If you’ve been paying attention to environmental news at all, you’ve most likely heard about the dropping population of honey bees, due to colonial collapse syndrome. You’ve probably heard that honey bees are dropping like... well, like flies. Such a population drop could mean disaster for our food supply; but it would also be a catastrophe for the fiber industry. Bees pollinate billions of plant species, including plants that produce fibers, such as flax, and natural dyes like henna and woad. Plus, bees pollinate plants that are essential to the diets of sheep and goats.
But what if I told you that honey bees are actually going to be OK? “Wait!” you cry “I read the honey bee colonies are collapsing!” Well, they were. 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 they affected honey bees so seriously, but they did. Then the US and European countries enacted laws limiting the use of neonicotinoids; now the honey bees are no longer in as much danger as they were. They’ll be back on their own six feet in a few years.
Honey bees are gonna be alright; so what’s the problem? The problem is not honey bees; the problem is the nearly 4000 other bee species native to North America. That’s right; 4000 species. 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.
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 farmers, beekeepers and researchers to help them along. Native bee species do not enjoy that benefit; they’re on their own. Furthermore, if these other bee species disappeared, honey bees would not be able to pick up the slack. Without native bees, our agriculture industry would completely collapse.
So what should we do? Plant wildflowers. Plant them anywhere. Find out what species grow in your area, get some seeds and plant. It doesn’t matter if your lawn is tiney, they don’t need much space. And if you use synthetic pesticides, stop immediately, and switch to something safer. If we all contribute a little bit of our lawns, then the bees can be saved.
For More information see: www.pollinator.org/
(Thanks to Ian Wilson for his contribution today. Pollinators keep our natural dyes and plant fibers vibrant for the future. It's so easy to help them thrive.)
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**Opinions expressed on blogs about which I write are the opinion of the blog authors and DO NOT necessarily reflect my own opinion.