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Critical pollinators

Submitted by Jessica Rivenes
Bees are known for their ability to pollinate crops. (Photo by Tanner Delgado)

Global warming, pesticides, habitat loss, and mono-crop agriculture cause sharp declines in the bee population and we should be concerned. Scientists estimate that bee pollination is worth 34 billion dollars, and bees help pollinate over 90% of the world’s crops. Industrial agriculture is the primary reason for bee loss.

Most bees are transported across the country to pollinate crops in different seasons. 50% of bees raised in Michigan are transported to Georgia or Florida for the winter. A study (Xiangjie Zhu, Shujing Zhou & Zachary Y Huang, 2015) showed that transported bees had trouble with their food glands and became more susceptible to deadly fungal infections. The mass transportation of bees spreads infectious diseases. Bees are taken to monocultures, land dedicated to only one crop. The crop then blooms and is harvested all at once, which leaves the bees with nothing to eat. Many small farmers don’t bring in bees to pollinate because native bees do it best.

Another study (Brett R. Blaauw, 2014) researched blueberry farms and found a significant increase in crop yield, berry weight, and mature seeds. “In Year 1 of this study, the difference in average fruit set between open and bagged treatments was 7.6% greater in blueberry fields adjacent to the wildflower plantings.” In the last year of the experiment, the pollen was evenly distributed throughout the fields, with greater production leading to increased economic gain.

While chemicals often used like neonicotinoids are chemically similar to nicotine, a class of neuro-active insecticides that act on certain receptors in the nerve synapse. They are incredibly harmful to insects and cause them paralysis or death. In 2011, over 30% of soybean and 79% of corn crops in the United States were treated with neonicotinoids.

You can help increase the bee population by doing a couple of things. You can buy local, organic produce to deviate from the bee industry altogether. This helps to support local farms and beekeepers. Another option is to make a bee bath. Get a flat bowl and fill it with clean water. Arrange small rocks in it so the bee can sit on them while drinking. You could also plant a garden with flowers that attract pollinators to help local populations. Try to pick native flowers that will bloom multiple times per season. Make sure you always ask if the plant you are buying is insecticide-free, as some nurseries claim that some plants are bee-friendly, but have actually been treated with neonicotinoids!

It might seem like a big issue to tackle, but each and every one of us can make a difference. Our collective action will make a big impact.

Source: Jonah M Platt


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