Spring is the time of year for outdoor sports and recreation, picnicking...and bees! While many of us regard bees with a certain level of apprehension, not everyone always thinks about their contribution to what we put inside our picnic baskets!
From watermelon to the milk that we drink, bees play a vital role in our nation’s food supply. One way they do this is in their role transporting pollen from the anthers of a flower to the stigma of another, which enables the growth of seeds. This is the process of pollination.
Bees are not the only “pollinators.” Butterflies also pick up pollen when they stop to take a drink from a flower, and they carry that pollen to their next flower. The wind can also move pollen from plant to plant- but most of what we eat comes from plants that need a little more help than from the wind and butterflies. That’s when bees come in.
We need bees to ensure that plants can grow! Most of our food comes from plants, and plants come from seeds. Cows need plants to eat, just like us, so if they do not have food, they cannot produce milk. Bees truly are an important part of a healthy diet!
Many crops depend upon the bee population and without it, our food supply would be at great risk. This is why the drastic increase in bee deaths has alarmed environmentalists, consumer groups, beekeepers and farmers alike.
In the past, a normal drop in bee populations has been around 10% per year. However, over the last several years the rate has been closer to 30%. In 2013, beekeepers reported bee mortality rates at 50% and as high as 70% in some geographic areas.
There are a number of theories as to why bees are dying in such large numbers, from fungus to a virus to climate change to pesticides. Neonicotinoids are at the center of the pesticide debate, largely due to the fact that they are more potent and linger longer in plants and soil than their predecessors. Their increase in use since the mid-aughts has also been shown to parallel the rising rate of bee deaths, and their presence has been found not only in beehives, but in the bees themselves. Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is conducting more detailed studies on the effects of neonicotinoids and has yet to issue any official warnings about their use.
In the meantime, we can all help by supporting the practice of buying organic and locally-sourced products as much as possible. Red Rabbit is proud to say that this has always been a part of our mission. Cutting down on the use of pesticides is not only good for humans, but for bees as well!
So on your next picnic, be sure to remember how all of your food got into your basket…it all began with a bee!
Bzzzbzzz! Happy Spring!
Hayley Lutz, Communications & Accounts Coordinator