SAVING BEES – Honeybees, Bumblebees, and Solitary Bees
Bees pollinate nearly half of all the fruits and vegetables we eat in the U.S. And bees are responsible for enabling the production of at least 90 percent of commercially grown crops across North America, and out of 115 major food crops worldwide, 87 of them are dependent on pollinators. To understand how important honeybees are, one out of every three bites of food we take, depend on bees—but bees are dying at an alarming rate every year.
In 2006, beekeepers began noticing a massive die-off of their honeybees. Entire bee colonies began disappearing and dying. In a single year, over 7,000 beekeepers documented a loss of more than 25 percent of their hives in just one year. Now, every year, beekeepers are losing up to 44 percent of their honeybees from massive die-offs. Collectively, beekeepers have lost an estimated 10 million beehives, a loss that equates to over 2 billion dollars that is passed along to consumers in higher food prices. In 2014, for the first time ever, more honeybees died in summer than in winter, a shocking development. Honeybees contribute more than $15 billion to the U.S. economy by pollinating nuts, fruits and vegetables for us, they pollinate over 140 fruits and vegetables every year. As our world is facing food insecurity and food shortages, the collapse of honeybees worldwide will have an even greater devastating impact that could paralyze economies and cause massive food shortages.
Bees Are in Crisis – The Cause of Colony Collapse Disorder
The biggest cause of the collapse of the honeybees is the use of chemical pesticides called Neonicotinoids, that are a class of nerve-disabling insecticides designed to kill pests that attack corn, soybeans, and citrus crops. These Neonicotinoids attack the nervous and immune systems of living organisms, and wreak havoc on the neural circuitry the honeybee depends on to function. The insecticide prevents bees from remembering where their hives are located, causing bees to become lost and unable to return to their hives, and die.
Developed by giant chemical corporations Bayer and Shell in the 1980 and 1990s to eliminate pests, in 2005 Monsanto received patents to coat their proprietary genetically manipulated seeds (GMO) with neonicotinoids to make the insecticide spread through the entire plant as it grows. The Neonicotinoid then infiltrates the stalk, leaves, pollen and nectar, protecting the plant from insects, but poisoning bees and other live organisms that come into contact with the plant or eat the plant. Chronic exposure to neonics can make it more difficult for bee colonies to breed, fight off disease, and survive cold temperatures in winter months. And in the last decade, the use of neonics has more than doubled, and is now the most heavily used class of insecticides, creating a huge profit for giant chemical companies, but devastating the health of living creatures and the health of our environment. Not only are these toxins applied to some 150 million acres of crops each year, they are sold for use in our backyards and gardens. Some neonics are 5,000 to 10,000 more toxic to bees than DDT.
Over the past 20 years, the use of Neonicotinoids for insecticides are responsible for about 30 percent of the global pesticide market, with billions in sales to giant pesticide companies like Monsanto, Bayer and Syngenta. The federal government concedes that these chemicals are highly toxic to bees and harmful to life and the environment in general, but they have done virtually nothing about eliminating them. Read about how Bee Die-Offs Are Worst Where Pesticide Use is Heaviest.
Other Causes of Bee Die-Offs
- Habitat destruction
- Invasive species
- Commercial breeding
- Overuse of pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, and toxic chemicals
- Global warming and climate change
- Suburban development and urban sprawl destroying bee habitats and native plants
What’s Happening to Honeybees? SciShow
What’s Happening Politically?
In January 2017, the EPA initiated a preliminary pollinator risk assessment for the neonicotinoid insecticide, imidacloprid. The EPA’s assessment indicates that the insecticide does pose a risk to hives when it comes into contact with certain crops that attract pollinators. This is the first of four preliminary pollinator risk assessments for neonicotinoid insecticides, to be followed by three other neonicotinoid assessments for – clothiandin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran.
Please push legislators and the government to pass H.R. 3040: Saving America’s Pollinators Act of 2017-2018. This bill seeks to exclude bee-toxic neonicotinoid pesticides from the market, and to review their safety.
