Monday, August 11, 2014

Are Bees Endangered?

I was having a conversation with some friends about this blog and someone said, "Why don't you write about bees. Aren't bees endangered?"

Turns out that people are paying attention to the news articles about the disappearance of bees. But bees (and there are so many species - and we don't mean wasps and yellow jackets) have not made the official endangered lists.

Even kids that watch Jerry Seinfeld's Bee Movie know that one-third of our food depends on the services of a pollinator—bee or other insect, bird, or mammal.

Bees are the most important pollinators in the Northeastern U.S., and there are hundreds of species of bees that live in our state.

National Honey Bee Day is August 17. It's a good time to celebrate honey bees that pollinate many of our important food crops like apples, broccoli and blueberries - and then there is that wonderful honey.

You might have read that there have been many problems with bees in New Jersey and across the country. Scientists are still not sure if the cause (or causes) are fungal, viral or from toxic pesticides.

Bees are one of the issues for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

In 2006, beekeepers became vocal about disappearing bees. Seemingly healthy bees were abandoning their hives, and this became known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Estimates are that nearly one-third of all honey bee colonies in the country have vanished.

Scientists have not come up with a definitive answer to the the problem. Factors seem to be pesticide exposure, invasive parasitic mites, an inadequate food supply and a new virus that targets bees' immune systems.

We know from other endangered species that when species disappear it is often an early indicator of problems that will affect humans. For example, bees that pollinate crops that are sprayed with pesticides are more likely to die off than bees that pollinate in the wild. 

Have you have ever thought about having your own hive? Check out the  NJ Beekeepers Association which has chapters throughout the state.