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Honey Bee Populations at Risk
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Honey Bee Populations at Risk

"Without insect pollination, about one third of the crops we eat would have to be pollinated by other means, or they would produce significantly less food" - Greenpeace International

Honey bees perform about 80 percent of all pollination worldwide. A single bee colony can pollinate 300 million flowers each day. Fruits, nuts and vegetables are pollinated by bees. Seventy percent of human food crops, which supply about 90 percent of the world’s nutrition, are pollinated by bees. Here is a list of crop plants pollinated by bees (Wikipedia).

Since the latter part of the last decade of the twentieth century, beekeepers around the world have observed the mysterious and sudden disappearance of bees, and report unusually high rates of decline in honeybee colonies. There is growing scientific evidence that pesticides are playing a significant role. Biologists have found more than 150 different chemical residues in bee pollen, a deadly “pesticide cocktail” according to University of California apiculturist Eric Mussen.

Furthermore, wild bee habitat reduces every year as industrial agribusiness converts grasslands and forest into mono-culture farms, which are then contaminated with pesticides. To stop the world bee decline, we need to improve our destructive agricultural system.

A main reason for this pesticide problem is chemicals used in intensive agriculture and in particular neonicotinoids and phenylpyrazoles. Repeatedly ingesting very low doses of neonicotinoids over long periods can end up killing bees. Chronic poisoning at low doses can also cause immunodeficiency and increased susceptibility to diseases in honeybees. Neonicotinoids are the most toxic insecticides honeybees were ever confronted with in the history of industrial agriculture. Reports of massive numbers of bees dying have been flooding in from across the globe. Most reports point to the deaths of honey bees, including the phenomenon that is known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

Honeybee is a social insect: communication is fundamental to it's well-being. Without communication, the different honeybee casts do not fulfil their duties, cannot exchange key information such as where interesting sources of nectar are or what is the need for thermoregulation of the inside of the hive. Neonicotinoids disrupts communication in the hive and weaken the honeybee colony. All insects have biological mechanisms to detoxify. Honeybees are genetically poor in detoxification mechanisms: they possess half of the most important detoxifying enzymes, compared to some other insects. Thus this is the reason for increased susceptibility to pesticides.

The tests required before approving pesticides are inadequate to understand the special risks that systemic pesticides pose to bees and other pollinators. The risk assessment process used today for evaluating the risks of pesticides to bees was designed in an era before the widespread use of systemic pesticides. The ecotoxicity tests which pesticide manufacturers must submit before their pesticide is approved were developed for older generation insecticides. This approach has come under fire from various quarters for failing to address the specific properties of systemic insecticides, including the neonicotinoids.

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Most Noteworthy Organization

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BBCT) was established because of serious concerns about the 'plight of the bumblebee'. In the last 80 years our bumblebee populations have crashed. The BBCT are working toward three main aims:

1. Supporting the conservation of all bumblebees, rare or abundant

2. Raise awareness and increase understanding about bumblebees and the social, economic, environmental and cultural benefits which they and other pollinators provide. 

3. Ensure BBCT is able to respond quickly to challenges and change.

What you can do

  • If you want to help save the bees, try natural methods of pest control. Many well-known garden pesticides contain neonicotinoids which can remain in the soil for years, and continue to be taken up by the plant (and the bees).
  • Write to your local political representative. Tell them about the urgent need to save our bees, and ask them to stop the use of pesticides in public spaces and to plant more bee-friendly plants.
  • Start growing your own pesticide-free fruits & vegetables. If you cannot grow your own, then try to select as much organic produce as you can when you are buying your shopping.
  • Spread the word about the urgent need to help save the bees! This could range from sharing these tips with friends to chatting with your neighbour.
  • Sign the following petitions:
    EPA: Protect butterflies, bees, & birds from poison!

    Butterflies and bees are being poisoned. Scientists have already linked a powerful class of pesticides called “neonics” to increases in bee die-offs. Due in part to these deadly toxic chemicals, hives in the United States continue to collapse.

    And now, the situation is getting worse. The monarch butterfly, once common across the United States, could soon end up on the Endangered Species List. By some estimates, the monarch butterfly population has declined 90 percent over the past two decades.

    In Europe, millions spoke up for the bees and pressured the European Union (EU) into imposing a two year ban on neonics, defeating the influential pesticide lobby. If we act together, we can convince the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to do the same.

    Save the butterflies and bees before it's too late! Send a message to the EPA now.

    EPA: Save Our Bees and the Food We Eat! Ban Bayer's Chemicals Now!

    United States bee populations are in a nationwide free fall -- and this could spell the end of fruits and vegetables grown on our soil.

    Not only has the US experienced widespread honeybee deaths and disappearances, called "Colony Collapse Disorder," we have also seen a dramatic decrease in the wild bee population. Massive and continuing declines in the bee population mean the diversity of our nation's food supply is in jeopardy!

    Call for a moratorium for the use of neonicotinoid pesticides

    In a June 2014 Presidential memorandum, President Obama outlined a new strategy to protect pollinators that emphasized the need for public education, additional research, and habitat expansion. While these are all important in the protection of pollinators, there isn’t much urgency or clarity on how the task force will address one of the primary threats to bees and other pollinators: exposure to highly toxic, systemic, and persistent pesticides.

    By signing this petition your name will be sent to the White House.

    Bee Lovely and Help Save the Bees

    Over seventy percent of the global food crops are pollinated by bees. American honeybee colonies have been dying at a rate of about 30% per year, every year, since 2006. Since 1947, the American bee population has plummeted from 6 million honey producing hives to just 2.5 million. Worse, that number is still dropping.

    Online Resources

    Save The Bees - 10 Simple Things YOU Can Do! 

    Pesticide Action Network UK - Fighting to save our pollinators

    Bumblebee Conservation Trust Page

    The Bees in Decline (Greenpeace Campaign)

    Planet Bee Foundation

    Chemical and non-chemical alternatives to neonicotinoids

    Save Our Bees - Bees are garden friends that need your help

    Canadian Honey Council - Save our Bees

    Organic Consumer's Association Save the Bees Campaign

    Friends of the Earth | Get your Bee saver kit

    Save the Bees (Bee Raw)

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