We have lived in our house “in the country” for almost five years in a housing subdivision which is surrounded by large commercial blueberry and raspberry farms. When we first moved in and started our chemical free vegetable garden there seemed to be lots of bees and each year kale is left to winter over (and re-seed itself) so that in the fall birds have the seeds to eat and in the early spring there are bright yellow kale blossoms to attract bees and other insects to our yard. This year for the first time there is a noticeable lack of bees and in fact several have looked definitely intoxicated and some have died.
Like many environmental issues today this disappearing bee concern is woven in the fabric of our developed world with the introduction of GMO crops, pesticides, herbicides, climate change, etc and it has also become pretty difficult for our garden variety bee to survive. This is not just a local, provincial or country concern but is now a global problem and you may well ask “Why do we want to protect our bee colonies. Some species are extinct and why should we care.”
“If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth,
man would only have four years left to live.”
~ Albert Einstein (questionable quote)
Habits of Bees
- Worker bees have a short life span
- There are 32 different bumblebee species in B.C.but there are thousands of species worldwide
- There can be 20,000 to 50,000 and sometimes up to 80,000 bees in a beehive
- Bees fly up to 2 to 4 miles to collect pollen and nectar and water – that’s a lot of flying for a little bee
- Why do bees make honey ? To eat of course.
- Bees start to get busy once the temperatures warm up to around 50 degrees F
What kills Bees
- Colony Collapse Disorder
- Pesticides – Carbaryl (sold as Sevin) is toxic to bees – because this is one of the most widely used pesticides used its use can be disastrous to bee hives. Carbamates and organophosphates are the most deadly pesticide chemicals to bees – household names are Raid (some products), Malathion and Sevin
- How GMO crops affect bees “Genetically modified (GM) crops often contain a bacterium called Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt)”
How we can help
- Grow flowers to attract bees, great to pollinate fruit trees and vegetables for higher productivity and quality
- Water – make a bird bath or better still a small water fountain to provide a fresh supply for birds and insects in your yard
- It’s obviously not a good idea planting wild flowers to attract bees if you use pesticides on your farm or property
Hopefully more and more people will realize the importance of our bees and vegetable gardening without chemicals will become the norm. Unfortunately many of the extremely toxic (to insects, wildlife and humans) chemicals are used commercially in crops and in regular home lawn and garden maintenance.
What’s happening world-wide with our bee populations in countries like China, the United States and elsewhere? If you have not asked yourself this question and what we can do to protect our little pollinators and why should we bother, perhaps it is time we became concerned.
- Check out the links to find out more information about the problems facing bees worldwide
- Perhaps along with Plant a Tree day we can have a Canada-wide Plant Wild flowers for Bees Day and school children can plant perennial wild flowers to help support the bees
- Over the years we have tried to help our backyard friends by planting bee friendly plants ~ why not plant a wildflower garden to attract pollinators such as bees, butterflies, etc.
- As mentioned before, if you have an insect friendly flower garden – using herbicides such as Killex or Roundup is a death sentence for many beneficial insects, including bees, butterflies and dragonflies who visit your yard
Links & References
- Here’s where 50,000 Bumblebees went
- A youthful inspiration ~ Environmental Youth Alliance and bees
- What is Colony Collapse disorder
- How to preserve the bee
- Bee pollination is valued in the billions in North America
- Shortage of bee hives in Fraser Valley to pollinate commercial blueberry farms
- The declining bees
- A reality check – some bee species becoming extinct – great site for lots of information on bees
- Clothiandin – pesticide EPA will not ban but weakens bee immune system so mite disease causes CCD (colony collapse disorder)
- Interesting study on environmental issues for the southern Okanogan
- Specialized eco system in southern Okanogan
- Banning pesticides
- USDA pesticides killing bees
- Bees and toxic chemicals
- Hand pollinating in China
- Pesticide exposure cited as cause for decline in honey bee by US EPA
- Recent fines for grower – link between pesticides and bee kill
- European Union bans use of pesticide, neonicotinoids, for two years
- April 7, 2012 PBS TV show “Silence of the Bees”
That buzzing noise means something. Now, the only reason for making a buzzing noise that I know of is because you are… a bee! And the only reason for being a bee is to make honey. And the only reason for making honey is so I can eat it.
A.A. Milne – Winnie the Pooh