We Bee in trouble

...and on the eighth day God created the horse in perfect image, to romp, graze, gallop, play and make manure wherever it darn well pleases, in divine grace.

Now we all know that honey bees and horses don’t mix, and I always think it’s funny when someone’s horse is acting up (because of the rider) and they say, “It was a bee.”


But why are honey bees, bumble bees, solitary bees and other non-social bees so important to us and our animals?

Because pollination by bees is absolutely necessary before any plant can produce vegetables, fruits, seeds or nuts. Entomophily is the pollination of fruits and vegetables by insects.

Animals such as cattle and dairy cows eat hay, grain and other foods, as do horses.

Any apples, pears or other fruit trees, pumpkin patches, garden vegetables and even watermelons must have pollination by bees, or a barren plant will exist with no produce. Some crops are self-pollinating or are independent.

The alfalfa field crops that stock animals eat must have pollinator bees to trip the pod and seed set of the plant.

Alfalfa is the most valuable crop in the US that requires bees for pollination. There are 9 million hectares of alfalfa in the US and much of the world relies on the US alfalfa crop. (1)

Different types of bee species like to pollinate alfalfa. These include the Alkali bee which is a non-social bee that can trigger the alfalfa pod and seed set at a rate of 78%. The Alfalfa Leafcutting bee, another non-social bee that lives in ground cavities, can trip 78% of visited flowers. Two other pollinator species of bee can trigger 44% and 13% of flowers visited. The honey bee comes in at 22% on alfalfa flowers visited. (2)

Floral tripping frequencies by pollinator bees have been studied.

USDA estimates come in around 1/3 of all food consumed by humans is a direct result of pollination on plants, and that 80% of this is due to the work of the honey bee.

More that 100 crops must be pollinated by honey bees. (3)

Entire agricultural systems and food supplies for nations are totally dependent on honey bees and non-social bees for pollination of crops.

No bees, no food.

In Pennsylvania, 30 years ago, there were 80,000 honey bee colonies in the state. That number today is down to 40,000. There are only 2,000 beekeepers in the whole state. (4)

Honey bees are disappearing world wide at an alarming rate. They are simply dying en masse.

The Varoa mite and other introduced mites are killing bees, as are the diseases they transmit. They are parasitic and are a tremendous drain on a colony.

The supply of nectar and pollen sources for bees has been drastically reduced. Pesticides used by home owners and farmers are overused, and pesticides kill bees.

The Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) continues to plague bee populations. Some researchers are tentatively linking CCD to GMO’s or genetically modified organisms. The pesticide is already in the seed of the GMO, so when the bee alights to pollinate, it is ingesting poison. No single scientist or researcher has stepped forward to actively make this link or claim, but more research is ongoing in this area.

Citizens should only use pesticides when needed and use as directed on the label.

Help the honey bees by becoming more educated about them and their cohorts, the Bumble bee and pollinator bees (Vespa). Find a local beekeeper and buy honey there. Usually the home grown honey is not pasturized and is guaranteed not to come from China.

Local beekeeper Charlie Vorisek can be seen every year at the Crawford County Fair, and his roadside honey stand is always open, on the Honor System.

Plant a garden that bees and other pollinators would like to visit. Flowers such as Bee balm, Oregano and Lavender, Sunflowers with pollen, fennel and dill, Red hot Pokers, Cone flowers/Echinachea and Yarrow are a welcome sight to bees and butterflies. And the Wild Asters seen in the Fall of the year are a good start, too. (5)

Regular Milk weed is great, and it, too, is in trouble, due to mass spraying of herbicides.

Perhaps you have now read about the Monarch Butterfly and its endangered status due to lack of Milk weed, its sole source of food.

Find out all you can about GMO’s or genetically modified organisms, and why “Round-Up Ready” should make you look twice.

Read that line again.

Leaving you to hum along with the bees to the immortal words of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, “Happy Trails to You.”

1,2,5: Internet

3,4: PA State Beekeepers Association