The Bees and the P’s
The honeybees are struggling. Populations have been dying at an alarming rate with Bee Informed Partnership reporting national beekeepers lost 33% of their colonies between 2016 and 2017. Considering pollination from bees is responsible for approximately one in every three bites of food we take, this is a serious issue. But what’s really responsible? And what can we actually do?
The “Four P’s”
A recent Costco Connection article, “Bees in Peril,” explains the downturn in bee populations stems from the “four P’s”: pests, pathogens, pesticides, and poor nutrition. On their own, each of these factors is difficult, but combined, they’re devastating. At the same time that bees are being killed by pests like the Asian Varroa mite, they are battling fewer food sources due to farming practices and development. Almond farmers, for instance, were among the first to notice the problem of declining bee populations and have since realized planting a single crop limits the local bee diet. When it comes to nutrition, bees are like humans in wanting and needing a diverse diet and not just almond trees (or other singular crops). As a result, many almond farmers have begun to plant more bee-friendly plants and flowers among their trees to encourage healthy bee diets.
Before we go blaming farmers for killing the bees’ food, however, we need to take a look at our everyday practices. Urban development is killing much of the bees’ habitat, but our habits of weeding and spraying for the perfect garden aren’t doing any favors either. Plants like the clover, for instance, are actually favored sources of food for bees but we rip many of them out in the name of weeding.
So, the perennial question in this situation is what can we actually do? For starters, if you’re a gardener, read up on plants and flowers that are bee friendly. Maybe let the clovers grow or plant some new flowers specifically to attract some bees. Second, buy honey products! Beekeepers don’t rely solely on honey profit, as pollination practices make up a significant portion of their income now, but a robust honey market can only help. Revenue from honey products can go to funding research to take care of bee colonies and their future. While we can’t solve all the P’s, we can at least help with reversing poor nutrition and protecting the bees.
To learn more about the bees’ struggle and how to help, check out:
Mallory is a part-time writer and Kalamazoo College graduate native to the Pacific Northwest. When not writing blogs and small business articles, she enjoys spending time with her pets, reading Victorian literature, and supporting the Seattle Sounders.