Remember that glorious place in the movie Ants? I wonder what a real insectopia would be like? As spring approaches we start to think about our pollinators in the insect world. How are the bees and butterflies doing?
The answer is not so well. And neither are the beekeepers. A Wall Street Journal article I read the other day says that because of the massive die-offs of honey-bees, beekeepers are being forced out of their profession, and may be an endangered species themselves. For nearly a decade beekeepers have been losing 30% of their bees each winter. Some lost 40 and 50 percent last winter. The annual cost of maintaining a healthy hive has quadrupled in the last 15 years, and the beekeepers can't afford to do business any longer.
Meanwhile, honey bees now pollinate more than $50 billion of crops each year, including apples, almonds and cherries. Honey bees are responsible for pollinating one-third of the American diet! Without beekeepers to care for the numbers of pollinators, U.S. crop production could slow down and we'll all have to pay a lot more for our food or rely on imported items. That's a look at the economics of honey bees.
So what is killing the honeybees? Scientists blame a combination of parasites, pesticides and poor nutrition as the causes of death. Many believe the number one culprit is Clothianidin, a pesticide. Beekeepers who have tried to ward off pests and disease in their hives are losing the battle to pesticides.
Can we imagine a pesticide free world? Organic farmers are showing us how it works. Now, that's an insectopia. Stay tuned for another blog on another pollinator at risk, the Monarch butterfly. Until then I leave you with a verse from "Grace for Pollinators" by Nancy Schimmel.
For this our food, we thank the bees that pollinate the flowers.
We thank the moths that do the same, in the evening hours.
We thank the birds and butterflies in every habitat.
And when we eat bananas, we sing to thank the bat.