See what a national strategy would look like to support pollinators and protect them.
Documentary Films About Bees
Watch Queen of the Sun
More Information About Bees
More about the Honey Bee
More about the Bumble Bee
More about the Leafcutter Bee
More about Mason Bees
How You Can Help Bees & Honeybees
- PLANT A BEE GARDEN with bee-friendly flowers, plants and flowering herbs to help provide food and forage for the bees. One of the biggest threats to bees is the lack of habitat caused by urban sprawl. Plant lots of the same flowering plants together, bees like volume! What to plant? Bees like lavender, sage, verbena, hyacinth, calendula, wild lilac, snapdragon foxglove, echinacea, sedum, witch hazel, goldenrod, fuchsia, mint, sunflowers, cosmos, poppies, marigolds, daisies, black-eyed susan, passion-flower vine, honeysuckle, tomatoes and pumpkins. Ideally, plant at least three different types of flowers for your honeybee garden to extend the blooms through multiple seasons. See what to plant, and see a full list of plants honeybees love.
- LEAVE THE WEEDS and wildflowers in your garden, and clover and dandelions in your lawn. Clover and dandelions are great for bees! And wildflowers are an important food source for native bees. Don’t pull out any native plants, let them at least bloom first, then if necessary only prune them back, don’t remove them.
- REPLACE YOUR LAWN or part of your lawn with flowering plants that provide food for bees, butterflies and other pollinators.
- ELIMINATE CHEMICAL PESTICIDES, fertilizers (No Miracle Grow) and herbicides in your garden and yard. They are toxic to bees, pets, wildlife, and children/adults. Avoid chemically treating your flowers that can leach into pollen, or using any chemical fertilizers on your lawn or gardens. Refrain from using chemicals period. Instead, let ladybugs, spiders, and praying mantises keep your pest populations in check. AVOID buying these brands of fertilizers and insecticides with Neonics in them.
- PROVIDE WATER. CREATE A BEE BATH – Bees are thirsty and need fresh, clean water daily. Provide a continuous shallow basin of clean water in your garden. Add pebbles, rocks and branches for bees to land on while drinking. Be sure to refresh your container with new, clean water daily.
- ADD WINDOW CONTAINERS or A ROOFTOP GARDEN – If you don’t have much space, or live in an apartment, then add a window container or plant container pots on a rooftop garden for bees.
- BUY ONLY LOCAL, RAW HONEY – Don’t buy commercial honey from China or sold in large supermarkets. Look for the words “Pure” and “Raw.” It’s best to buy honey directly from a local beekeeper who nurture their bees or from a farmer’s market.
- EAT ORGANIC, LOCAL, SEASONAL PRODUCE and pesticide-free food – shop at your local farmers markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Farm, or buy organic (USDA certified) from your natural food store or grocery.
- BUILD BEE HOMES – Develop or keep a undisturbed area of land in your garden or property for bees to build nests and live. Here’s more about how to make a bee home, and some DIY ideas in photos on Pinterest.
- BECOME A BEEKEEPER yourself using only sustainable practices, by starting a honeybee hive. Contact your local beekeeping club for more information, see the S. beekeeper association for clubs in your state
- SPONSOR A HIVE. Can’t start your own hive? You can instead sponsor new fully stocked honeybee hive installations across the U.S. Visit Honeybee Conservancy, Sponsor a Hive page.
- UNDERSTAND honeybees, know they are usually very docile, they are vegetarians looking for pollen and nectar from flowers, and travel up to 3 miles from their hive daily – they don’t want to sting you! If you’re around them, stay still and calm if they land on you. Don’t swat at them. Avoid standing near the opening of a hive, or by a concentration of bees. Know the difference between wasps (carnivores) and honeybees (vegetarians), see here.
- BE A VOICE for the honeybees, advocate for them in your community. Share about the importance of bees at local community meetings, conferences, in schools and universities, and on on-line message boards and forums. Get involved.
