Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Bee Informed: Save Our Bees

Have you heard the recent buzz on the national bee population?

 
If you're a beekeeper like the ones in this video, it's no recent news that honeybees have been dying off at a rapid rate for the past few years due to a mysterious malady coined "Colony Collapse Disorder." If you're simply a lover of nature and bee products, such as BeeAlive supplements and skin care which wouldn't be possible without the bees, please make yourself more knowledgeable on these life-threatening issues facing our bees and how you can help.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, bee pollination of U.S. crops like almonds, apples, cherries and pumpkins is responsible for an estimated $15 billion in increased crop value. In fact, about one mouthful in three in our diet directly or indirectly benefits from honey bee pollination -- our everyday lives depend on bees! Unfortunately, since 2007, colony collapse disorder, or CCD, has resulted in the loss of some 30 percent of honey bee populations among beekeepers, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Fewer bees means smaller harvests and higher food prices.

Why are the bees dying?
 
Scientists and beekeepers have been racing to find an answer to what is causing CCD. Some researchers have suggested weather and diet as a possible cause, but most fingers now are pointing at the use of pesticides as the culprit.

On March 21, 2013, beekeepers and environmentalists sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) "for its failure to protect pollinators from dangerous pesticides." The environmentalists accused the EPA of turning a blind eye for years to the deliberate misuse of pesticides by farmers. The group had previously petitioned the EPA for an emergency ban on neonicotinoids, a common insecticide derived from nicotine. Neonicotinoids, although applied in smaller doses than older pesticides, are often embedded in seeds so that the plant itself carries the chemical that kills the insects that feed on it. So, unlike older pesticides which degrade quickly, neonicotinoids persist for weeks and sometimes even months. Beekeepers worry that bees carry a summer's worth of contaminated pollen to hives, which can lead to future generations of bees ingesting a steady supply of pesticides. Consumed once or twice might not be so harmful, but consumed regularly is a potential death sentence for bees.
 
In fact, studies have deduced that pesticides cause negative brain effects in bees. A study in Nature Communications found that within 20 minutes of exposure to neonicotinoids and coumaphos, another kind of pesticide, neurons in the major learning center of bee brains stopped firing. Another study in the Journal of Experimental Biology concluded that bees exposed to these pesticides were slower to learn -- or completely forgot -- important associations between floral scent and food rewards. According to Science Today, "these findings provide a possible underlying cellular mechanism for the observed disruption and altered foraging behavior seen in bees during CCD."
 
The European Union has proposed to ban the use of neonicotinoids on crops frequented by bees, which have been touted the cause of mass honeybee deaths in Germany and France. Unfortunately, beekeepers' worries don't end there; the growing use of herbicides and fungicides, too, pose harmful risks to bees -- and yet each of these substances has been certified.
   
So... how can you help?
 
If you enjoy the many fruits of bees' labor, the buzz on bees' impending fate is just too loud to ignore. Since policymakers have yet to make bee safety a top priority, there are many simple actions we can all take to help slow down, and hopefully reverse, honeybee decline.
  1. Protect Bees from Pesticides. Instead of using pesticides, which kill beneficial pollinators and natural enemies that curb common pests, explore organic ways to grow healthy plants, like using compost for soil and controlling pests with homemade solutions and "biocontrols" such as ladybugs.
  2. Provide Food for Bees. To ensure your backyard bees have food throughout the year, consider clustered plantings with staggered blooming times in the late summer and fall. Remember to take care of and water your garden -- when your plants thrive, bees thrive!
  3. Provide Water for Bees. Rivers, ponds, an irrigation system, a rainwater collection system, small-scale garden water features or any shallow water source are more than adequate water for bees, without creating breeding grounds for mosquitoes!
  4. Provide Shelter for Bees. Every area of your lawn doesn't have to be perfectly manicured at all times -- bees prefer to build their nests on undisturbed, untilled land and dead trees or plants.
  5. Plant Trees for Bees. Planting trees helps preserve the environment, which provides a safe habitat for wildlife, including insects. Gather with a group of friends to plan your tree-planting activity!
  6. Go Green. By opting for eco-friendly alternatives, you are helping preserve the environment. Green initiatives are quite simple -- for starters, dispose of waste properly; recycle reusable materials; and compost biodegradable wastes in your garden!
  7. Spread the Word! When you do, governments respond more quickly. So, tell your friends and family about environmental initiatives to prevent against further damage and bee deaths. Write articles and blog posts. Let your voice be heard to promote positive change.
At present, you might not directly feel the effects of colony collapse disorder. However, if bee deaths continue to rise, it will eventually generate negative effects on the food chain -- negatively affecting all of us.
 
Bee Informed. Save Our Bees!
 
 
 
Sources:
http://www.ars.usda.gov/News/docs.htm?docid=15572
http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/press-releases/1911/beekeepers-and-public-interest-groups-sue-epa-over-bee-toxic-pesticides
http://www.calacademy.org/sciencetoday/saving-bees/5510547/
http://www.honeybeehaven.org/content/take-pledge?utm_source=tw&utm_medium=socmed&utm_content=HBH&utm_campaign=pledge&utm_source=fb&utm_medium=socmed&utm_content=food&utm_campaign=bees
http://www.earthtimes.org/green-blogs/green-living/bee-death-simple-prevention-efforts-you-do-06-Apr-13/



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