You know what’s so great about bees?
The fact that they work together as a community to look after each other.
And in the real world, there’s nothing that inspires me more than communities and like-minded individuals coming together to make a difference.
And it’s effective.
Speaking of honey bees and communities, a recent cause that’s come to everyone’s attention is the plight of honey bees.
National Honey Bee Day (August 15th) is a perfect day to draw attention to these wonderful insects that we greatly need but often under appreciate.
Why Honey Bees and Their Keepers Are So Important
Did you know that the humble honey bee is responsible for the great diversity of fruits and vegetables that we see?
As honey bees buzz around collecting the nectar they need to survive, they pollinate the fruits, veggies and trees that we love so much:
- Of the 2.4 million honey bee colonies living in the U.S., about two-thirds of them pollinate crops as they travel across the country.
- Crops like blueberries and cherries are 90% dependent on the work of the honey bee (no honey bee=no blueberries or cherries).
- Almond crops depend completely on honey bees during their bloom.
- California almond growers use more than 1 million colonies to pollinate their crops every year.
- Without honey bee pollination, offerings in grocery store produce aisles would decline by 30%.
Simply put, honey bees are critical to local agriculture, forests and parks and backyard gardens. Wild animals and birds depend on honey bees to support the ecosystem in which they live.
So while many of my vegan friends choose not to eat honey and aren’t 100% for beekeeping, I hope we can all still agree that bees do play an important role in producing the foods we love to eat including almonds, cherries and blueberries—just to name a few.
But Honey Bees Are In Danger
But despite their importance, there’s been a drastic decline in the numbers of honey bees over the years. The reality is we don’t really know why honey bee populations are shrinking all over the world…but they are.
Use of pesticides and habitat disruption are often cited as major causes (they certainly can’t be helping) but the truth is, scientists are still pretty much baffled by the steep and rapid decline. Here are some other explanations:
- The growth of industrial agriculture
- Climate change
- The decline of biodiversity
- The lack of forage due to monocultures
If the reasons for their rapid decline are murky, the situation is crystal clear: we need our bees but they are in danger.
Which is exactly where community beekeeping comes in. Beekeepers keep and care for honey bees fill the void left by the shrinking population of bees.
Enter National Honey Bee Day
The beekeepers have one goal for the day: to educate the public about beekeeping and to help them understand the critical contributions that honey bees – wild and kept – make to the food supply and their flower gardens.
And guess what? You don’t have to become a beekeeper to support your local honey bee. Here are a few simple actions you can take to help your local bee population:
- Create new habitat. Plant native flowers in your garden. Where possible, choose single top flowers such as marigolds and daisies – they produce more nectar and it’s easier for bees to get to the pollen.
- Avoid using pesticides and herbicides in your garden. Plant insect-resistant plants and use beneficial insects to control pests. Use fabric barriers to discourage weeds.
- Reach out to local beekeeping communities and support their efforts.
- Get involved in educational efforts through your local community garden and/or beekeeping organizations.
- Never, ever destroy any bees or hives. Instead, call a reputable bee relocation (not “removal”) service. They’ll relocate the colony to a friendlier location (for everyone!) without harming the bees.
Celebrate National Honey Bee Day by supporting your local beekeepers and planting some pretty flowers. Another way to enjoy it? Why not prepare this recipe for The World’s Healthiest Apple Pie by Chef AJ, a celebratory ode to our friends the bees.
And to close, I’d like to share one last thing… the lyrics to a song called Big Yellow Taxi that was written and originally recorded by Joni Mitchell in 1970 (later recorded by the Counting Crows in 2002). For me, these words fit in perfectly with today’s ‘bee theme’.
Hey farmer, farmer
Put away that D.D.T. now
Give me spots on my apples
But leave me the birds and the bees