Part 3: Bees have to show up to “date” plants effectively
As I started researching this topic (and the reason it took so long to get it out to you) I realized that it is a deep and significant event. We all hear stories of how honey bees are so important to our food crops. We know about neonicotinoids and how pesticides that have them are killing large populations of bees. We know that Bayer (owner of the now absorbed Monsanto) produces pesticides with harmful neonicotinoids in alarming quantities, and that our governments have not taken steps to reduce or eliminate these dangers from our ecosystems. But have you heard of colony collapse disorder (CCD?)
As reported in a thesis at Oregon State University1, CCD “stems from a combination of problems associated with agricultural beekeeping, including pathogens, nutritional deficiencies and lack of a varied diet, exposure to neonicotinoid insecticides and other pesticides, lack of genetic diversity, habitat loss, and transportation stress. Pesticides, stress, and lack of diversity can actually exacerbate the vulnerability of bees to pathogens.”1
In essence, it is saying that nutritional deficiencies can be found when trees and flowers bloom too early for the bees to take advantage of the flowering periods. They need nectar to feed upon, and pollen to take back to the hive. By the way, there are two main types of pollen: sticky and non-sticky. Non-sticky pollen is mainly dispersed by wind, while sticky pollen needs to stick to the bodies of pollinators like honey bees. Bees remove the pollen onto another (receptive) plant of the same species. All of this is necessary to propagate certain flowers and trees2. And there will also be an impact on the bees.
So, if pollen and nectar are contaminated with neonicotinoids (persistent neurotoxins that permeate the entire plant,) then bees with consume it, causing bee paralysis, impaired learning and foraging ability, and ultimate death.1
But even without the insecticides we have a problem with pollinating plants dependent on bees. If they miss their window of opportunity, many plants, like coffee, vanilla, and chocolate can’t reproduce without physical intervention by humans. If the gap between stamens and pistils ripening and bee availability to carry pollen is too great, there is no crossover.
And how big of a problem is this? I mean, are we talking a gap of a few hours, a couple of days, or a week? Well, according to reports1, “Climate change is making flowers bloom half a day earlier each year, which means that plants are now blooming a month earlier than 45 years ago. Plants blooming earlier ultimately means that they do not get pollinated and bees are left without food.”
It’s like getting stood up for a date. The food is available but the date (bee) doesn’t show up, or shows up after the restaurant is closed. Bee, I mean date, starves. Or the date shows up days too early and leaves before their date (the pistils) arrive. Date dies of starvation. If date dies because it didn’t have enough nectar to eat, it isn’t around to pollinate (date) any other plant later in the season. (Bees really do get around!)
So, what can you do? I recommend this list that comes from https://www.endangered.org/how-climate-change-has-affected-pollinators/. It has some great ideas.
What You Can do to Help Pollinators
- Plant a variety of pollinator friendly flowers and plants that are native to your climate.
- Stop or limit the use of pesticides on your property – pesticides are toxic to pollinators.
- Create a habitat that is friendly to bees. This means either placing beehives on your property, leaving dead logs around that bees can nest in, and simply ensuring bees have plenty of bee-friendly plants to feed from in your yard.
- Providing nectar for hummingbirds on your property. You can do this by buying a feeder for hummingbirds and filling it with sugar water.
- Placing a bat house on your property. This will provide bats a safe place to sleep during the day.
- Plant milkweed plants – Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on the leaves and feed on the nectar of the flowers.
I would add one more. Download the pdf from the link below. It has some amazing pictures of predators and parasites that could be harmful to your flowers or pollinators. Take steps to remove the dangerous ones, but read the whole article to know which ones to keep! https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/farming-natural-resources-and-industry/agriculture-and-seafood/animal-and-crops/plant-health/beneficial_insects.pdf
1 The Effect of Climate Change on Pollinators and the Implications for Global Agriculture: A Case Study in the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, Oregon, Anna Young Yale College ‘16 Senior Essay in Environmental Studies, Advisor: Jeffrey Park, April 2016