In one of the most under-reported slow-motion disasters of the year, bees continue to die at an alarming rate in both the United States and abroad. Scientists have not yet pinpointed the cause of the problem, but it appears to be a complex mix of parasites, compromised immune systems, disease, loss of habitat, and poisoning from toxic herbicides and pesticides regularly sprayed on farms and lawns across the country.
Bees are a crucial but often overlooked link in our food system, pollinating up to 30% of all of our food crops. Without the pollination provided by bees, we would have far fewer nuts, fruits, and vegetables, and thousands of farms would be forced to shut down. Like many of the services of nature, we take bees for granted - until they start to disappear.
While most commercial farmers in the U.S. (for instance almond orchards) pay beekeepers to bring in scores of beehives during the short pollinating season, most gardeners rely on the free services of wild bees to pollinate their crops. However, there is now some frightening evidence that the disorder may be spreading from the domesticated bees to their wild cousins.
Today in London, the British Beekeepers Assocation plan a march on Downing Street to protest the loss of 1 out of every 3 beehives (33%) in England in just the last 12 months. The BBKA will call for an increase in funding for research into the causes and solutions of the so-called Colony Collapse Disorder. (After all, we need food even more than we need banks - and how many billions have they gotten this year?)
While we wait for government to pay some tiny amount of attention to yet another man-made disaster, there is something YOU can do for the bees. Attracting pollinators to your yard is great for your fruit trees, squash, strawberries and many other fruit and vegetables. So save the bees! Provide a little bee fodder and habitat, don't poison the bees that may be hanging around, and if you get ambitious, you could even become a beekeeper!