Saturday, August 17 was National Honey Bee Day across two nations, in fact: Canada and the United States.
This holiday celebrating our pollinatin’ pals – whose very existence supports about ⅓ of the human food supply and 70% of all cultivated plants – began its growth in the U.S. on a simple premise: wanting to bring together beekeepers, associations, and other bee-lievers to advance the state of beekeeping.
The 2013 National Honey Bee Day theme was chosen largely by the public as votes chimed in from people interested in learning more about bee rearing but not sure where to begin. Beekeeping – Ask Me How to Get Started celebrations included online and IRL events like open houses, apiary visits, beginner programs, and educational workshops focusing on beekeeping basics.
It’s no secret that almost one-third of the food we eat is pollinated by bees, but they continue to die off in vast quantities largely due to an array of human behaviours.
Last winter, U.S., beekeepers lost 31% of their colonies, a ten percent jump from the previous year. In Canada, 35% of colonies have disappeared over the past three years. Up to 50% of bee colonies in Britain were lost over the 2012-2013 winter season according to the UK’s Bee Farmers’ Association. Their general secretary Margaret Ginman called the situation “absolutely catastrophic.”
“This is extremely unusual for this being a bee farm, there are no bees here,” John Van Blyderveen says. “This is really sad.” Ontario’s Oxford County. (CBC)
There are buying behaviours and habitual actions we can adopt today that can help preserve the bee populations of tomorrow, including:
- Eating organic – Organic farms refrain from using the range of pesticides and herbicides that kill off plants bees forage on, instead providing a diversity of flowers and habitats in which bees are able to nest and shelter.
- Creating habitat – Whether you build your own bee hive or buy one from places like Etsy, it’s easier (and less painful) than you think to host your own hive. The NYC Bee Association will even come set one up for you, if you are willing to adopt a few dozen new bee babies.
- Planting bee-friendly plants – There exists a fantastic array of flowering plants that attract bees. Learn how to reel them in via gardening at the Daily Green and David Suzuki Foundation websites.
- Avoiding pesticide use – Neonicotinoid pesticides have been put under restrictive guidelines by the EU, but Canada is only now gathering a team of experts to collect data on just how harmful these chemical additives are to pollinators. A report published by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) in January of this year concluded that pesticides posed a “high acute risk” to honeybees and other pollinators.
- Spreading the word – Tell your family, friends and neighbours about the plight of the bees and see if they can’t just get hive-minded too!
Get the whole list at Buzz About Bees.
Learn how to build or buy your own hive: Beekeeping for Beginners, Skeptics and Scaredy-Cats