By Catherine Stone
When you think of bees, what comes to mind? Many might think of honey. Others might think of the sight of a bee landing on a newly bloomed spring flower. Few think of the bee as a pivotal player in the agricultural world. However, that is precisely what the bee is: a necessary player in the production of the world’s food supply.[i]
The most influential job of the average bee is pollinating crops throughout our great country.[ii] In fact, the majority of the top foods eaten by the citizens of the world are the product of a crop that has been pollinated by bees.[iii] This list includes items like apples, almonds, and cherries, as well as things like alfalfa. [iv]
For a beekeeper trying to make money, pollination is the best route to go in order to make a profit.[v] Honey is at a lower demand, but the need for pollination services is very high in the country at the present time.[vi] Currently, the average hive used for pollination will make between $180 and $200 for the services of the bees.[vii] This process is quite extensive with the beekeepers having to house and care for the bees and then transport the bees to the desired location to facilitate the pollination of the crops.[viii] One almond farmer who uses the bees for pollination of his crops compared the work of raising bees to having a dairy farm.[ix]
However, despite being of great importance, bees are facing a significant decline in number.[x] By the spring of 2016, forty-four percent of the commercial bee population was gone.[xi] In places, like California, that have extensive numbers of crops that depend on the pollination by the bees, there is simply not enough of the species left to meet the farmers’ needs.[xii]Part of this drastic decline has been accredited to a plague that has struck bees.[xiii] Other possible causes of the continued decline are pesticides and different farming practices that have negatively affected the bees and their ability to survive.[xiv] There does not appear to be one clear cause, but rather multiple factors making the life of the bee shorter.[xv] Due to this rapid decline, one particular type of bumblebee was supposed to be listed under the Endangered Species Act, and thus, receive the protection afforded to it for receiving that special status.[xvi] However, with the change in administration, the potential listing is now under review.[xvii]
So, what is the answer to stop this crisis? Suggestions for progress on an individual level include buying local and planting gardens for bees to visit, as well as leaving water out for them to drink.[xviii] Unfortunately, the overarching, big picture answer to help save this animal is yet to be identified. One thing, however, is absolutely clear: we need to do our best as individuals and as a nation to be aware of this issue and to work to save the bees, because the future of our food supply depends upon it.
[i] Stephanie Strom, A Bee Mogul Confronts the Crisis in His Field, The N.Y. Times (Feb. 26, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/16/business/a-bee-mogul-confronts-the-crisis-in-his-field.html?ref=topics&_r=0.
[ix] Robin Abcarian, How the honey bee crisis is affecting California’s almond growers L.A. Times (Sept. 26, 2016), http://www.latimes.com/local/abcarian/la-me-abcarian-bees-almonds-20160226-column.html.
[x] Strom, supra note i.
[xii] Abcarian, supra note ix.
[xiii] Strom, supra note i.
[xviii] Dominique Mosbergen, How You Can Help Save The Bees---Even in the Winter, The Huffington Post (Nov. 25, 2016), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/save-the-bees_us_58369cece4b09b6056003837.