It’s summer: a great time to sit outside and watch the bees bumble around in our pollinator-friendly gardens. But, unfortunately, things aren’t very rosy for our tiny friends.
Bees are facing a crisis created, at least in part, by neonicotinoids, or neonics. The pesticides are in wide use across the agricultural industry and some landscaping settings. If bees disappear, it would be terrible for biodiversity, as well as our diets, because most of the food we eat relies on pollinators.
That’s why a coalition of organizations launched the Keep Hives Alive Tour. One of the group’s most important stops was Capitol Hill, where they brought along an unpleasant wake-up call for Congress: a truck filled with dead bees.
Congress has been frustratingly slow to act on pollinator welfare, despite the obvious risks for constituents. Every member of Congress should be thinking about biodiversity, but it’s especially relevant for those from regions like California, where the economy is heavily dependent on agriculture. Mass bee deaths are already causing economic problems for farmers.
Beekeepers, advocates and other pollinator lovers on the tour thought that, perhaps, members of Congress could benefit from a graphic demonstration of what’s at stake.
The bees were pre-deceased — they didn’t die for the cause. But that’s the crux of the problem — 2.6 million bees, the number they’re trucking around, don’t just drop dead out of nowhere.
Like other pollinators, bees can serve as indicator species to identify environmental problems. While we still don’t totally understand why bees are struggling to survive, we do know that neonicotinoids can cause erratic behavior and other issues. And they aren’t the only bee-killing pesticide in use in the United States.
Earlier this year, Maryland legislators got tired of waiting for Congress and decided to act with their own ban on neonicotinoids. While the ban wasn’t total, it represented a first step in regulating the use of bee-killing compounds and made a clear statement.
Bee fans from Maryland now know that their legislature pays attention to their concerns, even if Congress doesn’t. And the law sets a precedent that could be built upon later. For instance, a future expansion of the ban could cover more industrial uses, thereby making these pesticides much less common in the environment.
Keep Hives Alive is rambling across the United States to raise awareness about the issue of bee die-off in a very simple and graphic way. They chose a good time for their tour, as June is National Pollinator Month, and cities across the country are indicating a growing interest in bee welfare.
If Congress won’t move to protect pollinators, a ground-up movement from the states could force the issue. Crackdowns at city, county and state levels could make the landscape much safer for bees, which would be very good news for us given how much we rely on them.
If you’d like to give bees a boost in your area, you can start by planting some inviting landscaping. Lots of bee-friendly plants are also drought-tolerant, so you can get a two for one deal when it comes to helping the environment! However, be careful, because some plants are sold with pesticide pre-treatments, and you could inadvertently introduce bee-killing compounds into your garden.
You can also talk to your local city council about pursuing certification under Bee City USA, an organization that aims to promote bee welfare by involving cities as stakeholders.