Have you hugged a honey bee lately? If not, make a point of it tomorrow. Saturday, August 21st, is National Honeybee Awareness Day, and if any insect should be praised for hard work, it’s this one.
Consider this: Based on data from 200 countries, 87 of the leading global food crops depend on animals to pollinate them, according to a 2007 study in the Proceedings of The Royal Royal Society B—and insects comprise the majority. Of those six-legged laborers, bees “are the overwhelming pollinator,” says Matthew Shepherd, senior conservation associate at The Xerces Society. Within THAT echelon of the workforce, honey bees are the most critical—largely because of the way our agricultural system is set up, with vast acres devoted to specific types of crops, notes Shepherd.
A more palatable way of saying all of this is that we have honey bees to ultimately thank for about one-third of the food and beverages we consume. For anyone who enjoys eating and drinking, this is kind of a big deal. Unfortunately, we face an unfruitful future because honey bee health is at risk. Pests and pesticides have been stressing honey bee colonies for decades, according to the USDA. Then, in 2006, some beekeepers started reporting 30-90 percent losses of their hives. And by losses, they meant that some of the colony just vanished, without a trace. Most of the adults were gone, leaving just the queen and immature bees, and maybe some honey. Known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), the problem still has no known cure—nor have we pinpointed the cause, although pesticides have been implicated.
This morning, I attended a round table event at the Natural Resources Defense Council, which focused on honey bees and pesticides, and how a new documentary about the importance of honey bees could be used to highlight their problem. Narrated by Ellen Page (of Inception fame), Vanishing of the Bees, will be coming out soon. So while you’re waiting, take some time out tomorrow to thank your six-legged sugar mammas (and drone daddies) for making your life a little sweeter. Find fellow bee lovers and events in your area here.