Sunday, April 3, 2011

No bees, no veggies.

When most people think about bees, they think about getting stung. Maybe it's because I've never been stung by a bee, or maybe it's because I grow vegetables, but I'm fascinated by bees. Did you know that many of the foods that we love would not grow without the work of honey bees? Apples, carrots, onions, avocados, broccoli - the list of plants that require pollenation by honey bees is long. According to the Natural Resources Defence Council, without honey bees the US would lose $15 billion worth of crops, and most of the fruits and vegetables we like to eat, simply would not be available.
You might have heard about the mysterious colony collapse disorder, a situation in which bees leave their hives and don't return. It's estimated that 1/3 of the bees in the US have vanished. The honey bee population has been in decline since 1980 and causal theories abound from mites and insect diseases to overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

So, what can we do? We can plant bee-friendly flowers, and grow our own fruits and vegetables. We can stop using pesticides around our homes, which not only kill the pests, but also kill beneficial bugs, degrade the soil, and pollute our waterways. We can buy organic foods, which sends the message that we don't support traditional agricultural practices like chemical fertilizer and pesticide use. A local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm offers the convenience of home-delivered produce. Or, for the most local produce, grow your own on your own property!

Now, I know that bee stings can be painful, and even dangerous for some. But there are some ways we can avoid bee stings. When working in the garden, wear muted colors, wear shoes, and resist scented hair and body products. Bees rarely sting when unprovoked. If we can do our part to help the bees, we will benefit with an ample supply of healthy fruits and vegetables for generations to come.

You can learn more about colony collapse disorder here. I was inspired to share this information by hearing Ellen Page talk about the documentary that she narrates, The Vanishing of the Bees. You can watch a trailer here. To find a local CSA, look here.

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