- FIGHT FOR BEES POLITICALLY, help PUSH FOR R. 3040: Saving America’s Pollinators Act of 2017-2018. The bill seeks to exclude bee-toxic neonicotinoid pesticides from the market, and review their safety.
- MORE ABOUT SAVING BEES – See Buzz About Bees
- SUPPORT Political Organizations fighting to save honeybees, like the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
- LEARN more about helping the Honeybees
- READ – Why you should love Wild Bees
Avoid These Common Brands Containing NEONICOTINOIDS, Don’t Buy Them
- Bayer Advanced 3-in-1 Insect, Disease, & Mite Control
- Bayer Advanced 12 Month Tree & Shrub Insect Control
- Bayer Advanced 12 Month Tree & Shrub Protect & Feed
- Bayer Advanced Fruit, Citrus & Vegetable Insect Control
- Bayer Advanced All-in-One Rose & Flower Care concentrate
- DIY Tree Care Products Multi-Insect Killer
- Ferti-lome 2-N-1 Systemic
- Hi-Yield Systemic Insect Spray
- Knockout Ready-To-Use Grub Killer
- Monterey Once a Year Insect Control II
- Ortho Bug B Gon Year-Long Tree & Shrub Insect Control
- Ortho MAX Tree & Shrub Insect
- Bayer Advanced All-in-One Rose & Flower Care granules
- Green Light Grub Control with Arena
- Amdro Quick Kill Lawn & Landscape Insect Killer
- Amdro Rose & Flower Care
- Maxide Dual Action Insect Killer
- Ortho Bug B Gon Garden Insect Killer
- Ortho Bug B Gon for Lawns
- Ortho Flower, Fruit and Vegetable Insect Killer
- Green Light Tree & Shrub Insect Control with Safari 2 G
- Ortho Tree & Shrub Insect Control Plus Miracle Gro Plant Food
- Ortho Rose and Flower Insect Killer
- Ortho Rose Pride Insect Killer
Organizations Supporting Bees
The Honeybee Conservancy – Established in 2009 as a result of honeybee colony collapse, the nonprofit provides education programs, community outreach, cutting-edge research, bee sanctuaries and a sponsor-a-hive program.
Pesticide Action Network (PAN) – Works to replace the use of hazardous pesticides with ecologically healthier alternatives.
American Beekeeping Federation – The ABF is a national organization with over 4,700 members that continually works in the interest of all beekeepers, large or small, and those associated with the industry to ensure the future of the honey bee.
U.S. Beekeeping Associations – A great resource, support and education for beekeepers.
The Melissa Garden – The Melissa Garden is a honeybee and native pollinator habitat garden sanctuary in Healdsburg, California
Mellifera e.V. – Center for Organic Beekeeping, they have been pioneers in developing sustainable ecological concepts for beekeeping. The nonprofit is leading the discussion on organic beekeeping including care and management of colonies.
SAVING BUTTERFLIES & MOTHS
Like honeybees, butterflies are a pollinator of plants and food crops too. In fact, they are second only to bees in pollinating our food supply. And like bees, butterflies have seen a large and rapid decline in populations in recent years. Several butterfly species have become extinct in parts of the U.S., while many others have been listed as endangered, and several others are now threatened. There are 650-750 species of butterflies in the U.S., and nearly 20,000 worldwide, a large number of these are located in South America and the Caribbean. But their rapid decline is a statement on the health of our environment.
Causes of Decline
The two primary causes of the decline of butterflies is suburban and land development and the use of chemical pesticides, herbicides and insecticides along with bug sprays used to control mosquitoes. The increase in toxic pesticide use has led to the collapse of all pollinators—bumblebees, honeybees, wasps, beetles, but also frogs, salamanders and other insects. Loss of habitat is due to the development of land that butterflies use for nesting, laying eggs, and living on nectar-producing plants. Climate change, extreme weather and shifts in temperatures have all put stress on populations that are already at risk. Since the late 1990s, overwintering populations have declined by over 70 percent.
