CCD, or Colony Collapse Disorder, causes an average loss of 30% of beehives annually since 2006.
Obviously, bees are not the only pollinators on earth. They are, however, the largest contributors to animal pollination. Other pollinators include bats, butterflies, insects, and birds. In honor of National Pollinator Week, June 19-25, 2017, we have the basic information you will need to join the fight to save our pollinators.
First, Some Statistics
It’s important to understand just what pollinators do and why saving them has become so important. You can see the tremendous impact they have on our food supply and our economy in these statistics:
Also, according to a 2016 United Nations committee report, up to 16% of vertebrate pollinators, like birds and bats, and 9% of insect pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, are threatened with extinction.
Causes of Pollinator Deaths
There are no quick and easy answers for what is causing the threat to our pollinators.
First, current agricultural practices leave no space for wildflowers or cover crops, giving no shelter from predators and weather. Also, today’s fields are mostly weed-free, which means food sources for pollinators are dwindling.
Second, Varroa mites, first reported in Florida in the 1980’s, have become extremely dangerous to honeybees. They will parasitize an entire bee colony by feeding on both adult bees and larvae. These dangerous parasites have spread throughout the US from their origin point in Florida and can spread throughout a colony and to other colonies very quickly. You can find more information on Varroa mites here.
Third, the use of pesticides known as neonicotinoids is especially harmful to pollinators. These pesticides remain in the stems, leaves, and pollen of plants, meaning that pollinators ingest them and carry them back to their hives and nests, infecting others around them.
Also, climate change has directly impacted bumblebees in North America and Europe. According to an article in Science magazine, climbing temperatures have changed growing seasons and regions all over the world. Most animals have adapted by following their food sources, but many bumblebee species have not been able to make this change by moving their habitats north. Their inability to adapt to climate change is leading to a huge decline in the bumblebee population.
The UN committee report also indicated that more research needs to be done on the effect pollinators have on genetically modified organisms. Crops that are resistant to insecticides and insects may also cause adverse reactions in pollinators.
What is CCD?
CCD, or Colony Collapse Disorder, is a mysterious circumstance causing massive honey bee deaths around the world. The phenomenon was first noticed in 2006, and steps have been taken to counteract its effects.
According to the EPA, CCD happens when worker bees abandon the hive and the queen. The queen and drones, unable to fend for themselves, eventually starve to death. Hives cannot sustain themselves without worker bees. 60% of hive losses were attributed to CCD in 2008, but that number had declined to 31.1% of hive losses in 2013. The decline in CCD-related losses is a positive step, but more action can help.
How Can You Help?
One easy way to help save the pollinators is to plant a pollinator garden. Every little bit helps. The Pollinator Partnership provides planting guides for the planting regions in North America on their website.
It’s important to provide a variety of plants for pollinators in your garden. Different colors, textures, and blooming cycles will help attract the largest variety of pollinators. In the case of butterflies, you should also provide plants to feed their larvae (caterpillars).
To make pollination more efficient, plant in groups.
In addition to providing variety, please take care to only plant native species. Non-native species can sometimes take over an area and cause damage to an ecosystem. Your local Master Gardener group or extension office can help you determine the native plants for your area.
Many herbs and annuals work well for pollinators.
Also, provide water sources for the pollinators near your garden, so they get everything they need. Butterflies, especially, need muddy puddles, since that water provides the minerals they need to remain healthy.
Leave fruit on the ground once it falls from the plant, as well. Many pollinators are attracted to overripe or rotting fruit.
Use plants at varying heights to help provide shelter from the elements and predators.
Try to avoid using pesticides, especially neonicotinoids. Target only invasive and problematic species.
Leave dead tree trunks and limbs on the ground to provide a habitat for wood-nesting pollinators.
You may already be doing several of these things in your flower beds and landscaping without realizing it. Making a few more adjustments can help pollinators a great deal! If everyone makes just a few changes, we can make a huge difference in the fight to save pollinators.
If you have the room, consider keeping some beehives of your own! Which brings me to the below:
Honey Extractor Giveaway – This contest has now been closed, and the winner has been notified. Thank you for your interest!
In honor of National Pollinators Week, we’re excited to give away a “Honey Extraction Basics” Kit from Harvest Lane Honey on June 23, 2017 at 2pm Central Time! To enter for a chance to win the prize pack, please leave a comment on this blog post (One entry per person). The winner will be chosen at random from those who comment. Winner will be notified by e-mail and will have 2 weeks to respond. If the winner does not respond within 2 weeks of notification, a new winner will be drawn.
The details for the prize pack are listed below. Good luck!
The combined value of the extraction kit is valued at $350!
Please share your beekeeping experiences and tips in the comments! We’d love to hear from you!