Most of us don’t live on a farm or where large amounts of food are produced, so we don’t personally see the role bees (and other pollinators) play in producing the food we need. And if food is at the store today, it’s difficult to believe it won’t be available next week … much less next month or next year.
Though we may not feel the urgency new, we need to plan for the future of these pollinators to be sure we have one, too. I’ll add comments afterwards.
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June 24, 2021
Beekeepers this year in the United States reported the second highest annual loss of managed honey bee colonies since records began in 2006, according to results of a nationwide survey released Wednesday.
The non-profit Bee Informed Partnership (BIP) said in its preliminary analysis that beekeepers — ranging from small backyard keepers to commercial operations — lost 45.5% of their colonies between April 2020 and April 2021. The results are based on a survey of over 3,300 U.S. beekeepers managing a combined 192,384 colonies.
Nathalie Steinhauer, BIP’s science coordinator and a post-doctoral researcher in the University of Maryland Department of Entomology, said in a statement …
“This year’s survey results show
that colony losses are still high.”
The annual loss is 6.1 percentage points higher than the average loss rate of 39.4% over the last 10 years, the researchers said. Steinhauer said …
“Though we see fluctuations from year
to year, the worrisome part is we see no
progression towards a reduction of losses.”
During winter beekeepers reported losses of 32.2%—9.6 percentage points higher than last year and 3.9 points higher than the 15-year average. Summer losses came in at 31.1%. While that figure is 0.9 percentage points lower than last year, it’s 8.6 points higher than the survey average.
The beekeepers attributed the losses this year to a number of factors, with the parasitic Varroa destructor mite being cited most frequently for winter losses and queen issues most frequent for summer losses. Other causes of colony loss beekeepers cited included starvation, weather, and pesticides.
Continued losses are bad news for food security, as agricultural crops like blueberries and almonds rely on the bees for pollination.
Survey co-author Geoffrey Williams, an assistant professor of entomology at Auburn University, said …
“Beekeepers of all types consistently lose
a high number of colonies each year,
which puts a heavy burden on many of
them to recoup those losses in time for
major pollination events like California
almonds. Colony losses remain elevated,
and this year’s annual and summer loss
rates are among the highest recorded.”
For Jason Davidson, senior food and agriculture campaigner with Friends of the Earth, the survey results were a damning indictment of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) failure to act on what conservation advocates call an “insect apocalypse” that was furthered by the Trump administration’s pro-pesticide industry decisions. Davidson said …
“These bee losses highlight the disturbing
lack of progress from the EPA in the fight
to protect pollinators from toxic pesticides,
urging the EPA not to sit on the sidelines
while beekeepers experience horrific losses
year after year.”
“It will take meaningful policy protection and
rapid market change to reverse these un-
sustainable declines in honey bees and to
protect the future of our food supply.”
Pollinators, Blumenauer said Wednesday, are “critically important to the food we eat and the environment that sustains us. Unfortunately, our pollinators weren’t immune from [former President Donald] Trump’s war on science and the environment. In fact, they were a target, as the previous administration actually fought to allow more bee-killing pesticides back on the market.” He said:
“Now, it’s up to us to work overtime
to protect them, which is why I’ve
reintroduced the Saving America’s
According to Emily Knobbe, policy manager at the Center for Food Safety, which endorsed the legislation, “National Pollinator Week is the perfect time for Rep. Blumenauer to reintroduce his progressive pollinator protection bill — and a perfect time to ask legislators to support this continued dedication to pollinators.”
She said the latest version of the bill rightly responds to the decline in pollinator health, pointing to the 80% decline in 20 years of the Eastern Monarch butterfly populations as one example. She also pointed to a group of pesticides called neonicotinoids, or neonics, as key to pollinator recovery, given their links to pollinator harm. Knobbe wrote …
“Rep. Blumenauer’s bill would require
not a suspension, but a ban on all
neonicotinoid pesticides. This change
to the proposed legislation reflects that
the time for requesting incremental
action from the EPA has passed.
“Pollinators need swift action in order to
survive — banning neonicotinoids would
provide a lifeline for these essential species.”
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Here’s a link to a list of products that contain neonicotinoid pesticides. You’ll find many seemingly popular brands at the largest of our most popular stores.
I’m hesitant to post “Doom & Gloom” messages on these blogs, but I sense that we naturally make decisions based on what we’re personally experiencing now, and not so much on what we need to do to ensure our future well-being. Again, asking D, the entity my wife channels, for comments …
“Bees bring food to your table by pollinating plants such as all vegetables and almonds. Plus, remember they do pollinate flowers, to make seed. Stuart has given you a long list of products to avoid. In addition, we would ask that you not use sprays to eliminate mosquitoes, as they kill not only mosquitoes but also all flying insects.
“To help bees, plant flowers around your home, as that will draw them and give them food. We also recommend planting flowers near or between vegetable plants in your garden, as these flowers will draw the bees, so they can pollinate your vegetables. Bees also need water, and having a clear pond helps them, too. It is an amazing sight to see a group of bees hovering and dipping into water, be it a pond … or even a birdbath.”