If you kept up with Facebook last Wednesday and happened to pass by Danforth for lunch, then you probably got a taste of Bee Day – a new event that Team Green hopes to become a really BIG thing over the years.
We started small this year, mainly taking time to explore our options and educate ourselves about all the different beekeeping opportunities in Rochester. Primarily, that meant speaking with the surprisingly many urban beekeepers of Rochester. And then, we took some time educating YOU, our peers. In years to come, we hope to expand Bee Day to become as awesome and full of activities as Local Foods Week and Earthfest.
Why do we care about bees enough to make an annual celebratory event in their honor? Well, bees are the silent (albeit slightly buzzing) guardians of this planet. Bold statement? No. Consider this: 1/3 of world agriculture wouldn’t be possible without pollination by bees. I mean sure, farmers could try to manually pollinate those crops, but that would cost about $15 billion extra dollars JUST FOR U.S. CROPS. Worldwide, bees contribute an astounding € 265 billion annually in pollination. Without bees, all vegetable and fruit eating animals, including us humans, would have to drastically reduce their diets. To visualize what that would look like, Huffington Post made a really compelling set of images illustrating grocery shelves before and “after” a massive bee extinction. Below is what the average produce section would be reduced to:
Are bees really in so much danger that we actually should fear our grocery stores looking like the one pictured above? Yes, they are, and it’s really scary.
In recent years, scientists and farmers have observed bee colonies being abandoned with increasing frequency. No one knows where the bees go – whether they die or fly to live independently – nor why they leave the hive en masse, but research is currently being conducted with ferocity to stop Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) as soon as possible.
As the graph above illustrates, before 2006, 10-15% of bee colonies died every winter. However, since 2006, 30% of bee colonies have collapsed every winter in the United States (keep into consideration, though, that CCD is an international issue).
Scientists are considering several possible causes for CCD: 1) the invasive varroa mite, 2) emerging diseases like the Israeli Acute Parasite, 3) pesticide poisoning from dusted crops, 4) stress from improper beekeeping (i.e. continuous transportation of hives across country for pollination services), and 5) changes to foraging habitat.
The most researched possible cause is pesticides. Bees seem to become disoriented and lose track of how to return to the hive after pollinating pesticide treated crops. Obviously, pesticides are necessary to maintain an amount of agriculture that feeds our every-growing population. So, instead of advocating the complete disuse of pesticides, scientists are actively trying to discover which pesticides are causing the problem and how to create similar pesticides that don’t have that effect.
Well, that’s great and all, research is awesome, but what can the rest of us do to help? The answer is really simple and actually super fun: plant a garden, whether on a plot of land or on a windowsill, which features flowers that bees can easily pollinate.
Click here for some tips on how to plant a bee-friendly garden. If you don’t have much of a green thumb, you can still support the bees by buying honey instead of other sweeteners, minimizing your carbon footprint, and maybe not trying to drown bees in pools? Yeah that’d be good.
Anyways, that’s the gist of the plight of the bees. Below are some cool documentaries you can watch to learn more. See you next year with some more Bee Day goods!
Author: Jackie Ibragimov