How You Can Help Butterflies
There are many ways you can help the butterfly population in your area. By conserving and supporting bee and butterfly and other pollinators and their habitat, you also positively impact the health of other animals like song birds and mammals in your area.
- BUILD A BUTTERFLY GARDEN – Create a butterfly conservation area in your back or front yard with flowering nectar plants and native milkweeds that will attract them to your garden. You can integrate this into your existing garden, but the larger the space you create the better. To choose plants for your particular location, see the lists provided by NABA’s Regional Butterfly Garden Guide.
- LEARN THE BASICS OF BUTTERFLY GARDENING – From plant selection, to creating shelter, and providing water, learn here how to start a butterfly garden.
- MONARCHS AND MILKWEED – Monarchs love milkweeds! In fact, it is the ONLY plant the Monarchs will lay its eggs in. Without milkweed the Monarchs would not exist. Choose milkweeds that are native to your region, and that grow naturally where you live. Here’s more about choosing the right milkweeds and all about gardening for monarchs. Want to create a Monarch Waystation? Here’s all about creating a Monarch Waystation
- TRANSFORM YOUR LAWN – Consider removing your lawn to create a habitat for bees and butterflies. You want to stay away from using invasive or non-native plants, and build a healthy habitat using diverse native-only plants.
- ELIMINATE PESTICIDE & INSECTICIDE USE – Avoid using these toxic products. Avoid chemically treating your flowers that can leach into pollen. Refrain from using chemicals period in your garden or on your lawn. Instead, let ladybugs, spiders, and praying mantises keep your pest populations in check. AVOID buying these brands of fertilizers and insecticides with Neonics in them
- CONTACT LOCAL GARDEN CENTERS – Ask your local nursery and garden center to stock their shelves with native milkweed and pollinator-friendly plants
- DON’T BUY GMO FOODS – Genetically Engineered or Modified foods come from GE seeds, that are sprayed with Monstanto’s Roundup Ready pesticide, which in turn, kills milkweed and butterflies.
- PROVIDE WATER. CREATE A BATH – Bees are thirsty and need fresh, clean water daily. Provide a continuous shallow basin of clean water in your garden. Add pebbles, rocks and branches for bees to land on while drinking. Be sure to refresh your container with new, clean water daily.
- EDUCATE OTHERS – Share your stories and what you’ve learned with other people. Encourage them to build butterfly gardens and monarch stations. Present your information to youth groups, garden clubs or other organizations. Get them involved in a project that you lead or support.
- USE FSC CERTIFIED WOOD – Illegal logging in many foreign countries has led to the importation of exotic hardwoods, that destroy butterfly habitats. Be sure to only buy FSC Certified wood
- DON’T RELEASE COMMERCIAL BUTTERFLIES INTO YOUR ENVIRONMENT – People sometimes do this for weddings or other events, but bringing butterflies that aren’t from your area, to your area, brings disease and parasites to the wild populations. It is also causing the “poaching” of butterflies for the commercial market, and creating a “black market” of butterflies. Don’t do it.
- TAKE ACTION – Let the USDA (Department of Agriculture) know that you oppose commercially-raised butterflies for release into the environment. Learn more about it here, and the actions you can take.
- LEARN MORE ABOUT MONARCHS – Learn more about saving our Monarch Butterflies with Save Our Monarchs and Monarch Watch.
Remarkable Time-Lapse: Watch Caterpillars Transform Into Butterflies | National Geographic
More about Monarch Butterflies
Basic Facts About Monarch Butterflies, Defenders of Wildlife
Six Ways to Save Monarchs, National Wildlife Federation
8 Ways You Can Help Save Monarch Butterflies, One Green Planet
Save Our Monarchs, Save our Monarchs Foundation
How To Create Your Own Monarch Butterfly Rest Stop / National Geographic