By Ian Wilson
If you’ve been paying attention to environmental news at all, you’ve probably heard that honey bees are dropping like... well, like flies. You’ve probably been told that such a population drop could mean disaster for our food supply. Bees pollinate millions of plant species, including plants that produce fibers, such as flax. But what if I told you that honey bees are actually going to be OK? “Wait!” you cry “I read that the honey bee colonies are collapsing!” Well, they were, but not now.
The problem was partly due to the use of a synthetic pesticide known as a neonicotinoid. It mimics the effect of nicotine (a powerful natural insecticide). No one is exactly sure why it affected honey bees so seriously, but it did. The use of neonicotinoid was then banned in Europe, with the US following shortly. Now the honey bees are no longer in as much danger as they were. They’ll be back on their own six feet in no time.
So honey bees are going to be alright, but there’s another problem. The problem is the nearly 4000 other bee species native to North America. Honey bees were brought over from Europe to pollinate food crops and produce honey. They are not native to North America, and often compete with native bee species for the same food sources. Additionally, they have beekeepers and researchers to help them along. Native bee species do not enjoy that benefit; they’re on their own. These bees are more efficient at pollinating than imported honey bees; and they are more fragile. A recent study found that 50% of native Midwestern bee species have disappeared from their natural range. HALF of these highly important bees are gone, maybe for good. If these other bee species went extinct, honey bees would not be able to pick up the slack. Without native bees, our agriculture industry would completely collapse.
So what can YOU do? The simple answer is plant wildflowers and flowering trees. Find out what species grow in your area, buy some seeds and saplings and plant them. It doesn’t matter if your lawn is tiney, the bees don’t need much space. If you use synthetic pesticides, stop immediately, and switch to something safer. I’d recommend neem oil. If we all contribute a little bit of our lawns, then the bees can be saved.
**Opinions expressed on blogs about which I write are the opinion of the blog authors and DO NOT necessarily reflect my own opinion.