Sunday January 29, 2023

What’s with the bees?

October 29, 2019

Thirty years ago, losing 10 percent of one’s hives was alarming, but now any commercial beekeeper would be happy to lose that few hives. According to the scientists and beekeepers I spoke with, bee colony losses are due to multiple and interactive causes including parasites, pesticides, viruses, poor nutrition and habitat loss.

Climate change is a factor that is being studied, but studies are indeed showing a negative effect on bees. Despite what people may think, the actual movement of bees is not a significant contributor to annual losses and the bees are trucked by drivers used to handling livestock and know how to take care of them.

Beekeepers are eager to get the word out about their plight because their current methods are unsustainable and we are in serious trouble if we don’t come up with answers to stem these losses.

If these beekeepers are worried, we all should be: our diet depends upon pollination for one of every three bites we eat.

The good news is there are people that are implementing new methods in agriculture and making a positive difference. Former USDA scientist, Dr. Jonathan Lundgren is an active proponent of regenerative agriculture as a key solution. According to Dr Lundgren, we need to stop tilling the ground, eliminate excessive chemical inputs, stop planting monocultures and adopt time proven methods of cover cropping, rotation and diversity on the landscape. He believes that we need to fix the soil to fix the bee problem.

A pesticide-free and diverse habitat creates a healthy diet for pollinators and attracts many species of other beneficial insects that can minimize many pests. Specific troublesome pests can be targeted through integrated pest management techniques.

Farmers Lucas and William Criswell along with neighbor farmer Alan Ard have put this into practice and are literally changing the landscape in the Pennsylvania valley where they live and farm. Their successes are inspiring their neighbors who farm traditionally to adopt the same regenerative techniques that are working for the Criswell’s and the Ard’s.

Dan Barber, the chef and co-owner of Blue Hill restaurant gave me a big picture view of the regenerative farm practices at the Stone Barns Center in Westchester County, New York. He states “We really have to create a system, a pattern of eating that supports the kind of diversity that the landscape needs to be healthy”.

Jack Algiere, the farm director at the Stone Barns Center, speaks eloquently about that diversity of our landscape and the importance of crop rotation and soil health to create a healthy environment from which we can grow healthy, delicious food and educate and inspire others in the process.

Environmentalist and author Bill McKibben gave me his thoughts about how efficiency and simplification in agriculture has eliminated diversity and resiliency at a high cost to the natural world.

Excerpted from: ‘What’s Wrong With the Bees? Our New Film, “The Pollinators,” Seeks an