Where Have All the Bees Gone?

bumble bee hard at work

bumble bee hard at work


By Patricia Zick @PCZick

“Mankind has gone very far into an artificial world of his own creation. He has sought to insulate himself in his cities of steel and concrete, away from the realities of earth, water, the growing seed. And intoxicated with a sense of his own power, he seems to be going farther and farther into experiments toward the destruction of himself and his world. . .I do believe, that the more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and the realities of this universe about us, the less taste we shall have for its destruction.”

Rachel Carson, From A Sense of Wonder, a PBS documentary

April is the time of year when nature comes alive. Growth blossoms in living color in our front yards, in our gardens, and on our farms. We emerge from hibernation and venture outside to breathe in the essence of rebirth and our mouths water in anticipation of the fresh foods soon to grace our tables from our gardens, farmers markets, and grocery store produce departments.

Most of the plants beginning to grow right now, both edible and aesthetic, depend on one little step in the process – pollination by those stinging little buzzers, the bees.

A beautiful symbiotic relationship exists as the bees go from each sweet nectar-filled flower to bring us one-third of the food we put in our mouth. It may be the most important third.

Yet bees – in particular the commercially raised honeybees – have been in drastic decline in recent years. Some blame climate change; others see encroachment of habitat as the culprit; and a wide-growing number of experts wonder at a new set of pesticides called neonicotinoids – similar chemically to nicotine – as the toxic killer.

The New York Times reported on March 29, 2013, that honey bee deaths have expanded drastically in the past year. Commercial beekeepers say forty-fifty percent of their hives have been destroyed. These hives pollinate many of the fruits and vegetables in the United States. Bees in the wild are more difficult to track, but BBC News science reporter Rebecca Morelle says bees are “facing decline around the world.” She suggests that researchers are wondering if the neonicotinoids are causing some of the problem.

The European Commission is pushing to ban the pesticide, but chemical companies are protesting. In the United States, where Colony Collapse Disorder is running rampant, the pesticide industry is disputing any connection.

When Rachel Carson wrote her now famous Silent Spring that led to the eventual ban of DDT as a pesticide in the 1960s, she was labeled a lunatic by the pesticide industry. An editorial in Newsweek soon after its publication in 1962, compared Ms. Carson to Senator Joseph McCarthy because the book stirred up the “demons of paranoia.”

From Rachel Carson website

From Rachel Carson website

Fortunately, the Kennedy administration decided to come public with a report that criticized the industry and government several months after the publication of Silent Spring. That report silenced the critics and vindicated Ms. Carson. Eventually, Congressional hearings began which concluded with the decision to create a federal policy to safeguard the environment.

The verdict may still be out on the precious bee, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture urges more research into the thirty-three percent loss occurring annually to the commercial honey bee populations.

And let’s not forget the work of pioneers such as Rachel Carson who made it possible for the bald eagle and other creatures of the earth to come back from the brink of extinction – an extinction caused by humans intent on a quest to kill whatever gets in the way of profit.

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New Release from P.C. Zick

Trails in the Sand by P.C. Zick follows environmental writer Caroline Carlisle as she follows a story to save sea turtles from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Along the way, she stumbles upon secrets from her family’s past that threaten destroy her marriage.

To Feed or Not to Feed

San Antonio River Walk

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

I know it seems sweet to feed birds in the park or on the riverfront walks in cities. I probably did it at one time myself. But if you want to feed birds, do it in your own backyard using food that will help them. Audubon gives some great advice on bird food and feeders.

The other day I ate lunch on San Antonio’s river walk at Cafe Rio. Pigeons, ducks, and smaller birds wander the area waiting for easy grub.

lying in wait

I watched as a man across from me leaned down and fed a pigeon a tortilla chip. I shook my head at his female companion, and she looked puzzled. Then I heard her give a small yelp. One of the ducks had nipped at her foot. When they stood to leave, she exclaimed, “They’re on the table.”

cleaning up

I’m only surprised she was surprised.

Wildlife are not supposed to eat our food (we shouldn’t eat some of it either). They can find food in nature. When they find an easy source, they’ll go for it. Wouldn’t you? It’s not healthy for them and brings them into too much contact with humans which in turn puts them in more danger. They lose their innate fear of humans. And they can become predators, such as the duck who pecked at the woman’s foot.

So please think before you throw that white bread, tortilla chip, or french fry on the ground for wildlife to enjoy. Instead, invest in a proper bird feeder and bird seed. Teach your children and grandchildren to admire the birds from a distance and show them how beautiful nature can truly be with little interference from us.