Protecting the Pollinators with Hemp, why Honey Bees Matter!
Whether you realize it or not, 1 out of every 3 bites of food you take, on average, are dependent upon Honey Bees doing what nature compels them to do!
You might say that you don't care about bees, you don't like them because they can sting you and you're allergic, and whatever happens to them doesn't affect you in the least. But you would be dead wrong!
Honey Bees are such a instrumental part of our Agriculture Industry (responsible for the pollination of some $20 Billion worth of crops in the U.S. alone) that if they were to all disappear worldwide, humanity would be faced with a near immediate food supply shortage, skyrocketing food prices, and the potential for the generalize collapse of society. Here are a few numbers to keep in mind when talking about Bees:
Some Good Statistics
As we opened with, 1 in 3 bites of food you take are the result of the Honey Bees work. They pollinate our crops as they fly from flower to flower seeking food to take back to the colony. Our crops not only feed us directly, but they also keep the livestock fed that supplies our meat industry.
A Honey Bee can fly up to 15 miles per hour, beating it's wings at 200 times per minute. And the entire colony will log 55,000 miles of flight to produce 1 pound of Honey.
During the summer, a single Queen can lay up to 2,500 eggs in a day. Over it's lifetime, each of these Bees will only produce 1/12 teaspoon of Honey. This may not seem like much, but considering that a single colony can have up to 60,000 Bees, it adds up!
Some Bad Statistics
Since the numbers were first kept track of (from the early 20th Century), there has been a nearly 3 million colony decline in the U.S.
In the winter of 2019, Backyard Beekeeper Hobbyists lost 39.8% of their colonies.
Because of the decline in local Bee populations, there are 2.6 million colonies that are transported across country (by professional Beekeepers on Transfer Trucks) for use in pollenating crops.
Of European Bee species, 9.2% are near extinction.
But there are a few bright spots. People are beginning to pay attention and direct some effort into preventing the "Bee-pocalypse" or "Bee-maggedon." The National Agricultural Statistics Service (part of the US Department of Agriculture) produces yearly reports on, amongst other things, Bee colony and Honey production statistics. A March 19, 2020 Report on Honey showed that while population of Bees was slightly lower, the production of Honey was up 2% from 2018 to 2019. This might seem to indicate that the amount of crops pollinated are at least staying the same, if not increasing slightly. Another report on Honey Bee Colonies showed an increase of 8% in colonies where the operation included 5 or more colonies, from Jan 1, 2019 to Jan 1, 2020.
In contrast with many in the world's warnings, a group called the Genetic Literacy Project, which, on it's face says it advocates for science and literacy when it comes to chemicals and genetics in agriculture and the world, takes a completely opposite stance that the world's Bee populations are in danger. You can read their article and decide for yourself. However, it's tone, and a look at their donor list poses some questions (as several are recognizable names in the chemical industry).
So, what threats do the Bee's face?
Let's discuss some of the obstacles to increasing and maintaining the populations. You may find that a common thread to several of them is the hand of Man.
Perhaps the one problem that get's the most press (probably because of it's dramatic sounding name) is Colony Collapse Disorder. It is even tracked and studied by the E.P.A. This is a phenomena that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony simply disappear, leaving behind a queen, a few nurse bees and a surplus of food supplies, with no indication as to where they went or even evidence of dead bees. This is one of the most widely studied issues and, despite it's ominous sounding name, seems to be a decreasing phenomena with Bee colonies.
Invasion of the colony by parasites, like the Varroa Mite causes health problems that can lead to the deaths of thousands of Bees in a colony.
Some Chemical Pesticides used to protect the very crops they are responsible for pollinating, are deadly to the Bee populations that work these crops. Although less of a issue than it was in previous years because of the growing realization of how harmful some of these chemicals can be, and the increasing popularity of Natural products and solutions.
Habitat changes. Wild Bee populations are responsible for about half the crop pollination in the country. The creep of urban population centers, and spread of the population farther and farther into the suburbs and counties eats away at the acreage these Bees call home.
The winters do not help. Bee populations naturally decrease in winters, that is expected. However, the increasing harshness of some winter areas due to Climate Changes can affect these vulnerable populations. As well, moving colonies through colder climates (for example, the mountains) to transport them for pollination, can adversely affect their mortality.
So, How can Hemp Help?
Hemp is making a comeback in the American Agricultural landscape. Amongst it's myriad of advantages for the environment, it can also help slow or stop the decline of Bee populations as it's acreage grows. Let's examine some reasons why:
Hemp is a tall plant, that when it matures, produces little Nectar, but does produce an abundance of Pollen, which the Bees can't seem to get enough of. Research has confirmed that Bees have an affinity for this family of plants, especially the male version.
Hemp is a good ingredient used in any number of products (nearly 50,000). The use of Hemp based products reduces the number of synthetic (petroleum based) products in circulation, and their impact on the environment. Thus helping preserve the Bees natural habitat and mitigating the effects of Climate Change.
Most Hemp crops are grown Organically (without pesticides or other chemicals) or using Natural solutions to common crop problems. Sparing the Bee populations from exposure to these potentially deadly substances.
It depends upon who you talk to, and what their interest is in the subject, as to whether there is a problem with declining Bee population at all, and if so, how dire the situation is. On thing is for sure, there is an over-abundance of material to research the subject, from every angle. Hopefully, we've highlighted some of the concerns, hopes, and Hemp solutions for any problem that exists.
One thing is certain, problem or not, is that continuing to do things which are harmful is counter-productive and morally questionable. Whether or not it has a net effect on the overall population. For example, when the regulators approve a pesticide proven harmful to Bee populations because it does not produce a high enough percentage chance of negative effect on the population. The potential, or even proven, loss of a single colony should be enough to warrant not approving dangerous substances.
The fact that there are "mobile" colonies which are moved from location to location yearly should be enough of an indicator that native Bee population is not sufficient to handle the pollination needs of the nation. What happens if some unforeseen event causes the movement of these colonies to halt for one or wo growing seasons?
Scientists, and the government tell us that we need to "protect our pollinators." Chemical companies and monied interests tell us there is nothing to concern ourselves with. But consider this quote from Greenpeace's Site;
“In the last four years, the chemical industry has spent $11.2 million on a PR initiative to say it’s not their fault, so we know whose fault it is.”
Jon Cooksey, writer, director, How to Boil a Frog.
Yes, humanity is ingenious enough to find a way around the loss of ALL the Bees through some combination of invention, chemistry and labor. But, just because we possess the potential, is that a reason to ignore the peril of the pollination system which nature has designed and operated for over 130 million years? And why not take advantage of the plant humans have harvested for 10,000 years to restore their populations?
What do you think? Tell us below in the comments.
Bees Absolutely Love Cannabis And It Could Help Restore Their Populations; by Chrisjames11, AwesomeJelly.com, undated.
Industrial Hemp as Forage for Honey Bees; Date: September 9, 2016, by Nick J. French
40 Frightening Bee Statistics & Facts Everyone Must Learn; by Boriana Slabakova, January 20, 2020
Nearly 40% decline in honey bee population last winter 'unsustainable,' experts say; by Julia Jacobo, July 9, 2019
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