While we may not like their stingers, bees are extremely important to us; it’s said that one of every three bites we take is from food pollinated by bees. But bee colonies everywhere are in decline.
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is devastating honey bee hives the world over. Historically, there have been occasional reports of periods of colony decline. But since 2006 the rate of decline has increased dramatically. There’s no scientific consensus about the cause of CCD, but increasing evidence implicates systemic pesticides that permeate plants. These poisons don’t discriminate between harmful insects and pollinating bees. Once applied, systemic pesticides don’t wash off; they become part of the entire plant including the pollen and nectar. The pesticide class of neonicotinoids – or neonics- seems particularly problematic for bees.
Without giving it much thought, it’s easy for us to fall into the mind-set that pesticide use can only improve our lives by ridding us of annoying pests and protecting our crops and gardens. But with the potential for 7 billion people to spread these toxins, maybe CCD is signaling that bees are the “canary in the coal mine” alerting us to broader environmental hazards.
As we celebrate the 45th Earth Day, this bee disorder reminds us to consider our place in the circle of life on this planet. No one of us individually is either going to ruin or to save the environment. But we all play a part. Now’s a good time to ask, “What’s the next small step I can take to improve environmental sustainability right here in Iowa County?”
Remarkably, that 120 plus year old farmhouse is still standing – a tribute to human engineering and up-keep. We Americans know how to build things that last for generations. Those skills must be applied to the environment as well. Following sustainable practices will insure that generations of humans and bees can thrive. After all, this is the only home all earth’s creatures will ever know. We are forever…Earthbound.