Photo credit : Sam Droege, Photo used with permission
In Spotlight: Honeybee
Spring ushers in new life and summer becomes its cradle. During this time each year nature hums with life. As the ground is tilled and the Spring showers arrive everything is gently nudged out of its slumber. Overnight the landscape is transformed into an array of rainbow colors. For an avid gardener such as myself, it is the most beautiful time of the year. I spend a significant part of my day working in my garden during spring and summer. As I get busy planting and pruning so do the bees with pollinating and honey making. We cross paths several times each day and work alongside each other. Up until recently I had mostly associated bees to honey. But last summer I became acutely aware of the critical role they play as crop pollinators. For example, bumblebees pollinate the tomato flower by self pollination through a process called “buzz pollination” while the honeybees pollinate the cucumber vine by cross pollination. Any changes in the pollination pattern can wreak havoc on a crop, which is exactly what happened to my vegetable garden. Both the honeybee and the bumblebee were completely smitten by the Torenia flowers and a solitary Catmint I planted last year. Even though they had a myriad of flowers to visit each day, they loyally frolicked to and spent most of their day at these two flowerbeds. All summer I waited patiently for them to have a change of heart and visit the vegetable patch but alas, homegrown vegetables were not written in my stars.
Both the Torenia and Catmint have endless blooms, and so the promise of a better food source seemed to be the obvious answer for the bee's lack of interest in the vegetable garden. But I can't be absolutely sure that it was the only reason. Nonetheless, a poor harvest prompted me to look at bees with a whole new perspective. The January issue features the honeybee - the tiny insect that is credited for the pollination of one-third of all crops. Crops such as blackberries, broccoli, cucumbers, squash, apples, almonds, strawberries and many more. For those of us in the Northern hemisphere the talk of Spring in the dead of winter must seem strange. The reason for launching this issue with the focus on Spring now is because in an effort to plan for and create a pollinator friendly garden in the Spring, it is important to learn about and promote bee conservation now.
Among the many interesting and captivating traits I have learned about honeybees, I have picked a few and compiled them under three main headings listed below. Each segment can serve as a stand-alone pieces or together they can provide an overarching theme to understand the role of the honeybees in our ecosystem. At the end of these segments I hope you are as intrigued as I am and come away with a renewed appreciation for this tiny insect.
A day in the life of a honeybee: Please join me in celebrating the fascinating life of a honeybee. This first segment highlights various characteristics of a honeybee, which are critical to understanding their daily routine, and how these traits ensure their survival. Included in this segment are interesting attributes such as the art of communication, swarm intelligence (SI), sophisticated masonry skills, bee diversity, and the economic impact of commercial pollination services in the lives of humans. I am sure you would agree that there is so much more to this tiny being than what meets the eye. Explore article and videos ...
Nature at work: Nature is alive and buzzing with life. It is constantly evolving - tweaking its processes and its products. Because it is so dynamic an organism often picks up the slightest of nuances, assess them, and recalibrate itself to function efficiently in a given environment. This is one of the premises for the theory of Natural Selection. This segment illustrates the critical role wild bees play in sustaining a healthy ecosystem and the evolutionary advantages native species have over introduced species. The first article in this segment demonstrates how cool nature really is! Its a must read.Explore articles ...
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD):Colony Collapse Disorder is a recent phenomenon, which is characterized by the sudden and mysterious disappearance of entire honeybee colony leaving behind the larva and honey. The condition was first noticed in the Fall of 2006 and has mostly affected honeybees used for commercial pollination services. According to the US Department of Agriculture US beekeepers have lost almost one-third of their colonies and some have lost up to 90 percent of their hives consistently each winter since 2006. The United States, Europe, and some parts of Asia are the regions most impacted by CCD. Commercial pollination services contribute 16 billion dollar to the US economy each year. With the onset of CCD what else is at stake besides the economy? Explore articles and video...
Although this issue features the honeybee, I would be remiss if I did not pay tribute to the pollinators of our planet. Of the 1.9 million known species in the animal kingdom, one million of those are pollinators. Three-fourths of all the flowering plants including crops like chocolate and coffee rely on insect and animal pollinators such as butterflies, flies, honeybees, bats and hummingbirds.
In 2011, Disneynature released a documentary - Pollen. It is a beautiful tribute to the pollinators of our world. If you can't get to the documentary right away you can enjoy the trailer of Pollen by clicking here. Be sure to turn up the volume. Even though I have watched the documentary I keep coming back to this trailer. I have watched it countless times and it still continues to awe me. Translations for the video captions listed below. Translation from French to English provided by Sarah.
"Everything that surrounds us...depends on a unique relationship Discover the story of love...that feeds our world The pollinators are the essence of life...your future depends on their survival A story of love that feeds our world, Narrated by Melanie Laurent."
Who to support:
Listed below are organizations that are involved in protecting pollinators and their habitat. Both websites contain interesting resources for you to explore, so please take a few minutes to visit them.
In addition to supporting the organizations listed above there are several things people can do in their own gardens to promote bee health and protect their habitat. Some of these ideas are listed below.
The US Fish and Wildlife services has the following suggestions:
What are Neonicotinoids and why avoid them: Neonicotinoids are a new generation water-soluble pesticides that the plants absorb through the root system. These pesticides transfer toxins to the bees through pollen and nectar. Neonicotinoids are listed as one of the leading causes for Colony Collapse Disorder. Please find listed below the active ingredients one may find on the labels of insecticide containing neonicotinoids. • Acetamiprid
Use of native beneficial insects: Native beneficial insects are natural alternative to using pesticides in one’s garden. The book ‘Farming with Beneficial Insects’ by the Xerces Society may serve as a helpful resource if you would like to explore that option.
Preserving uncultivated land is critical for the wild bees to flourish; it is their natural habitat. Wild flowers and weeds provide food (pollen and nectar) for the bees.
Beehive in your backyard: Finding a honeybee colony in one’s backyard while a welcomed treat for a garden, may not be for everyone. Should you find yourself in such a situation please call a Bee Removal Service instead of an Exterminator. Bee Removal Services safely relocate a colony to a new venue without harming the bees. Please Goggled “Bee removal services” to contact one near you. Thank you in advance for saving the honeybee!
Random acts of kindness- Bee adoption (PBS Short video): Marty Hanks, a resident of North Carolina, USA is a bee conservationist. He has come up with an unique idea to save honeybees. He safely relocates unwanted beehives to gardens that are willing to host the hive and the resident family volunteers to become the bee's Foster family! Simple and creative ideas that make coexisting possible. This is yet another conservation success story!
“Every single person on our planet has a diet that includes food made possible by pollinating insects. When this connection is threatened, all of humanity is threatened.”
—Dino Martins. Entomologist. Excerpt from National Geographic.
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