Why are honeybees important?

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Did you know that honeybees pollinate over 90 different crops or one third of all crops in the United States? They are essential to today’s agriculture business and without them it would suffer greatly. Unfortunately, the honeybee population has decreased significantly. By 2007, there was an estimated loss of 2.7 million bee colonies in the United States, which was projected to have an $8 billion to $12 billion effect on the agriculture business.  The severity of this loss can be compared to the number of bees that pollinate almond trees. It takes around 1.5 million bee colonies to pollinate 750,000 acres of almond trees, which in turn produce around 2 billion pounds of almonds. So what is causing this loss?

There are many different theories including sickness among bees, or the fact that they are being overworked. However when bee colonies are infected by a common disease, the loss is only around 15%, which is significantly lower than what is being witnessed today. Now bee colonies are disappearing by 30% to 90%. Another theory known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) occurs when bees disappear by the masses (thousands) with no rhyme or reason as to how they disappeared. Scientists believe this mysterious disappearance could be caused by the insecticides and pesticides used on cropland.

So what is being done to prevent this? In March 2013, European countries passed a European Commission Proposal to ban pesticides that could be harmful to bees. The United States has not passed any proposals yet to ban harmful pesticides. So what can you do as an individual? You can grow a garden that is honeybee friendly (filled with flowers and not treated with chemicals). If you know someone who owns honeybees you can inform them of the issue and ask that they not treat their crops with chemicals. You could also purchase sustainably produced food that is not treated with chemicals. Any individual can make a difference no matter how small!

Learn more about sustainability at gundersenenvision.org.

 

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