One could say I’m on a bee kick. A number of my articles mention bees and despite being allergic to them – the last time I got stung I ended up in the ER, where I left with an epinephrine prescription for constant carry – they fascinate me. Our native plants attract them, the hive under our neighbor’s roof (see photo) houses them, and now a new hive has begun in our palm tree down below. I’m in bee heaven. Then there’s the half dozen I save out of the pool everyday.
4/1/12: NOTE: There’s another fun blog, if you’re interested in bugs – www.thebugchicks.com. FYI, they posted an article I wrote called “Appreciating Our Bees”
I just got done reading Sue Hubbell’s A Book of Bees, a classic on beekeeping and a very well-written book on life as a woman beekeeper in the Ozarks. Towards the end, I had an ‘aha’ moment when she talked about how distressed she was when in making the rounds to her beeyards, she found forty hives (with 20,000 minimum in a hive, that’s 800,000 bees) in the process of dying due to armyworm spraying in the area. She went on to say big agriculture farming and its common pesticide use is rare in the Ozarks so it’s not as huge an issue as in other areas of the U.S.
So I called Bill Romberg. Bill is a beekeeper (I quoted him in my live bee removal article) and a tree trimmer here in what is called the Inland Empire – east of Los Angeles. “Yep,” he said, “I’ve lost hundreds of hives to pesticides. I wasn’t sure the last time, but I was doing tree work two blocks from where my bees were and witnessed the spraying of the orchard happening a second time. I need to talk to the owner and say ‘you cost me 350 hives.”
Some photos (most from our yard) below:
Solution: Aside from avoiding pesticide use as much as possible, go organic in your gardening – and buy organic. I had overlooked the bee and other pollinator benefits of eating organic foods.
Turns out there are lots of research backing this up, particularly in Europe, the leader in organics. A few below:
- Organic brings lots more biodiversity: A study by The Soil Association compared organic and conventional farming in the United Kingdom and found organic farms had 5 times the wild plants, 57% more species, lots more birds and 160% the arthropods (insects) that the birds eat, including three times non-pest butterflies, one to five times as many spider numbers, and one to two times as many spider species! (see my spider blog) Another benefit: a significant decrease in aphid numbers. Source: “The Biodiversity Benefits of Organic Farming,” The Soil Association, May 2000.
- Good for the economy, birds and bees: The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), released a report headed by NYU Food Studies professor Carolyn Dimitri that showed organic farming is good for human health, job creation, the economy, soil and water, for birds and bees, and for slowing climate change. Source: Organic Farming for Health and Prosperity.
- Abundant predators that control pests: A 21-year field trial initiated by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture in Switzerland found in compared organic, biodynamic, and conventional farming systems and found higher earthworm and above ground insects, which improved growth conditions and more abundant predators that controlled harmful organisms (pests). Source: FiBL Dossier, Organic Farming Enhances Soil Fertility and Biodiversity, August 2000.
I asked Barbara Haumann at the Organic Trade Association (good resource), to name the biggest misconception about organics, and she said people don’t understand natural versus organics. “They assume natural means all the attributes of organic, but it doesn’t,” she said, explaining that unlike organic products, foods labeled natural are very poorly regulated, and often contain pesticides.