Thursday, March 24, 2011

Give Bees a Chance

PBS aired a (rerun) episode of Nature a few nights ago. This episode was concerned with honey bees, what's happening with them, and why. They also touched on where we are headed if things do not change....

I love animal shows so when I saw the bee show coming on (with a rather obnoxious groan from my other half) we sat down to watch. It was a truly enlightening and kinda scary story.
  Here are some of the best parts, a'la me :)

People in China who produced pears in the mountains, without the help of pollinators! The bees just left in the 1980's, and the government (in all their glorious wisdom) said to the local farmers, "You must do the work of the bees if you want to feed your people." And that's exactly what they do.

Every spring they go out and gather the male parts of the flowers. They bring them home and strip off all the pollen, which they put into little jars. Tying chicken feathers to a stick, they recreate "the fuzzy body of a bee". Then they go to the real work.

Workers go out with jars and feather sticks in hand, climb ladders, and hand pollinate every flower!! Amazing!! The narrator said that one worker could pollinate 30 trees in one day, which sounds like a lot right? Not really...

"These top pollinators are responsible for 80% of all our fruit, nuts and vegetables, and a single hive of 50,000 honeybees can pollinate half a million plants in just one day!"{AES}  This, obviously, did not come from the show we watched. I was double checking my data, and have found somewhat conflicting reports on exactly how many flowers one hive can pollinate in a day.Since that's kind of relative, I went with the smaller number so that I didn't come off sounding like a crack-pot (anymore than I usually do, anyway).

New reports show that 96% of 4 species of bumble bee have died off in recent years.{2} And if numbers continue to decline the way they are, all the bees will be gone by 2035.  That's right, ALL of them. GONE. Think about how many plants in your own garden are pollinated by bees and other flying critters. Yep, pretty much all of them. No bees, no food. Plain and simple.
So, what's to do about it? Other than wait for scientist to try and find out why, there's LOADS of things that will help the situation.  Here are some:

You can start by not spraying ANYTHING else on your yard or garden. Bees are highly sensitive to pesticides, and mostly likely herbicides too (it does have "cide" at the end of it after all...and would you drink Round-Up?)

Give them a place to call their own, and something to eat. Kinda like "if you feed that dog, he'll just keep coming back", only the bees won't tear up your trash. Here's a pretty comprehensive list provided by the wonderful people at UC Berkley. They also have lots of information on their site about helping/raising bees. Check them out.

And one last piece of advice that I hadn't really considered before...Let a few of your veggies bolt, or go to seed. Per Mother Nature Networks article, "5 ways to help...", letting a few veggies go to seed in the fall will help provide valuable food for the bees during the winter.

....Yeah, bees are pretty friggin' important. And yet, people are still doing things that we know are terrible for them. People continue to support the Big Ag companies and the Chem companies, and all we are doing is shooting ourselves in the foot.
Bees need real food, not GM crap, and they need a huge variety of it. They need clean food, not something sprayed with a chemical that the average college graduate could not spell, or probably even pronounce. They need shelter, and they need a chance. Can you help give them one?

photo taken last year, by me at Savanna's Garden Treasure on Irby St. in Florence, SC. Plant pictured is Mountain Mint.

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