Editorial: Bee a good neighbor; don't kill honey bees
Originally Published: April 13, 2015 6:02 a.m.
Tough choice: override that self-preserving desire to swat a bee hovering near us - or help preserve the bee population by leaving it alone.We want to make sure we're safe, many of us are allergic to a bee's sting and, frankly, many more of us have been taught to fear the insect's approach and the pain they promise.Likewise it seems crazy to leave alone a colony of bees on our property or near our home.But, unless a clear and present danger exists, that is exactly what we need to do. (Visit dCourier.com - search: bees - for our Sunday story about stings, swarms and what to do.)Personally, I have seen gardens and fruit trees become less and less productive; and, while that could be the result of soil, heat and water - or the lack thereof - fewer and fewer bees seem to be present from year to year. But that's anecdotal.We know what's killing the bees. Bee colony collapse is not the mystery chemical companies claim. The systemic nature of the problem makes it complex, but not impenetrable. Scientists know that bees are dying from a variety of factors - pesticides, drought, habitat destruction, nutrition deficit, air pollution, climate change, and so forth. The two most prominent causes appear to be pesticides and habitat loss.In the U.S., winter losses have commonly reached 30-50 percent, in some cases more. U.S. National Agriculture statistics show a honey bee decline from about 6 million hives in 1947 to 2.4 million hives in 2008, a 60 percent reduction.This is no marginal loss. A single bee colony can pollinate 300 million flowers each day. Said a different way, honey bees - wild and domestic - perform about 80 percent of all pollination worldwide. Grains are primarily pollinated by the wind, but the best and healthiest food - fruits, nuts, and vegetables - are pollinated by bees. Big deal? Yes, when 70 out of the top 100 human food crops, which supply about 90 percent of the world's nutrition, are pollinated by bees.Sadly, they can be snuffed out by accident too. On Saturday, when driving home from the store, what seemed like no fewer than 100 of them committed suicide by flying into my windshield.It was scary and sad.I cannot help but imagine that bees are like the canary in the coalmine, by which hint of our survival depends.- Tim Wiederaenders, city editorFollow Tim on Twitter @TWieds_editor