Honeybees are among the most critical aspects of the agriculture industry, but a declining population could threaten farming, food production and your garden.
Colony collapse disorder is a phenomenon named in 2006 in conjunction with the abrupt disappearances of Western honeybee populations in North America. These disappearances are not the first of their kind, but the economic and environmental impact is still severe.
In the U.S., bees add over $15 billion in crop value through pollination, but this past winter, nearly one-third of U.S. honeybee colonies reportedly died or disappeared. When bees suffer, as do valuable crops.
Scientists have been searching for the source of the bee colony collapse -- pesticides are at the forefront of the discussion -- but researchers have yet to reach a consensus.
Every year, the honeybee population shrinks, and while the Environmental Protection Agency said it will be making label changes on pesticides, clearly denoting that bee toxic chemicals shouldn't be applied when plants are flowering and bees are foraging. However, there's still no cure-all here, as pesticides can seep into the stem, leaves and flowers of plants, penetrating the pollen and nectar.
Some scientists speculate this population decline represents a much bigger issue. Without bees, what's next?
WHAT YOU CAN DO
There are a few simple things you can do right here in Minnesota to aid the bee population:
1. BUY LOCAL HONEY
Local honey will help beekeepers cover their costs and you're supporting Minnesota agriculture.
2. PLANT BEE-FRIENDLY PLANTS
Honeybees rely on garden flowers for nectar and pollen. Plants from the allium family, daisy-shaped flowers, asters, sunflowers, hollyhocks, larkspur, foxgloves and willow trees are good sources of food for bees.
3. DON'T SWAT
Bees only sting when they're provoked, so stay calm and slowly move away into the shade. Bees also see dark clothing as a threat, so dress in black if you wish to avoid them.
4. LEARN MORE FROM THE U OF M
Visit http://beelab.umn.edu/ for more information and ways to get involved.