Making a case for saving honeybees

-A A +A
By Cheryl Steenerson

I have a sign on my refrigerator that reads “Save the Earth! It’s the only planet with chocolate!” I’m thinking of adding another that reads “Like ice cream? Save the bees!”

Here’s the buzz. Bees are disappearing in large numbers all over the world. Since bees are responsible for one third of the food we eat, this is a problem we need to solve.

Bees touch our lives every day, even if we don’t realize it.

Apples, pears, and plums are 90 percent dependent upon bees for pollination. Nuts, berries, soft fruits like raspberries and strawberries and even many vegetables would not reach our tables without bees to pollinate them. More than 20 different flavors of Haagen-Dazs ice cream are only possible through the hard work of bees.

We probably first think of honey when we think of bees, but they do so much more. Honeybee pollination is responsible for $15 billion in added crop value yearly, according to the USDA. A reduction in bee population can really have a negative impact on our lives and that population is shrinking dramatically, right now.

2008 was the worst honey crop on record and it’s directly related to the reduction in bees. So, the $15 billion question is why. Well, the scientists are debating the answer, but they have named the problem. It’s being called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). I think it’s a “perfect storm” scenario, combining several factors and so does the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Beekeepers, food producers and government agencies have formed a steering committee to work on CCD, complete with a research agenda, to try and find the causes for the dwindling numbers of bees. Besides having numerous droughts, several factors are contributing to the problem.

The varroa mite contributed to a big loss of bees about 15 years ago and beekeepers found a pesticide strip to use. Now, it seems they’ve developed a resistance to it and the mites are back to work. General pesticide poisoning, through exposure on crops, is another theory. Then, there is a newly discovered virus called Israeli Acute Paralysis that is infecting the bees’ immune system and their ability to absorb food.

We can only hope that whatever cures the scientists come up with does not make matters worse. In the meantime, we can and must do our part. Buy local honey to support the local bee keepers.

Those of you with allergies need to eat a tablespoon or two of local honey daily to reduce your symptoms. It’s like taking a flu shot to prevent the flu.

You can also plant bee friendly plants like larkspur, foxgloves, sunflowers, hollyhocks, mints, beans and allums. Garden flowers provide nectar and pollen for the bees. Eliminate pesticide use and find a friendly alternative that isn’t toxic.

Did you know that a bee might have to visit 10,000 flowers to produce a pound of honey?  

Finally, protect any swarms you might see by contacting the local police or a beekeeper in order to collect the swarm. My beekeeping friends Suzanne and Mike (859-1028) and Celesta and Merle (859-366-4257) are the most environmentally friendly honey producers I know and they make absolutely awesome honey.  

Now, go outside and see how you can make your place more bee friendly. Even if you don’t like ice cream, I’m pretty sure you like to eat. Happy growing.