Friday, February 19, 2010

Without bees we cannot survive

Global warming is a serious problem – so is pollution – but there is another more pressing situation going on. Over the past three years, more than 50 billion honeybees have died. Scientists know why, and now need everyone to lend a helping hand.

To understand the importance of honeybees to our planet, consider that every third bite on your plate is a result of their primary role on the planet as pollinators — the most important group on Earth. Honeybees contribute at least $44 billion a year to the U.S. economy. They pollinate food crops, alfalfa and clover for beef and dairy industries, cotton for our clothes, and produce honey, wax for candles, and ingredients for medicines.

In 2006, the honeybee genome was decoded, and the genetics revealed only half as many genes for detoxification and immunity compared to other known insects. Scientists found specific "good" bacteria inside their stomachs and intestines crucial for fighting pathogens and digesting the silica casing around each pollen grain, providing access to its protein.

A combination of factors has collided to create the perfect storm responsible for memory loss, appetite loss, and autoimmune system collapse that has resulted in the rapid decline in honeybee populations worldwide. The abnormally high temperatures of 2006 were likely the tipping point for bees in North America. The searing springtime temperatures during the onset of flowering are believed to have caused sterile pollen in many plants. Sterile pollen produces little, if any, protein.

Then in 2007, almond, plum, kiwi and cherry pollens that were tested exhibited little, if any, protein content. Infertile soils lacking essential nutrients, bacteria, fungi, protozoa along with climate change were implicated. A variety of pollens provide the bees’ only source of protein. Protein is important for growing the eggs, larvae, brains, and autoimmune systems of the bees. Bees evolved to feed on a wide assortment of pollens, but today many farmers use the bees in monoculture fields. This is not good for the bees. Beekeepers around the globe are now feeding their hives a form of a protein shake with eggs, brewers yeast, pollen, and honey and other special ingredients.

In 2008, researchers from Penn State found 43 pesticides in a Pennsylvania apple orchard. Many farmers combine or stack their chemicals to reduce applications costs. Stacking chemicals is known to increase toxicity levels in some cases by 1,000 fold. Each year 5 billion pounds of pesticides are applied globally. Some of those pesticides are poisonous, mimicking symptoms similar to those of humans afflicted with Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Clearly agriculture must reduce the levels of toxicity from pesticides, herbicide and miticides globally. Do not use herbicides, pesticides, or miticides in your yard.

Research from Europe showed that bees exposed to electromagnetic radiation from cellular towers made 21 percent less honeycomb and that 36 percent, taken a half-mile from the hive, were unable to navigate their way back home.

There is hope on the horizon; organics is the fastest growing sector in the U.S. at $24 billion a year. First lady Michele Obama has an organic garden on the White House lawn with two honeybee hives close by. You can help by purchasing organic foods and cottons. Support local beekeepers by buying local honey. Plant a wide variety of native yellow and blue flowers in your yard, add a clover patch to the lawn, and participate by helping scientists in the U.S. National Phenology Network (

Without the bees, we cannot survive.