Many of us will have seen the quote, falsely attributed to Albert Einstein, that if the bees disappear, then so will we. Whilst that is not strictly true, if bees actually did disappear we will still have food, however, we won’t have the variety, it won’t be affordable and it will definitely change our quality of life and change our choices.
Bees actually, through pollination, play a vital role in roughly one out of three bites of food we take, including nuts, berries, other fruits and vegetables.
According to the Bee Informed Partnership beekeepers lost more than 40 percent of their honeybees between April 2015 and April 2016. Unfortunately, it is a trend of loss that has held a steady course since 2006.
The single worst culprit of such a decline is the Varroa mite. The Varroa mite arrived from Asia and has jumped from one species to another and unfortunately it is killing our bees at an alarming rate.
Unfortunately, the Varroa mite is not the only culprit, pathogens, pesticides and poor nutrition all play a part in our bee population demise. It’s not just the practice of planting only one crop that limits a honeybee’s diet, now people are spraying their yards to get rid of clover, but clover is something that bees love, so it is not only the agricultural side, but it is also on the everyday side that we have eliminated what bees are eating. Whilst the bees can still get food it is the variety that they are lacking. It would be like a human eating exactly the same food day in day out, whilst we could survive we would certainly not be totally healthy.
Whilst actions are being taken by beekeepers to address many of these issues what can we do at home that might help. Planting wildflowers that all bees enjoy is one action but also know that buying and consuming honey is good for bees. It used to be that beekeepers made their money from the sale of the honey, however, these days beekeepers have to travel with their bees, following the pollination seasons before getting honey from the bees in the fall. The sale of honey allows the beekeepers to take care of their bees and fund research that helps to keep their bees healthy.
Despite the very real issues facing bees most beekeepers agree that they don’t see a doomsday, bees are very resilient and they do proliferate very quickly. So take a look at your garden and maybe think about providing a habitat that might support our bee population, if that is not possible supporting research would also be an excellent way to help.