Save the Bees with Lavender!

To germinate, all our favorite plants require the transfer of pollen from the male part of the flower to the female part. As bees move from flower to flower in search of nectar, they leave behind grains of pollen on the sticky surface, allowing plants to grow and produce food. Without bees, many plants we rely on for food would die off.

Bees are responsible for about one-third of the food we eat. They add $15 billion annually in value to American crops, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And commercial agriculture depends on them.

Alfalfa couldn’t survive. That would lead to trouble in the beef and dairy industries, as well. Bees also pollinate oilseeds, which make up much of the world’s supply of fat. Plus, cotton is an oilseed, which means the cotton trade would be in trouble, too.

Bees feed wildlife too. They are responsible for the production of many seeds, nuts, berries, and fruit, which serve as a vital food source for wild animals. Bees produce honey to feed their colonies during the cold winter months. Humans have harvested honey for thousands of years, but birds, racoons, opossums, and insects will raid beehives for a taste of nutritious honey and bee larvae.

Bees themselves are also a part of the food chain. At least 24 species of bird, including the blackbird, ruby-throated hummingbird, and starling, prey on bees. Many spiders and insects, like dragonflies and praying mantises, eat bees as well.

Bees also help build homes for millions of other insects and animals. Their role as pollinators is vital in the growth of tropical forests, savannah woodlands, and temperate deciduous forests. Many tree species, like willows and poplars, couldn’t grow without pollinators like bees.

Bees contribute to complex, interconnected ecosystems that allow a diverse number of different species to co-exist. [1]

 

Bees are dying in vast numbers

 

Beekeepers used to see about 5 or 10 percent of the bees in their hives die every year, but starting in 2006, losses jumped to 30 percent. About 10 million beehives, worth an estimated $2 billion, have been lost since then. The numbers are down slightly for last winter, when beekeepers lost about 23 percent.

Colony collapse disorder leapt into headlines after a bad winter in 2006-07. It was dramatic, mysterious and unprecedented. Beekeepers and farmers sounded the alarm: The bees are disappearing.

With colony collapse disorder, the swarm vanishes without a trace. No dead bodies – just a lonely queen, her larvae and maybe a couple of nurse bees left caring for the larvae.

The disorder still occurs, and scientists still don’t know what causes it. It is happening less, though.

Yet the bee population remains in decline.

Lately, beekeepers have been attributing more of their losses to problems with queen bees. They’re not living as long, usually because they run out of sperm supplies too early. It’s unclear why.

A queen mates once in her life. The sperm she gets should last her entire reign. When she runs low on sperm, the worker bees kill her, and a new queen takes the throne. In a healthy hive, this happens every few years. [2]

 

Why are bees dying?

 

  • Scientists either don't know or won't admit they know what's causing the bees to die. Theories have included the following:
  • Parasites and pathogens such as mites leaving bees vulnerable to viruses.
  • Poor nutrition due to vast farmland being used for only one crop. This prevents bees from getting the variety of pollens they need for optimum health.
  • New insecticides which are less toxic to birds and humans but more toxic to insects that are systemic and applied to the seeds themselves. The bees that survive are not able to route themselves to be effective. [2]
  • Electromagnetic radiation. Animals, including insects, use cryptochrome for navigation. They use it to sense the direction of the earth's magnetic field and their ability to do this is compromised by radiation from [cell] phones and their base stations. So basically bees do not find their way back to the hive. [3]

 

How do we help the bees?

Bees LOVE lavender, a Sussex study that tested what many gardeners already knew has shown [4]. If you can't grow your own garden, be sure to support farms that provide bees with what they love best! At Lavish Hill Farms, we see bees all over our property, and we are glad to be part of the solution!

 

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