A Not So Sweet Future: Why we Need Honey Bees

Written by Frankie Sparacio, ESLLC 2016-2017

Call me crazy, but summer has never been my favorite time of the year. The days are too hot, there are countless amounts of bugs, and I have to mow the lawn almost every week, which I don’t particularly like to do. However, there is one activity that I can’t wait to do every summer: gardening. I love watching the seeds grow big and tall, and nothing beats the smell of vine ripe tomatoes. Planting and maintaining a garden can be hard work. Making sure the soil is suitable for plants, watering, and weeding are all time consuming. Even with all of that work, there would be no harvest without the hard work of honey bees. Honey bees are one of the hardest working species on the planet, but they are unfortunately taken for granted. Honeybees, along with other pollinators, helped produce $19 billion worth of agriculture in the United States alone in 2010. That’s almost one-third of everything that we eat.

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Unfortunately, honeybees are dying off at alarming rates. For about a decade, they’ve been dying off at rates up to 30% a year. The demise of honeybees may be due to a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids. Neonicotinoids are used extensively throughout the world, primarily because they are easy to use. The pesticide is coated onto the seeds, which the farmer then plants in the ground. The neonicotinoid is absorbed as the plant grows, and protects the tissues of the plant. However, there can be neonicotinoid residue in the nectar and pollen, which means that the bees feeding on the nectar may be exposed to the pesticide. In January 2016, the EPA released a statement admitting that neonicotinoids are in fact killing of honeybees.

The other reason why honeybees are dying off is because of, you guessed it, climate change. Since the 1970s, bees have lost nearly 200 miles of their historic wild range in the United States and Europe. As temperatures increase, many species of plants and animals are shifting their range north. Interestingly enough, bees are not joining that trend. Instead of shifting north, the bees range is compressing in from the south, leaving much less available habitat.

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This situation may seem dire, but there are ways to help out and save the bees. One solution is to ban harmful pesticides, like neonicotinoids. This is something that governments around the world would have to do, and hopefully someday they will. One way we can help is to plant a garden with plants that bees like. Plant native flowers, select single flower tops like daisies and marigolds (they provide more nectar), and skip highly hybridized plants (they produce very little pollen for bees). We may not be able to produce legislation that bans pesticides, but we do have the ability to do our own part. Planting a garden is fun, relatively easy, looks great, and is healthy for bees!

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Sources: Mcdonnell, Tim. “Here’s Why All the Bees Are Dying.” Www.motherjones.com. N.p., 9 July 2015. Web. 27 Sept. 2016.”Plant A Bee Garden.” Thehoneybeeconservancy.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2016.

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