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Be There for the Bees, Please.

April 04, 2013

You know the honey bees populations are declining rapidly, right?

You know how important honeybees are to our food supply, right?

But, do you realize how bad it really is and how much higher the declines were this past winter than ever before?

No? Well, get ready to be really bummed out…and maybe a bit scared as well.

Honeybees and Hive

Honeybees at the Hive Entrance

Today, I read a New York Times article indicating that commercial beekeepers lost at least one third of their hive populations over the last winter.

Then, moments after I finished reading that, I watched a Dan Rather Reports show that illustrated that those numbers are quite likely even higher. Nope, it wasn’t Dan telling us this. It was the beekeepers whose families have kept bees for generations, during which time they’ve never seen declines like those happening today. More than one bee expert in the report declared that if nothing is done on the hurry-up to remedy these declines that the beekeeping industry in the U.S. is going to “implode” or simply cease to exist. And, let’s be clear. They’re saying this may happen in the next couple of years. Not decades. Not generations. Years!

So, why are the bees in decline? There still isn’t a definitive answer. Mite infestations don’t help. Pollution isn’t doing the bees any good. Driving them around the country from farm to orchard to field might not be ideal. But it is the pesticides, especially the neonicotinoids used particularly in mono-culture crops like soy and corn that are getting the most finger pointing recently, as this program and this article emphasize.

In our home garden, we have hosted Ballard Bee Company hives for several years now. Here’s the healthy one doing its job earlier this Spring, already hauling in nectar and pollen.

By hosting hives for several years, we’ve learned a lot about the bees. This past winter, 50% of our hives were lost. That’s one of two. I can’t tell you why. And the one that went down was doing great until winter. It build up beautifully and produced quite a bit of self-sustaining resource for the winter. Yet, it is gone. Assuming our beekeeper is able to get new bees (again, watch the Dan Rather program and see how grim it looks out there in the honeybee supply world), we’ll have a second hive in the next few weeks. And, we’ll do our best to ensure they survive and thrive. Sadly, our best may not be enough.

But, don’t take my word for it. Watch the Dan Rather Reports program. Read the NY Times article. Ask a beekeeper. But when you do, be sure to have your hanky handy ’cause before the rage engulfs you over what isn’t happening, it’s likely you’ll be bawling over what is happening.

And, when you’re done doing your own research, get out in your own garden and do something to be there for the bees. Lay off the ‘cides and pull your own weeds or squish your own slugs. Plant some herbs or sedums or raspberries or a maple tree to provide them some food. Call your representatives and make some noise to light a fire under their butts on this critical issue.

(Updated 5/15/2013: Consider purchasing a Bee Preserver for your garden. These inexpensive pieces of glass art not only help bees access water in your garden, but also a portion of the sale price is donated toward bee restoration efforts. Details here.

Updated 3/17/2017: Glass Gardens NW was sold to new owners in 2016. We have received a number of complaints following this sale, so we are no longer linking out to their website.)

Whatever it is you choose to do, do it now. Tomorrow might be too late.

And, don’t miss Growing a Greener World TV’s episode from season one focusing on the importance of urban beekeeping in which you’ll hear more from Garden Mentors® founder Robin on gardening with and for the honeybees in residential settings.


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