeybee colonies. Without bees to spread seeds, many plants — including food crops — would die off. Image: Google
What Is The Problem?
Many people think of bees simply as a summertime nuisance. But these small and hard-working insects actually make it possible for many of your favorite foods to reach your table. From apples to almonds to the pumpkin in our pumpkin pies, we have bees to thank. Now, a condition known as Colony Collapse Disorder is causing bee populations to plummet, which means these foods are also at risk.
Beekeepers first sounded the alarm about disappearing bees in the United States in 2006. Seemingly healthy bees were simply abandoning their hives en masse, never to return. Researchers estimate that nearly one-third of all honey bee colonies in the North America have vanished. The number of active hives is now at its lowest point in the past 50 years.
Bees are one of a myriad of other animals, including birds, bats, beetles, and butterflies, called pollinators. Pollinators transfer pollen and seeds from one flower to another, fertilizing the plant so it can grow and produce food. Cross-pollination helps at least 30 percent of the world’s crops and 90 percent of our wild plants to thrive. Without bees to spread seeds, many plants—including food crops—would die off.
Why Is This Happening?
Researchers think this Colony Collapse Disorder may be caused by a number of interwoven factors:
• Global warming, which has caused flowers to bloom earlier or later than usual. When pollinators come out of hibernation, the flowers that provide the food they need to start the season have already bloomed.
• Pesticide use on farms. Some toxic pesticides meant to kill pests can harm the honey bees needed for pollination. Many pesticides banned by other countries because they harm bees are still available in the United States.
• Habitat loss brought about by development, abandoned farms, growing crops without leaving habitat for wildlife, and growing gardens with flowers that are not friendly to pollinators.
• Parasites such as harmful mites.
How Can I Help?
Make Your Garden Bee-friendly
Just planting flowers in your garden, yard, or in a planter will help provide bees with forage. Avoid chemically treating your flowers as chemicals can leach into pollen and negatively affect the bees systems. Plant plenty of the same type of bloom together, bees like volume of forage.
Some plants that are great choices that will help pollinators are:
Spring – lilacs, penstemon, lavender, sage, verbena, and wisteria.
Summer – Mint, cosmos, squash, tomatoes, pumpkins, sunflowers, oregano, rosemary, poppies, black-eyed Susan, passion flower vine, honeysuckle.
Fall – Fuschia, mint, bush sunflower, sage, verbena, toadflax.
Leave Some Weeds
Contrary to popular belief, a lawn full of clover and dandelions is not just a good thing—it’s a great thing! A haven for honeybees (and other native pollinators too). Don’t be so nervous about letting your lawn live a little. Wildflowers, many of which we might classify as weeds, are some of the most important food sources for native North American bees. If some of these are “weeds” you chose to get rid of (say you want to pull out that blackberry bush that’s taking over), let it bloom first for the bees and then before it goes to seed, pull it out or trim it back!
Talk To Your Local MP
There is an urgent need to stop chemical-intensive industrial agriculture and to shift towards ecological farming. Ecological farming ensures healthy farming and healthy food for today and tomorrow by protecting soil, water and climate, and promotes biodiversity. It does not contaminate the environment with chemical inputs like synthetic chemical pesticides, fertilizers nor genetically engineered organisms.
Ecological farming is feasible and already practiced on a large geographic scale within Europe. This is the essence of a comprehensive Greenpeace-study which incorporates current scientific knowledge on ecological farming and the practical experience of farmers, scientists and eco-entrepreneurs championing modern ecological agriculture across Europe.
Tell your local government that you would like to see ecological farming brought to your area! There's also a number of petitions available online that you could sign.
Join A Local Beekeeping Club
Local clubs like the Langley Bee Club (South Fraser Division of the BC Honey Producers Association www.langleybeeclub.org) are an invaluable source of information about the bee population. hey host many meetings, raffles and events and are a great way of staying active in the fight to keep our bees safe.
Start Your Own Hive!
Milner Feeds is doing our part by carrying a select amount of beekeeping and bee-friendly products! For a limited time you will find starter kits as well as a select availability of bee hives for you to get started with your own hive. Keep your eyes on our blog for a post on how to start your own beeyard next week!
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