Several years ago, footballer Eli Manning boosted awareness of bee disappearances with his iconic tweet: “When your brother wins the super bowl but then you remember that bees are dying globally at an alarming rate.”
Thanks to the ensuing copycat memes, the plight of the bees has stayed somewhat in the public’s subconscious. Now, Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) remains an issue and an enigma; scientists are still not entirely sure what causes it.
According to Greenpeace, there has been a 40 percent loss of the commercial honey bee population since 2006. Hypotheses about what’s happening to everyone’s favorite nectar-vomiting insect are varied and inconclusive. These include pesticide alteration of directional ability, stress that bees undergo when moved, emerging diseases, the “varro mite” and immune suppression due to a combination of these factors.
The bees are not just dying. They’re disappearing entirely, abandoning the queen, her nurse bees and larvae to starve. Under normal circumstances, bees aren’t jerks: They’re hardwired to give their lives for their hive. This is one of the greatest cold cases of our time, and one that has ramifications for the entire human race.
This brings me to my first important question: Why should we care?
First, tea without honey is simply not as pleasant. More importantly, bees are critical pollinators. Seventy of the 100 crop species that feed 90 percent of the world are pollinated by honey bees, and they are responsible for $30 billion per year in crop revenue. Without bees, crops die, animals that eat the crops die and the global population of 7 billion cannot be sustained. Intense? Yes. Inevitable? Not necessarily.
Now for my second important question: What can we do about it?
There are many things that everyone, even college students, can do to help the bees. Sign the “Help Save the Bees” petition at sos-bees.org. It aims to influence a shift from chemical-based farming to a more ecologically friendly model.
Secondly, for homeowners, don’t look after your lawn– wow, no mowing and happy bees! Letting clover, dandelions, and other weeds grow, at least until after they’ve flowered, provides a haven for bees. Avoid pesticides, especially those containing neonicotinoids. This chemical has a proven link to negatively affecting bee neural communication, resulting in reduced directional ability.
Leave out some water for those good, good boys. Who are actually all girls. You get the point.
Plant flowers that honeybees love. The UK entomology department has released a list of bee-friendly plants specific to the Ohio Valley region that can help you.
Investigate local and buy local– talk to the beekeepers and farmers and figure out whether their bees are ethically treated and whether the farmers monoculture their plants (which is detrimental to bees).
Finally, educate yourself and others about the plight of the bees. Visit websites such as the EPA, Bee-informed, and the Pesticide Action Network. The latter of the two are nonprofits that accept donations to fund research and anti-pesticide campaigns.
I leave you with this simple PSA: Bees are wonderful. If not for the sake of the entire human race, do it for the bees. Take a small action to help a bee friend today.