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A Bee Sees...Part 2

“If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live.”― Maurice Maeterlinck, Nobel Prize winning author.

Well, you’ve waited all week and here’s the second reason that our honey bees are struggling – mites and disease! One of the major ways that bees become susceptible to mites and disease is through their extensive forced travel.

Already over 31 billion Apis mellifera (honey bees) are on their way across the country to California's Central Valley to pollinate 2.5 trillion flowers on the almond trees there. Almonds are a big business in California; they produce between 50-80% of the world’s supply. It’s also big business for the beekeepers, who are paid very well to bring their bees to these monoculture orchards and make half of their yearly income doing so.

The growers are happy, the beekeepers are happy, almond lovers everywhere are happy – but it’s not so good for the bees though, because this interrupts their natural life cycle, and corn syrup made from GMO corn is no substitute for the protein rich nectar they need for survival and all these hives in close proximity, where both healthy and sick bees crawl all over each other. Their immune systems become weakened and they become vulnerable to pests and pestilence and die!

So they arrive, their hives are opened and off they buzz to the 90 million trees awaiting their arrival, and there they stay for the total bloom period of 2 weeks. I would like to think that those flowers were not sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, but chances are high that they were.

Some say if they were sprayed then the residue is gone by bloom time., but who knows for sure? These trees have nectar and pollen (and possibly pesticide residue) and the bees are hungry, and so the flights begin.

Well, I know I started out talking about there being two reasons for bees dying, but Mr. Campbell is always talking to me about the “rule of three,” so here’s another reason: pesticides! The research is pretty convincing (although not definitive) on a class of pesticides termed neonicotinoids, or neonics for short. These insecticides are widely used in the US but are banned in many European countries. Why are we reluctant to ban their use in the US? Europe is proactive and thinks that it is not worth the chance to wait while bees are dying of Colony Collapse Disorder. There are many other pesticides and herbicides in question as well.

But it’s not entirely hopeless – we can help save the honey bees. Every one of us can become educated on the massive use of chemical pesticides and herbicides. We can educate ourselves on the harmful effects on our own bodies, as well as honey bees, of all these pesticides used on our food supply. We can buy organic so that our bees feed on flowers that are good for them. We can grow some food on our own and encourage pollinators to increase the numbers of native bees. Bumble bees, sweat bees, mason bees, dragon flies and even birds are effective pollinators. Plant a wildflower garden or replace a few landscape plants with bee-feeding flowers. Refuse to buy flowers and plants from your local supplier if they are using these insecticides to grow them. Speak to them and ask them to stop using neonics, and to stop selling them or plants grown with them.

Standing Up For The Earth is a huge responsibility! We cannot stick our heads in the sand ignoring the signs of our vanishing bees. We must resolve ourselves to take action, and educate your friends and families and neighbors too. Suppose you find an area in your neighborhood and persuade everyone to plant some wildflowers there, and talk to people poised to make a change. As always, I implore you to educate yourself!

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