FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) – Inside our apiary, thousands of bees are in a race against the clock to make enough life-sustaining honey to last through the winter’s icy depths. But around the world, bees are in a race for pure survival.
Bees and other pollinators are essential for the majority of the produce we eat. Apples, almonds, peaches – you name it. Without pollinators, humans would starve. But a combination of factors are causing bee colonies to collapse. Left unchecked, the world’s food supplies would suffer.
What’s causing Colony Collapse Disorder?
In 2006, something strange began to occur. Bee keepers noticed their colonies were dying off or simply disappearing. At times, it seemed the bees vanished overnight. Over the years, the phenomenon become more widespread. Such a strain was placed on the bee pollination industry, that portable hives “rented” by farmers increased from $15-$30 to $200 each, reports a study by Purdue University. At the same time, farmers worried the decline in bee populations would put their crops at risk through lack of pollination.
As scientists began to study the problem, they realized parasites, diseases, lack of forage and pesticides all contributed to colonies dying off. The role of pesticides was and remains of particular interest, because farmers and conservationists don’t always agree on the degree to which such chemicals impact bees. Farmers are in a tight spot. Many depend on bees to pollinate their crops, but they also use pesticides to keep insects from destroying those same crops. Research is key so informed decisions are made. Another factor in this problem is a lack of natural habitat for bees. So much land has been developed, that bees struggle to find enough flowers to visit. Our well manicured green laws look great to us, but it forces bees to fly further to find forage. So far, Colony Collapse Disorder has been difficult to define in precise terms and remains a robust field of research.
How you can help
While scientists work to zero in on the cause of widespread colony collapses, you can help to keep bees healthy and populous. Planting pollinator gardens full of native plants can offer bees a source of food and habitat. Limited the use of pesticides and lawn chemicals may also serve to protect bee populations. Another way to conserve bees is to become a beekeeper yourself. Hosting a hive or two on your property allows bees to thrive in a safe place while they pollinate flowers and garden crops in your neighborhood. If you’d like to sponsor a hive, the Southwest Honey Company can help you get started. For more information on protecting pollinators where you live, Purdue University offers these ideas.