By Gary Bogue
Wednesday, February 28th, 2007 at 8:06 am in Bee decline.
Honey bees have a problem.
It began almost 10 years ago when honey bee hives started getting infested by a species of parasitic Asian bee-killing varroa mite. Since then, these mites have killed off honey bees by the millions, or maybe even billions. Other bee species (carpenter bees, bumble bees) are more resistant to the mites and that’s why we’ve been seeing increased numbers of these guys in our yards as they fill in the spaces left by the disappearing honey bees.
Unfortunately, there still aren’t enough of these other bee species to take the place of the honey bees.
To make matters worse, there is a new honey bee problem, called “Colony Collapse Disorder” for want of a better name, because no one really understands what this mysterious ailment is. All we know at this point is that honey bees around the country are starting to abandon their hives and disappear.
And as if the poor honey bees don’t have enough problems, they are also getting hammered by heavy (and often careless!) pesticide use and unusually bad weather all across the country.
Honey bees are vital to the things we grow. Without the assistance of these hard-working little insects, farmers will have a tough time getting their crops pollinated … and grown.
Simply put, we need these bees to survive.
Honey bees pollinate about one-third of the human diet and more than 50 different agricultural crops valued at more than $20 billion a year in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson, Ariz.
Eternal optimist that I am, I think scientists will eventually figure this all out and
come riding to the rescue to save the bees.
In the meantime, we home gardeners can assist their efforts right in our own back yards by doing what we can to protect remaining populations of our local honey bees, plus any other bee species we see.
For starters, don’t use pesticides. Use alternative pest control methods. Most chemical insecticides sold for home and garden use are toxic to honeybees, even in minute amounts. (I know, I’ll say it for you, “why are these pesticides allowed to be sold?”)
And be nice to every bee you see.