Ask Eartha: The Buzz on Bees
I recently watched a short film about disappearing honey bees. With all the talk about growing our own food, shouldn’t we also be concerned about growing more bees?
Imagine waking up one summer day to a dying orchard. All apples, blueberries, peaches, and even almonds have withered into the ground. Super market produce aisles have shrunk to a few mere vegetables because varieties of fruits are no longer available to quench your endless sweet tooth. What a dismal picture!
I love fruit! I know that fruit trees are next to impossible to grow up here in the land of short summers and long cool nights. However, Palisade is not too far away and I look forward to Fridays at the Farmers Market just to get my fair share of peaches and plums.
Without bees, our food supply would be quite boring. I’m not just talking about lack of honey (which alone would make baking and morning tea rather disappointing). Bees are essential pollinators of one third of the food we eat! Beyond fruit and nuts, bees pollinate vegetables, seeds and fibers like cotton. Unless our society is quite content to eat a corn, wheat and rice-only diet, we need to bring back the bees!
From South America to Europe, bees are disappearing – in some cases, overnight. You may have heard of CCD Disorder (Colony Collapse Disorder) where beehives are quickly evacuated by sick bees. Scientists have tried to pinpoint the cause of the mass evacuations but have discovered a number of suspects. From pesticides to parasites, various combinations of environmental factors are threatening our vital pollinating animals. Without our pollinators, food as we know it will be exhausted to a handful of crops that survive by wind pollination. For many people around the world, that’s just not acceptable.
Pesticides are extremely toxic to the bees. In some studies, scientists have discovered as many as 40 different chemicals in pollen samples from nearby fields sprayed with pesticides. Many of these chemicals act like neurotoxins in the hive. Bees are also faced with other environmental hardships like lack of habitat and variation in crops. These stresses weaken the bee’s immune system and open up increased sensitivities to pesticides, predators, and parasites.
Think about the job description of a bee. Not only do they make honey, wax and pollen, bees are economically important. It was estimated by the food industry that the service of bees alone exceeds $15 billion! There is no artificial substitute for pollination even though I’ve heard of some disturbing experiments with bee robots. Are you prepared to hand-pollinate each and every fruit, seed, nut and flower for a day’s meal?
So how do you grow more bees? Plant more sunflowers and less grass. Design more wild areas in your backyard. Never use insecticides and harmful pesticides on your garden and lawn. Start your own beehive.
It has been proven that beehives live better in cities because city trees and plants are protected from pesticide use. Cities like Denver and Fort Collins allow you to keep up to two beehives in the backyard. Let’s advocate for the same in our community!
To learn more about bees and hives, join us for High Country Backyard Beekeeping, this Saturday, May 8, from 2-4 p.m. at Alpine Earth Center in Silverthorne. This sweet workshop will instruct you on how to keep bees for pollination, delicious honey, and beeswax. Margael Meister, founder of DenverBee, will discuss bee races and breeds, disease and pest management, hiving, and high altitude beekeeping.
Even if you don’t plan on raising bees in your lifetime, the workshop will take a deeper look at why bees are important to mankind and ecological threats to our bees. Please RSVP for the workshop by calling (970) 668-5703 or visit http://www.highcountryconservation.org.
Eartha Steward is written by Jennifer Santry and Erin Makowsky, consultants on all things eco and chic at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation in our mountain community. Eartha believes that you can walk gently on our planet, even if you’re wearing stylie shoes.
Submit questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org with Ask Eartha as the subject or to High Country Conservation Center, P.O. Box 4506, Frisco, CO 80443.
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