Honey Bee Crisis = Food Crisis

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Over the last three years more than one in three honey bee colonies has died nationwide, posing a serious risk to our natural food supply. One cause for the losses is a phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder, or “CCD.” When a hive experiences CCD, honey bees mysteriously abandon their hive and die. Researchers don’t know exactly what causes CCD, but believe some contributing factors may be viruses, mites, chemical exposure and poor nutrition.

Why is this a crisis? Because, honey bees are responsible for pollinating one-third of our country’s natural foods. Think about it…one out of every three bites of food an average American eats has been pollinated by a honey bee. These industrious workers are responsible for pollinating more than 100 different varieties of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and they provide 80 percent of the country’s pollination services. The honey bee is responsible for $15 billion in U.S. agricultural crops each year because they fly up to 15 miles per hour and visit about 50 to 100 flowers on each pollination trip. It takes 2 million flower visits, covering 55,000 miles to make one pound of honey. When a honey bee returns to the hive after finding a good pollen source, it gives out samples of the flower’s nectar to its hive mates and performs a dance that details the distance, direction, quality and quantity of the food supply. The richer the food source, the longer and more vigorous the dance.

What can homesteaders do to preserve the hum of honey bees and thereby help sustain their own gardens and production? Plant a seed! It’s that simple.

By planting the right seeds you can create your very own bee-friendly garden, keeping our little friends buzzing and pollinating. Bee-friendly flowers provide the food (nectar) that keeps honey bees alive and well. It doesn’t have to be fancy or large, but it does need to contain plants that bees like. Flowers like sunflowers, daises, cosmos, zinnias, dahlias, asters, marigolds, hollyhocks and foxglove produce the nectar and pollen bees like. Plant a variety of flowers that bloom at different times of the year so the bees will have food through every season.

It may be surprising, but bees are most attracted to blue, purple, yellow and orange flowers. Planting flowers in close proximity also give bees a lot to work with in a small space.

The most important tip of all – don’t use pesticides as this may be one of the causes of colony collapse. To learn more about the honey bee crisis check out honeybeecrisis.com.

To learn more about raising honey bees and producing your own honey visit these sites:

American Beekeeping Federation

American Honey Producers

Backyard Beekeeping

Creative Commons License photo credit: Town IP Project 9.

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