The Honey Bee: Threatened Habitat, Threatened Species
Or possibly insecticide, but with the continued decline of the honeybee I will error on the side with a little more drama. I understand that our farms are a business that supports families with earnings and not just with food being sold for the market. I don't foresee the use of insecticides vanishing or even changing all that much over the course of the upcoming years.
On the positive side of chemicals, the National Center for Biotechnology states that insecticides may help increase grain crops by 4 folds. And this is astounding, but some of the negative effects of these insecticides is an increase rate of illness. A study with 356 participants showed neurological symptoms in 21% of the participants that worked to manufacture these chemicals.
These are the effects on humans, and possibly one of the main factors as to the honeybee population decline. Spacial reasoning, mapping, navigation, and memory are all common issues that these chemicals have detrimental effects on.
The honeybee assists with pollination which helps to increase crop yield. The range of assistance that honeybees offer varies from crop to crop, some of the most amazing are stated as such by the American Bee Federation:
As honey bees gather pollen and nectar for their survival, they pollinate crops such as apples, cranberries, melons and broccoli. Some crops, including blueberries and cherries, are 90-percent dependent on honey bee pollination; one crop, almonds, depends entirely on the honey bee for pollination at bloom time.
Which helps support that Cornell University found that:
... honeybees pollinated $12.4 billion worth of directly dependent crops and $6.8 billion worth of indirectly dependent crops in 2010.
Which is pretty impressive since farm income in the United States for 2010 was estimated at $81.6 billion, which the Honeybee influenced 23.5% of all U.S. farming income. With this sort of help, it is shocking that there are not more changes within the agriculture community to assist with keeping these pollinators from having another year such as the 42% of colonies that died in the United States in 2015 as The Guardian discusses.
With the continuation of current chemical crop protection methods, I suspect there will be a steady correlation between insecticide usage increase and a continued decline in honey bee population.
Even with the this continued and increasing usage, several possibilities that could help with decreasing the honey bee mortality rate are as follows:
- Improved Communication. If local beekeepers and agriculturists communicated better with each other scheduling could be improved. Agriculturists could be more conscious of peak flight times and spray during the earlier and/or later hours of the day while field bees are still at the hive. And beekeepers could cover their hives during the day to assist in reducing the spray effect on their honey bee hives.
- Improved Hive Location. With beekeepers improving the location of their hives, they can improve hive health from water source locations, the honey bee's resources on heating and cooling because of too much shade or sun, as well as natural protection from chemical drift from natural and/or built perimeter structures.
- Applied Education Practices. As the beekeeper learns more about spraying, crop dusting, or whatever delivery method and/or terminology is used for applying insecticides in specific locations, there are miscellaneous preventive measures that may be taken to lessen the effects. This can range from the placement as stated above to containment practices, the location of water source and flight paths to arrive there, etc. On the farmers side, spraying at times to lessen spray drift, becoming proficient at spraying to prevent over spraying, and being aware of the chemical trail that is left to enter the water cycle.
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Degrees of Connection
Earth is a gift that is most plentiful with all the ecosystems and organisms are not interfered with. There is a balance between humankind expanding and looking to increase effieciency for this expansion, but we may push too far and cause mankind to hinder its own progress.
There will always be chemicals to be sprayed but what would be great to watch is a society that looks at the ripples created by this action several rings out, instead of just at the immediate ripple or two in front of us.
By exterminating these insects, we are hindering ourselves as well as quite possibly increasing the future cost of our foods and how healthy these foods are to consume. For every line we cross, we make it harder to balance our future success.
I fear watching a world that our science continues to become even more great and increases in complexity, but we impoverish more of our world to increased costs for nutritional foods. Raising the level of malnutrition along with this because if something happens to Earth's major pollinators, then we will have a considerable decline in overall world health.
Great Natural Beekeeping Book
The Amazing Honey Bee
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