Have you hugged a honey bee lately? Well, now’s your chance. This Saturday, August 22, kicks off the country’s first National Honey Bee Awareness Day. US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsac says he designated the day in recognition of the crucial role that honey bees play in pollinating agricultural crops.
More than 90 food crops, from avocados to watermelons, depend on regular visits from honey bees to boost their production, generating about $15 billion in annual crop value.
That benefit is now in jeopardy as a strange malady called colony collapse disorder afflicts honey bee populations, often rendering honey-filled hives tiny ghost towns completely devoid of life, and not even a corpse for a clue.
USDA is working with other federal agencies and scientists to finger the culprit causing the mysterious disease. So far, suspects include pathogens, parasites, environmental stresses such as pesticides, and malnutrition.
In a world without honey bees, experts say crop yields would plummet and food prices would soar. So don’t be shy. Show those bees some gratitude—this Saturday and every day. Here are a few things you can do:
• Support beekeepers by buying local honey and beehive products.
• Do not use pesticides in your yard or garden.
• Plant native and nectar producing flowers that can provide food for honey bees. Consult your local university cooperative extension office for plants native to your region.
• Resist the temptation to yank dandelions and clover from your lawn. These plants are natural sources of pollen and nectar for honey bees and many other beneficial insects.
• Consider beekeeping as a hobby, or invite a beekeeper to maintain beehives on your property.