As any farmer will tell you, pollination is a critical step in growing good food. The transfer of pollen from male to female plants is accomplished by a variety of methods, including wind currents, but the most common method for agricultural crops is transfer by insects such as bees. Many species of fruits and vegetables, as well as crops for feeding livestock, such as alfalfa and clover, rely on insect pollination in order to survive and reproduce. One study, by Roger Morse and Nicholas Calderone of Cornell University, valued the economic effects of the Western honeybee (Apis mellifera) alone at $14.6 billion per year.
Photo Credit: Erik Hooymans, Wikimedia Commons
Unfortunately, pollinators of many different species are suffering from severe population decline and a mysterious ailment known as Colony Collapse Disorder, in which apparently healthy colonies of bees suddenly lose their adult workers. The most recent studies indicate that a major cause of Colony Collapse Disorder may be the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on agricultural crops, which have been shown to inhibit the neurological functions of honeybees, impair their ability to find their way home to their colony, and slow the production of new queens.
These dramatic changes threaten the very existence of honeybees and other pollinators, making extinction a real possibility. The loss of honeybees would threaten our ability to feed ourselves, let alone produce the kinds of fantastic agricultural surpluses we have been able to produce in recent years.
Photo Credit- Javier Robles, Wikimedia Commons
So what can we do to help prevent this dire possibility? There are several easy steps we can all take to help our local pollinators recover and thrive.
Organic produce is grown without the use of chemical pesticides, fungicides, and fertilizers that harm the health of bees. When bees are released into fields of organic crops, all they find is nice, healthy pollen, uncontaminated by the kinds of dangerous chemicals found in non-organic industrial crop production.
Think Twice about Weeding
Photo Credit: Thomas Bresson, Wikimedia Commons
As we mentioned in an earlier post, some of those plants that we think of as common garden and lawn pests, like dandelions and daisies, are critical food sources for wild pollinators. Having a healthy and diverse yard (as opposed to a manicured lawn) will help the bees in your area thrive. Avoid using chemical pesticides and herbicides in your garden, and if you must weed, weed by hand instead. In a similar vein, planting flowering plants in your yard and garden will provide food and habitat for bees. Lavender, lilac, mint, tomatoes, squash, and herbs like thyme and rosemary are all great for the bees.
Buy Raw Local Honey
Raw, locally produced honey (such as BeeKing’s Raw Honey, available in the PCH Online Market) supports commercial beekeeping operations that give local bees lots of food and habitat. Many beekeepers also rent out their bees to farmers to help pollinate the fields, keeping the pollination cycle that has sustained agriculture for thousands of years in motion.
Keep an eye out for your friendly local pollinators this summer!
Stay organically connected!
John, Tom & Reece
Pacific Coast Harvest
“We Buy Local First”