4 Ways to Help Save the Bees

Note: This post is sponsored by Host Defense Mushrooms. 

Wait a minute, why do we need to save the bees?

My daughter, who fears stinging insects, would want to know. So to answer, I have a question for you. Do you eat any of the following foods?

  • Asparagus, broccoli, celery, squash, and sunflowers for oil, cucumbers
  • Blueberries, avocado, citrus fruit, peaches, kiwis, cherries, cranberries, melons
  • Almonds, soybeans.

If you answered yes, then you need bees and other pollinators. When it comes to blueberries and almonds, 80% of the US crop is said to be dependent on honey bees for pollination.

Globally there are more honey bees than other types of bee and pollinating insects, so it is the world’s most important pollinator of food crops. It is estimated that 1 out of every 3 bites of food you eat is due to pollination by honey bees.

The concern is that bee colonies dying off.  Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is when there is a sudden loss of a colony’s worker bee population with very few dead bees found near the colony, but the queen and young bees remained, and the colonies had relatively abundant honey and pollen reserves. Because hives cannot sustain themselves without worker bees the remaining bees would eventually die.

In 2015, CCD rates increased 6% to affect 41% of managed bee colonies nationwide.  Some scientists estimate that all managed bee colonies could face total decimation by CCD within five years.

Although CCD is not fully understood, it appears to be a destructive synergism of multiple factors. Pathogen (bacterial & viral) infection harms bees already challenged by other stress factors: parasitic mites, pesticides, fungicides and GMO exposure. These stressors of infection, parasitism, toxins, and immune deficits/depression may initiate CCD.

So how can we stop this? Here are 4 things we can all do to help save the bees:

  1. Plant wildflowers and native plants in your gardens.  Whether it’s a window box, large pots, or a full garden, be sure to include flowering plants. Choose different colors and shapes, planting in clumps. Native plants are ideal because they attract native pollinators and can serve as larval host plants for some species of pollinators. Not sure what plants are native to your area? Check out this Pollinators page from the US Fish & Wildlife Service.
  2. Reduce or limit pesticides. Pesticides can often to more harm than good. Most pesticides kill more than just the pests they are applied for. Some of these pesticides are persistent – they remain in the soil and on plants, which can affect pollinators days later. So limit their use to only when there is a true pest problem, and target the spray to affected plants only limiting exposure to all plants. Try natural insect predators, like mantis, in your garden.
  3. Buy local honey. Buying local honey means you are supporting local bee populations. Local honeys are often sold raw, so they are not heat-treated or filtered like commercially manufactured honey. This means that the potential health-giving properties of honey are available to you as you consume the honey.
  4. Support BeeFriendly. In 2014, mycologist Paul Stamets, entomologist Steve Sheppard and the Washington State Beekeepers Association teamed up in a research initiative called BeeFriendly™ to help reverse devastating declines in the global bee population that are critically threatening the world’s food security. In 2015, 300 sets of bees consumed Host Defense® mushroom extracts via their feed water. The experiments were designed to measure how mushroom extract supplementation impacted viral burdens and longevity. Results showed that Host Defense® extracts, especially Reishi and Chaga, gave substantial benefit to honeybees, including extended longevity and reduction of their viral burden by more than 75%. This is an exciting initiative designed to support honey bee populations all over. You can support BeeFriendly™ by donating online, or by purchasing Host Defense mushrooms for yourself. Each Host Defense purchase provides mushroom extracts for bees and a cash donation for research.

So don’t fear the bee, revere the bee. Join me and give bees a chance!