10 things you need to know about the current bee crisis
Have you heard?
The bees aren’t doing so well. Since the late 1990s, the scientific community has observed a sharp decline in populations of pollinating insects, especially bees, across the globe. According to the UN, the extinction rate is now 100 to 1,000 higher than normal. In Canada, we observed a 30% colony loss in bees in 2018, the highest loss since 2009. Why does this matter, and why should we all do something about it? Here’s everything you need to know.
1. Our food system depends on bees
One out of every three bites of food we take depends on the hard work of pollinating insects. Without them, we can say goodbye to some 130 essential food crops: almonds, cranberries, apricots, cashews, apples, pears, blueberries, avocados, broccoli, several kinds of beans, coffee, chocolate and much more. The impact on the economy would be immense, and for us, supermarket aisles would look like this:
2. Bees are our last hope
Although bees aren’t the only pollinators we know, they are our last hope because it’s either too late, or too complicated, to rescue other species. “The beekeeper is the last one on the battlefield for the maintenance of pollinating insects. We don’t keep butterflies; we don’t really keep bumblebees or wild bees either. The only ones we can manipulate and try to keep alive are honeybees,” explains Anicet Desrochers, a Quebec beekeeper and honey producer who’s been in the business for over 20 years.
3. Houston, we already have a problem
We are already seeing some of the impacts of what we now call Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). In the US, there’s an entire industry geared around the transportation of bee hives from field to field in order to pollinate crops, notably almond orchards. In China, some crops like apples and pears are pollinated by humans armed with feathers because there aren’t enough insects to meet the demand.
4. It’s a bigger problem than we think
Pesticides, especially neonicotinoids, are often pointed as being the main cause of CCD. While that’s true, pesticides are only “a link in a chain of processes, the tip of the iceberg,” explains Jean-François Odoux, researcher at INRA, "it's the entire agricultural system we need to adapt to a more reasonable level of consumption."
5. Climate change is also a factor
Bees are directly impacted by climate change, since they depend on flowers, trees and shrubs for pollen, their main food source. If trees bloom too early, they might not make it in time to the pollen and nectar. Heat also makes them more vulnerable to disease and parasites.
6. Our food system is broken
As it is, our food system relies on intensive monoculture and overconsumption. Renting beehives and trucking them around a country in order to keep resource-intensive single-crop fields going can’t be a long-term solution. As Jean-François Odoux says, “it’s the entire agricultural system that needs to be changed. We can find other ways to live.”
7. Organic agriculture is part of the solution
A recent study shows that organic agriculture is good for bees, since it’s more diverse, uses no synthetic pesticides, and there is more flower diversity from spontaneous growth. That’s another good reason to choose organic!
8. Urban beekeeping is in
Cities are safe havens for bees: a lot less pesticides are used, there is an abundance of flowers, diverse water sources and a temperate climate. Urban beekeeping contributes to the health of the bee population, and it creates a buzz that helps bring awareness to the importance of protecting biodiversity and the environment.
9. Businesses have a role to play
Thanks to Alvéole, a local company that helps businesses with their urban beekeeping projects, PRANA adopted a hive, which is now happily set up behind our offices. It’s an engaging and mobilizing initiative for the PRANA family, and an innovative sustainability project which allows us to do our part as a company.
10. You can help too
Wondering how you can help the bees? No need to become a beekeeper overnight to contribute. Start by rethinking the choices you make when you shop for groceries. Opting for organic, local and seasonal foods means you’re choosing agricultural methods that are respectful of the environment, don’t use synthetic pesticide and encourage crop diversity.
What else? You can do some other things to help your friendly neighbourhood bees:
- ❤ Set up a bee hotel;
- ❤ Leave some water out for the bees;
- ❤ Plant flowers that attract and feed them;
- ❤ Avoid using pesticides at home and in your garden;
- ❤ Encourage your employer, your kids’ school or local businesses to adopt a hive;
- ❤ Share what you learned here with your friends and family!
For more resources, check out this awesome article!
Want to know what else we do as a business? Check out our other environmental intiatives!