If you read my 2013 post A Lot of People are Unaware of the Bee Problem, or even if you haven’t, you know that colony collapse disorder is an extremely serious environmental problem the world is facing right now.
The rate of colony collapse has increased exponentially within honeybee colonies and we’ve known about this a least since the 1990’s. Not just America is affected – bees of all different species are declining all over the world. Wild bee varieties especially continue to decline, reaching the point of near endangerment. So far, some bee species such as the bombus affinis bumblebee get the endangered label. Crossing what line constitutes endangerment is still a mystery to me, but if you know anything about bees and how they’re related to your food, you’ll know that this is a very serious problem. This isn’t like the Black Rhino, the bonobo or red pandas (red pandas are endangered?). Although losing any species of animal due to human activity vastly affects the environment, the bees are immediately essential to life at every level on Earth.
How is that true? Bees cross-pollinate flowers, allowing the plants to produce fruit (peaches, tomatoes, cauliflower, literally anything you can think of). This allows the plant to thrive, animals to have food, and for humans specifically to have food to eat. So what happens if all the bees die?
‘It is estimated that more than a hundred thousand varieties of plants would disappear, if bees could not visit them’; add to these those plants that do not wholly depend upon insect agency in fertilization but whose productiveness is increased by such visitation, consider if you can the countless ages, past and future, these plants have added, and will continue to add to the earth’s productiveness, and you can but slightly comprehend the importance of the honey-bee in agriculture.
–NYS Department of Agriculture, 1907
Basically, most of us will die (lol of course all of us will die eventually duh). That sounds horrifying, but it’s true. A quote has circulated regarding how long we have before we reach world famine due to bee extinction, commonly sourced as Einstein, that we have 4 years. However, this quote is basically lost in a game of telephone and there is no telling exactly how long we have before our world rapidly changes due to famine. There are a few edible plants that do not require bee pollination, especially for other animals, but many do not have the necessary nutrients we as humans need to survive. There’s no way to predict the future, but we can assess that we can eat animals and preserve food up until a certain point until perhaps only the rich survive (or really smart bunker farmers) and the human population will dwindle significantly, perhaps surviving malnourished for who knows how long.
This is just a scrappy prediction that means little. I digress.
In my Earth Day remarks, I observed that America had created the most complex, highly advanced technology in history. Yet we are almost totally dependent on a measly little flying insect. If anything happened to the honeybee, many of our most important plants would disappear and our entire civilization likely would collapse.
-Dick West, 1971
Here’s the good news: We are not completely screwed. Bees still exist, including wild varieties such as the bumblebee. We can still save ourselves and the planet, which is why I’m taking action (and you can too). This spring, I took on the legacy of my grandfather and started my first hive. My cousin started one as well. We are learning the trade from our grandfather and online sources. I am also taking advice from two experienced beekeepers in the area. They are all helping me by providing equipment for free (also beekeeping equipment is extremely cheap). I planted a bee-friendly garden complete with plants they like such as borage, echinacea, rapini, sunflowers, calendula, and lavender – just to name a few.
I’m going to share my beekeeping experiences with you all on here to show you just how easy and safe it is to keep bees (I haven’t even gotten stung yet and I don’t use any protective equipment besides a mask sometimes). I’ll share tips on what to plant, what to buy, how to grow stuff, and how to educate others about colony collapse disorder. BEES ARE SO IMPORTANT, YOU GUYS. . . and beekeeping is so easy. I know every person who is strong enough to carry a full bee box can successfully keep bees (they are actually quite light) and keeping bees is so good for the environment (arguably more so than avoiding animal products – maybe less so than avoiding industrially farmed beef specifically). I hope this “Bee Love” series can inspire hope and change within all of you. We can all save the bees (really, we can). We just need to take action.
- Scientific American
- Northeast Public Radio (NPR)
- National Geographic
- Endangered Species Coalition
- World Wildlife Foundation
- List of crop plants pollinated by bees
- 1971 April 20, Williamson Daily News, “The Lighter Side: Is ‘Almost Certain’ FBI Had His Every Move Bugged” by Dick West, (UPI News Service), Start Page 4, Quote Page 9, Williamson, West Virginia. (Google News Archive)