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How to Help Slow, or Stop, Missing Bees
The Importance of Bees and Pollination
Disappearing bees are a concern; why are reports of missing bees an issue? Bees and pollination are necessary to our food supply; certain types of bees are better pollinators. How do bees make honey?
Missing bees could become catastrophic to fruit and vegetable production world wide. Bees, and the pollination that they provide, are necessary for food growth and production.
To slow the issue of disappearing bees, it is necessary to focus on natural and organic farming methods such as crop rotation.
Increasing crop diversity on farms will help increased bee populations.
Additionally, planting of woodlots or bushes, landscaping, water attractions (such as ponds) to attract bees is necessary.
We Need Bees to Pollinate Our Gardens:
Farming organically - without the use of pesticides - and planning your farm or garden with the goal of attracting bees is key to solving the problem of disappearing bees.
There is also a concern that cell phones and cell phone transmissions are hurting bees. To-date this concern, raised by environmentalists and a number of scientists, is still unproven.
Nevertheless, when planting your garden or your crops or orchards try to find out where the wireless technology systems are set up in your area and, if at all possible, try to arrange your plantings appropriately.
What is proven is that the weakened bees colonies (weakened through urbanization and large industrial farming practices, including heavy use of pesticides and intensive farming policies) are an easy target for the Varroa mite - a tiny Asian mite that sucks the juices out of European honeybees, crippling and then wiping out entire colonies.
Weakened bees are also an easy target for the Tracheal mite; a mite that lives in the breathing tubes of adult honey bees where they feed on bee blood. These mites attack all types of bees. Researchers are saying that these mites have helped reduce bee numbers by nearly 30 percent over the last 25 years.
Missing Bees Issue Can Be Turned Around:
- Grow organically. No pesticides. Test soil ph. Compost. Add worms. Develop a natural healthy bee habitat that will lead to healthier bees and that will be more resistant overall.
- Control mite issues organically; there have been successful mite control efforts using natural essential oils and, in severe cases of mite infestation, a 50% formic acid fumigation (the use of natural and organic products).
- Increase crop diversity.
- Planting more flowering trees, bushes, plants to provide a stronger nectar and pollen source during the growing season. This should occur in both rural and urban areas.
- Consider bee habitats - where do they build hives - and encourage hive building by adding fences, trees and shrubs. Badly eroded areas should be replanted with native flowering shrubs or trees.
- Build water features and/or waterways - bees need water sources.
- Minimize interference and impact on the bee life cycle.
The goal is to increase bee populations, and to increase the health of bee populations, so that they are more resistant to mites, and other attacks on bees and so that disappearing bees are no longer an environmental issue.
All bees are pollinators but some, such as the honey bee are better at their job than others.
Bees are under attack by their environment. But we cannot simply sit by and let them grow extinct. In the United States, the National Honey Board reports that about one third of the Americans' food supply is dependent on bees' pollination. That is significant to all of us.
Canadian farmers are importing bees from New Zealand to help with pollination: in March 2012, Vancouver area local beekeepers imported more than 3000 packages of bees to help pollinate local blueberry farms. While this is a temporary solution, on a long term basis we need to fix the environmental issues that are causing the collapse of the bees.
In Canada alone, more than 20,000 packages of bees and over 100,000 mated queen bees will be purchases from outside the country. This is to replace the 'disappearing bees' (on average 30 percent of the Canadian bee population) that are lost each winter to disease and cold.
Governments around the world need to track the bee life cycle and causes for missing bees. Then the world needs to work on finding and implementing remedies that work in balance with the environment.
An Example of How A City is Responding
to Disappearing Bees:
In Vancouver, Canada, a volunteer organization named Environmental Youth Alliance has launched a $90,000 project to increase the bee population in the city. The organization build over 150 bee condos over the last two years.
The first 100 mason-bee condos were distributed last year to homeowners for placement in their backyards. Each condo housed a colony of 36 bees.
The homeowners were required to garden organically (including no pesticides) and to ensure that their garden was planted with an abundance of flowering plants and fruit trees that were pollen rich and bee-friendly.
Additionally, the homeowners committed to monitoring the colony and report on how the bees are doing. They also are required to report on how many of the condo 'units' are filled.
This urban apiary project involved city youth to build the condos and was a project to create awareness of the globally declining bee population.
In 2010, the organization placed 8000 bees in 53 condos (50 large size condos with a colony size of 72 bees each and 3 extra large condos with a colony size of 720 bees each) in parks and public areas around the city of Vancouver. The hope is that these bees will reproduce and colonize.
For more on disappearing bees, types of bees (particularly the honey bee), how bees make honey and why honey is so good for us, please visit Missing Bees and Types of Bees - the Honey Bee.
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