—Why August 22, 2016 Affects All of Us
The buzzing of nearby bees elicits anxiety and fear in some people, an instinctive reaction to avoid getting stung. The annoyance bee-dodging poses to outdoor fun and activities gives our pollinators a bum rap. Did you know that bees are much less aggressive than their reputation suggests? Rather than searching for humans to sting, females (males don’t even have stingers) only sting when they sense a threat to their hive or colony, and usually they are much more interested in finding pollen and nectar than you!
Honeybees’ search for sweet sustenance results in the pollination of an array of diverse crops that humans heavily rely upon. From apples to almonds, they are responsible for approximately 80 percent of all pollination worldwide, and without their contributions, our food system would look (and taste) quite different. Unfortunately, since 2006 beekeepers have noted colony losses of 30 to 90 percent each year. Researchers have named the phenomenon “bee colony collapse disorder,” or CCD, and point to the widespread use of pesticides, habitat loss and disease as possible factors. The recent rise in genetically engineered crops has been attributed to this disease. Let’s pause and take a look at why.
More than 80 percent of the GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, currently produced have been developed to either produce their own insecticide or withstand large doses of toxic herbicides like Roundup, dicamba and 2,4-D. This has lead to an increase of more than 15 times the amount of chemicals being used in agricultural since GMOs were first introduced.
What this also equates to is increased levels in the amount of chemicals that bees are currently being exposed to. Their miles-wide search for pollen and nectar puts them at risk of being coated in dangerous pesticides, since GM fields are sprayed at a much higher rate than their non-GM counterparts.
As this dire situation threatens us all, organizations and concerned individuals have begun a solid campaign to rein in bee losses and promote conservation efforts worldwide. At Wedderspoon, we are spearheading a number of initiatives and events to draw awareness to the cause. Firstly, we are participating in National Honey Bee Day, a grassroots campaign to foster education surrounding bee conservation. The event—the first lobbying of its kind—is August 22, 2015. While the campaign culminates in a day’s worth of events nationwide, the movement’s job encompasses the whole year. Its primary goal is to educate the public on beekeeping and the environmental concerns affecting honeybees.
We are thrilled to support the Non-GMO Project in their efforts to improve food transparency and consumer education. Wedderspoon’s Manuka and specialty honeys undergo a rigorous process to gain Non-GMO Project Verification, which examines bees’ feed and flight patterns to ensure the bees are not encountering GMO pollen. Feed for bees may not contain high-risk crops, such as corn, soy, cotton, canola, sugar beets or alfalfa, and commercial agriculture cannot be within a 4-mile radius of their hives. Thanks to a moratorium on all genetically engineered food in New Zealand, we are confident in our ability to continue to provide Non-GMO Project Verified honey for years to come.
To raise awareness about the decline of honeybee populations, Wedderspoon has teamed up with Rodale Institute—a nonprofit organization dedicated to pioneering organic farming through research—in a campaign to change National Honey Month from September to July. As Rodale Institute’s Executive Director, ‘Coach’ Mark Smallwood states, “If you are a beekeeper, and you are going to take honey, you should finish by the end of July so that the bees have enough honey to survive the winter. Continuing to harvest honey until September does not give them enough time to build necessary stores for the winter.”
The cause of CCD is still not fully understood. It could be an elusive disease ravaging populations, bees’ contact with GMO plants, or maybe pesticides are affecting them more strongly than we know. More plausibly, it’s a combination of many factors. In the meantime, there are a host of things you can do to support bee conservation efforts, wherever your home may be:
- Banning pesticides and chemicals from your garden creates an environment in which pollinators can thrive.
- Just like humans, bees love diversity in their diet! Try to plant a varied selection of plants to supply pollinators with an abundance of pollen and nectar.
- Along with native plant species, plan an herb garden with anything in the mint family, including perennial sages, and allow them to flower to really attract native bee species. Even a window box provides much-needed food for roaming bees!
- Make sure to avoid hybrid plant varieties, as they often do not produce as much nectar or pollen as heirloom varieties!
- Create habitats for wild bees if you have the space – leave branches, bare ground and natural shelters for bees rather than creating landscaped and manicured lawns.
- Choose Non-GMO Project Verified and organic products whenever possible to support those who are also doing their part to help save the bees!
In honor of National Honey Bee Day, Wedderspoon will be giving away three jars of their specialty Beechwood, Dandelion and Rata honeys! To enter, visit their Facebook page here.