All creatures, great and small

Day of the Honeybee, May 29, highlights the decline of the honeybee and why we need to stop it now.

One of the things that I enjoy most about Spring is the happy humming of dozens of bees working in nearby trees and gardens. I could spend hours watching them collect pollen if I had the time.

Which reminds me, I need to clean up my herb garden this year. It’s become a tad overgrown, and I wouldn’t want to deprive the bees’ enjoyment of the oregano and savory flowers.

Bees annually pollinate a third of our food – depending on our individual diets. If your diet consists entirely of chicken mcnuggets, you probably have nothing to worry about regarding the bees.

But Canada has lost 35 per cent of its honey bee colonies for the past three years, and there is no end to this decline in sight.

Each year around this time, Clinton Shane Ekdahl of Saskatoon sends out letters to municipal governments asking them to proclaim May 29 as Day of the Honey Bee, and it reminds us that we must do something to help our little friends. But what?

1. Insecticides: Stop using them. Read labels. The widespread use of nicotine-based insecticides called neonicotinoids is linked to Colony Collapse Disorder. When exposed to these nerve-agents, bees get lost – they are literally unable to find their way back home to their hive and drop dead from exhaustion. Two of these widely used insecticides are clothianidin and imidacloprid.

2. Malnutrition and Loss of Habitat: Honeybees don’t have the variety of flowers available to them because humans has destroyed much of their habitat. Plant native wildflowers, or just let the clover grow in your yard. Go to the library or look online to find out how to build bee nests.

3.  Lost Genetic Diversity: Like many other foods we eat, genetic diversity has been reduced by industrial agriculture which only wants a small limited amount of species and genetic traits which seem profitable and simple to manage.  Buy local honey.

4.  Overuse of Antibiotics and Miticides: Many large scale beekeepers use antibiotics and miticides to kill mites. Buy local honey.

5.  Viruses and Fungi: There seems to be an overriding factor decreasing the overall health of bees, thus making them more susceptible to poisons and infections. What the scientists suspect and are still proving is that the bee’s natural defenses are being undermined by poor nutrition and other unnatural living conditions. Buy local honey, plant native wildflowers.

Our little friends need our help now, before that pleasant humming is replaced with silence.

Wendy Coomber is editor of the Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal