The Plight of the Honey Bee
With summer in full swing in Northern Michigan, the bees will be out in the fields pollinating this season’s crops like our iconic tart cherries and crisp fall apples. Bees play a crucial role as pollinators of foods from almonds to strawberries to tomatoes as well as cherries and apples. It’s tough to imagine not being able to enjoy these foods, but a distressing worldwide decline in bee numbers behooves us to consider what life would be like without them.
Are those pesky, stinging insects really that important? Consider that about a third of our foods, some 100 key crops, rely on these insects and that bees contribute more than $15 billion to U.S. crop production. But bees are dying at an alarming rate. Beekeepers all over the United States are still reporting troubling colony losses – as high as 45 percent annually.
A major culprit in the decline of bees is a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids. Banned in Europe, the U.S. routinely uses neonicotinoids. Other factors include disappearing foraging habitat, climate change, fungal and viral pests, and the Varroa mite.
Some good news for bees:
- This year the EPA took the rare step of banning sulfoxaflor, a bee-toxic insecticide. For an agency that has been really slow to take meaningful bee-protective action, dragging out both scientific analysis and much needed policy shifts, this was a very welcome move.
- The "Pollinator Protection Act" took a big step forward in the California legislature, moving closer to becoming state law.
- Garden-care giant Ortho said it will stop using neonicotinoids. The company plans to phase out neonics by 2021 in eight products used to control garden pests and diseases. Ortho will change three products for roses, flowers, trees and shrubs by 2017 and other products later.
- The Maryland General Assembly passed a bill that would allow only certified applicators, farmers and veterinarians to apply pesticides containing neonics.
- In March, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it would consider whether to protect two species of wild bumblebees under the Endangered Species Act amid declines in their numbers.
Stop by Oryana throughout the month of June and learn more about the plight of the bees and the valuable work they do throughout the world.