The pedigree of honey Does not concern the bee; A clover, any time, to him is aristocracy.
~ Emily Dickinson
This past week, Southern Oregon University reached a milestone–the nation’s first “Bee Campus USA.” Bee City USA has recently launched this new program across the nation’s college campuses to raise awareness of the importance and plight of pollinators, most notably, honeybees.
More than just a designation, SOU is acting, by planting native trees and plants throughout the campus in an effort to support local bees. Native plants are naturally suited to the local environment, and are said to be ideal for supporting resident pollinators, which include native bees, butterflies, moths, bats, hummingbirds, and of course, honeybees.
According to the United States Department of agriculture, bees are responsible for pollinating one third of the foods we consume. Specialty crops such as nuts, berries, fruits, and vegetables are dependent upon bees to pollinate their flowers, which brings us the foods we eat every day.
While mostly relied upon for pollinating food crops, bees also provide honey. Unlike refined sugars, honey is rich in vitamins and minerals, and according to Thomas Lee Ogren, author of Allergy-free Gardening, honey has a reputation of helping people overcome regional allergies,”It may seem odd that straight exposure to pollen often triggers allergies but that exposure to pollen in the honey usually has the opposite effect. But this is typically what we see. In honey the allergens are delivered in small, manageable doses and the effect over time is very much like that from undergoing a whole series of allergy immunology injections.”
In 2006, bee colonies around the world began to collapse. Bees left their hives in search of pollen, and never returned. It is estimated that approximately one third of our nations bees have since perished. Scientists have named this phenomenon Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). In the PBS documentary Silence of the Bees, CCD and it’s possible causes were investigated. Some possibilities include pesticides, predatory insects such as the deadly Varroa destructor mite, malnutrition, and an AIDS like virus which may infect the bees immune systems. The good news is that after ten years, bees are making a comeback. While the cause of the disorder has yet to be determined, the winter losses of bee populations have begun to return toward historically normal levels. Still, bees are not yet out of the woods, and experts say they need help.
Southern Oregon is a haven for beekeepers, and one of our local bee celebrities, the Bee Girl, noted several challenges local bees and other pollinators face. Habitat loss and climate change are particularly troubling for the local area. Warmer winters lead to greater infestations of the deadly Varroa mite, and dry summers add to the habitat loss issue as fewer flowers are available as a food source. Toxic chemicals also contribute to the bees plight. Herbicides, such as glyphosate (Roundup) eliminate valuable food sources such as clover and wildflowers, and of course with pesticides, direct mortality. The Bee Girl asks consumers to “vote with our fork, by choosing to purchase local grown, environmentally friendly foods, and plant flowers for the bees, especially over summer. Everybody can be a part of the solution.”