Saturday, August 21, 2010

Where Have All the Bees Gone

Magnet # 323:  Beehive State, Utah

Material:  Agate, Plastic

Purchased By:  Mom & Dad

This marks the second annual National Honey Bee Awareness Day.  Yep, it debuted just last year to help bring together beekeepers, bee associations and clubs, and everyone else interested in the subject to help promote the honey bee.  Their most important goals are to celebrate and encourage advancements in beekeeping, make the public more aware of honey bees and those who look after them, and focus on the environmental concerns that are threatening the survival of the species.  During last year's event, 16 states joined in and 42 programs such as honey tastings, tours of apiaries (places where beehives are kept), and educational seminars were held around the country.  For this year, the theme is "Local Honey - Good for Bees, You, and the Environment!"  And there are nearly 20 states featuring events this time - oddly enough, the Beehive State, Utah, is not among them - perhaps they should try to join in next year, if for nothing else than to keep that title relevant.  Unfortunately, there are no activities going on here in Savannah, but in Columbus, Georgia the Chattahoochee Valley Beekeepers Association is joining in.  The states with the most involved associations are Florida, with four joining in and Pennsylvania, with a whopping nine groups in all.  If you want to find out if any are available near you, check out http://www.nhbad.com/.  But even if you can't make it to anything on this National Honey Bee Awareness day, there are still ways you can help the bees and those who look after them.  First of all, buy local honey and other bee products - they're said to be much tastier than the manufactured version and might even help with any allergy problems you're having.  Also, be careful about using pesticides and chemicals around and outside your home - they could end up hurting any local bees.  You can likewise consider planting a garden filled with native and nectar producing flowers and perhaps not killing off some plants that are considered to be weeds, like dandelions and clover, but are actually important to bees.  And if you're really committed, you might consider allowing a beekeeper to keep beehives on your land or even become one yourself, perhaps as a hobby.  But whatever you can do to help out the bees, give it a try - they help make the world a much better place.

Back in late 2006, the world first became aware of a very disturbing fact - in North America, the honey bees, most notably the worker bees, were beginning to disappear.  In some cases, between 30 and 70 percent of colonies were dying out.  Often, the bees have flown away and not returned or not eaten the food sources, such as sugar water, that their keepers have provided for them.  Some are also engaging in odd behavior.  These numbers are alarming, as they are the highest we have had in recent history.  And it's not just limited to North America.  There are reports of it happening in European countries such as France, Belgium, and Greece and to a lesser degree in Germany and Switzerland.  There are even reports that it may be occurring as far away as Taiwan.  This phenomenon has come to be known as Colony collapse disorder, or CCD and we have yet to discover what is causing it.  Theories abound, however, and they range from malnutrition to diseases and pathogens to pesticides.  Some organic beekeepers have even claimed that their colonies are unaffected by CCD.  But the problem isn't getting any better - in 2007, 30 percent of colonies were lost, in 2008, that number increased to 36 percent and in 2009, 29 percent were lost.  Fifteen to twenty percent decline is usually the average and it looks as though 2010 won't be any better.  And the decline in the honey bee population is troubling worldwide as they play a critical role in our ecosystem.  They pollinate as much as a third of all of the vegetables and fruits we eat, making them possible or just much better than they'd otherwise be.  Bees can be responsible for as much as half of what we consume every day and their pollen also has other applications, such as treating burn victims and helping those who suffer from arthritis. Looking after them is definitely in our own best interests.

The recent trouble with bees has undoubtedly helped bring about National Honey Bee Awareness Day and that's good to know.  By raising awareness of the importance of the honey bee and the dangerous threat they now face, it has been easier for beekeepers to get help from Congress and the scientific community.  And now it's your turn to help these important creatures in their struggle to stay alive.  If nothing else, just try to purchase a bottle of local honey to help them out - you'll be helping yourself out as well, plus it should taste great.  Our bees have been there for us over the years and now it's our turn to be there for them.

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