A Bee Sees... Part 1
A honey bee fitted with a license plate! Whatever for? Recently in London a group of scientists launched a Citizen's Science project with honey bees. The scientists want to know just where the honey bees are collecting their nectar and pollen in London. Five hundred resident European bees were fitted with small “license plates” on their backs, painstakingly, with the help of a dot of crazy glue! Numbered 1-500, they were released with the idea that the citizens of London would photograph these bees (Citizen's Science) where they see them, report their photos, so that the researchers would know just what kind of plants these bees visit and just how far they must go to forage.
This is important information for us all. I am sure that most of you have heard the statement, “every third bite of food that you eat has a pollinator in its history” and for the most part that pollinator is a bee. Recently scientists around the world are concerned with colony collapse disorder (CCD), whereby millions of bees annually are disappearing from our gardens and fields. Since CCD was first identified in France in 1994, a full quarter trillion is estimated to have disappeared. At this rate it is more than possible that when you visit your preferred grocery store you will be shocked and dismayed that so many of your favorite fruits and vegetables will be in short supply or no supply. Think apples, peaches, almonds, blueberries, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, okra, cherries, avocados, and a whole lot more, gone from our local grocers’ shelves! And aside from the impact on our pantries, there is also our wallets to think about; imagine how expensive these foods will become as they grow scarce. You get the point!
Scientists are still working on why the bees are disappearing. There are several theories, of course, but it is a complicated problem, for certain, and truly all the reasons why they are disappearing has not been fully established. Research is telling us that two factors continue to be the most likely culprits.
The first is stress. Now, when we talk about stress and honey bees, some of us might think of Winnie the Pooh climbing a tree, in search of something for his rumbly tumbly. But despite their name, the real value in honey bees isn’t their sweet product but instead their important service as pollinators. The honey sold by beekeepers in the United States amounts to small change (150 million dollars or so annually) which pales in comparison to the 15 billion dollars represented by pollinated food crops. We can get along without honey (sorry, Pooh Bear), but the apples and all the rest of those pollinated crops are quite another story. Our bees here in Florida must be transported all over the US as they follow the season for all these fruits and veggies. Loaded into tractor trailer trucks and fed corn syrup instead of pollen for months at a time! This kind of stress kill millions of bees every year.
Next week, we’ll talk about the second factor that scientists believe is causing CCD. Any guesses? Go ahead and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org – we’ll see if you can figure it out.
Meanwhile, the EDU-Garden® looks fabulous, as our bees are nice and relaxed, and have been busy; the harvest has been bountiful! Let us know if you would want any of our fabulous produce!