WRAL posted this story yesterday about the decline in US honeybees. Lead story was 27% colony losses last winter. But the bigger story is 44% losses over the entire year. 44%. And really, this isn’t news. Beekeepers face this level of losses every year.
The data comes from an annual survey from the Bee Informed Partnership. We, along with 1000s of beekeepers big and small contribute data of our bee yard experiences to create regional and national snapshots of honeybee health.
And the news continues to be bad. Imagine a company losing 44% of their stock each year, or a farmer losing 44% of his herd. How about losing 44% of your stock portfolio each year. Catastrophic, right? Beekeepers face it every year.
Who cares? Beside, bees sting people. Only people who eat food should care. Honeybees alone are responsible for pollinating at least 25% of our diet. Without them, count on vastly fewer berries, apples, and cucumbers. And totally forget eating almonds again. Then there’s the honey. Honeybees aren’t our only pollinators. Truth be told, they aren’t even native here. There are many native bees & flies that pollinate our crops. But honeybees are extremely efficient, manageable, and they do make excess honey.
So, maybe this isn’t a tree-hugger moment, or the poster child of the week. Maybe we should care now. (I do like to eat.) The whys of bee decline are scary and complicatingly intertwined – a toxic storm of viruses perpetuated by tiny mites (unheard of 20 years ago), loss of forage & pesticide cocktails. It’s a daunting challenge but a battle worth fighting. [Writer steps down from soapbox]
This weekend is the Chatham County Pollinator Festival. A celebration of all the insects and mammals who turn flowers into food we eat. The event is FREE and runs from 9am-1pm at Chatham Mills in Pittsboro. We will be there along with many other folks offering education & activities for young and old. Come make a beeswax candle, plant a pot, or try mead – honey wine! You might find that honeybees are pretty friendly and darn good neighbors.
Wake County will have a similar event coming in June. More on that soon. If you can’t make this weekend’s event, it’s easy to help. And it truly does matter. Forage loss is largely due to development. So replace some of that forage in your development! Start by planting some pollinator friendly plants and skipping the mosquito yard spray this year. If you are a gardener, they will thank you with increased yields. Plus it will boost the odds for the bees, and by default, us too.