And, it’s not just them.
All pollinators are in trouble. The European Honey Bee is simply the first casualty. For several years now, we’ve known honey bees were on a steep and seemingly unwavering decline, but I don’t think I realized until recently how bad things are. I have a friend through the construction industry (Hey Pat!) who is also a beekeeper, and I’ve been thinking about getting bees myself so I called him the other night. He was very enthusiastic about a visit (which I’ve yet to do), and the art of beekeeping. When we discussed Colony Collapse Disorder, his mood became somber. He has three hives, and lost two of them within a week this spring. The bees were there one day and gone the next. He ordered two more packages of replacement bees, but he is worried.
We all should be. According to the 2010 Preliminary Report of the Apiary Inspectors of America, European Honey Bees are disappearing or dying at a rate of 28.6% nationwide based upon inspection of twenty percent of all recorded hives. Although these losses were less than in 2007/2008, and not all were from CCD, it is still frightening. Even more alarming was a show I watched on Planet Green the other evening, The Last Beekeeper. It followed three beekeepers as they leased their bees out to pollinate California’s almond crop. Unlike some of the shows on Planet Green’s lineup, the plight of the bees and theirs keepers was measured and eloquent. I don’t want to give anything away, but scientists are getting closer to figuring out why bees are dying. They just don’t know how to fix it.
I’ve noticed all of the pollinators are down in my garden this year which tells me their numbers are down everywhere. Now, bear in mind it’s early in the season, but I have some theories about why there aren’t as many. Chemicals are toxic to all insects, the environment and ultimately, us. Our biological systems are not so very different from every other creature on this earth, including insects. If a chemical paralyzes and kills an insect, well . . . .
After watching The Last Beekeeper, I felt a bit overwhelmed, and as always, I wondered what one person could do. If you want to read more about the decline of the honey bee in North America, there is a plethora of information. The USDA National Agriculture Library is a good place to start.
Now, normally, I don’t rant on my blog, but here goes.
First, stop using chemicals. With a move toward organics, biological controls are better than ever. One of the best ways to stop garden pests is to check our gardens every day (especially if we grow vegetables). Most serious gardeners I know no longer use insecticides. I mean, we can get those in the food we buy at the store. We don’t need them for the food we grow at home.
We may not be able to stop others, but we can be the first to stop.
While thinking about all of this earlier today, I popped over to read Gail’s blog, Clay and Limestone. Her writing is always insightful, but today she wrote beautifully on Hover Flies, one of my favorite pollinators. She also alerted me to National Pollinator Week. Although it wasn’t a meme, I’ve decided to join her in posting about pollinators and what we can do to attract them to our gardens.
I quit using chemicals long ago. Next post, I’ll share about great plants to grow to attract pollinators to your garden.
We can’t fix everything, but, with one step in the right direction, we can begin.