Heart Happy (cathy_edgett) wrote,
Heart Happy

Loss of pollinators -

I thought everyone was aware of the unexplainable loss of bees and what that means to us, but according to this article, not everyone is aware, so here it is.  Imagine life without strawberries, blueberries and almonds.   What we can do?  Create habitat.  I believe my yard is a natural delight for butterflies and bees.  The deer are content too.  I hear them chomping each night.

Decline of bees could put freeze on ice cream

Thursday, June 26, 2008

(06-26) 18:54 PDT Washington - -- Could strawberry ice cream disappear from our lives? What about vanilla Swiss almond?

The folks at Haagen-Daz are worried enough that they and others have mounted a campaign to halt the shocking decline of honey bees and other pollinators of strawberry plants, almond trees and the rest of the roughly 90 percent of terrestrial plant life that needs pollination.

Officials of the Oakland-based company told Congress today that more than 40 percent of its product's flavors, derived from fruits and nuts, depend on honeybees. Without bees, fruits and nuts cannot exist.

As for whether strawberry, raspberry or almond ice cream could disappear, Haagen-Daz brand director Katty Pien said, "We hope not, but that's why there is such a sense of urgency, so that the millions of people who love our strawberry ice cream can have it forever."

Honey bees mysteriously began to abandon their colonies in 2006, destroying about a third of U.S. hives. The rate of decline is accelerating, reaching 36 percent last winter.

"How would our federal government respond if on out of every three cows was dying?" Maryann Frazier, a bee expert at the University of Pennsylvania, asked during testimony to the House subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture.

Fruits, nuts, seeds and many vegetables are the foundation of California's $34 billion agricultural industry, the nation's largest, and the basis of a healthy human diet. About a third of human food requires pollination. The plants cannot grow without it.

"Our business is simple: No bees, no blueberries," agreed Edward Flanagan, chief executive of Jasper Wyman & Son, a wild blueberry grower in Maine. "Wild blueberries can't be planted. Not here, not in Chile, not in China. ...We are very scared at the prospect of no pollinating bees for our fields. There is no alternative."

Baffled about the cause

Federal research dollars are beginning to flow and will jump dramatically with the newly passed farm bill, but scientists remain baffled about the cause of pollinator decline. The problem extends not just to the commercialized honeybee imported from Europe 400 years ago but, etymologists believe, to other native pollinators.

Those include native bees such as bumblebees that are also showing rapid declines plus butterflies, moths, beetles, flies, hummingbirds and bats. Lack of data on these species hinders measurement.

Scientists suspect multiple villains: loss of habitat, pesticides that disrupt insect neurology, combinations of sublethal pesticides, and viruses and parasites. Frazier said one study of 108 pollen samples revealed 46 pesticides, as many as 17 different pesticides in a single sample. Only three of the samples showed no pesticide residue.

Another suspect is large farm monocultures of single crops that create "floral deserts." The most obvious of these are the 660,000 acres of almond trees blanketing the San Joaquin Valley. Miles of almond trees offer pollinators a single-source diet during one gigantic burst of bloom, akin to eating nothing but strawberry ice cream for a few weeks, followed by starvation the rest of the year. Such environments are deadly for native pollinators and require farmers to import honeybees for pollination.

Hostile environments

Pollinators face an increasingly hostile environment elsewhere too, on golf courses, parks, corporate grounds, school grounds, suburban yards and city parks, where native plants, bare dirt, deadwood and other pollinator habitat is ill-tolerated. Pesticide and herbicide use on farms is tightly regulated, but homeowners and groundskeepers use them with abandon.

Visalia beekeeper Steve Godlin said 1.3 million honeybee hives are trucked in each spring from around the country to pollinate the California almond crop, which is fast replacing cotton in the Valley. The collapse of honeybee hives and the enormous demand for almond pollination has sent its price soaring.

That will show up soon in grocery store prices, said committee chairman Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Fresno. Haagen-Daz's Pien said the company is bracing for not just higher costs but a reduction in the supply of pollinated ingredients.

After a survey showed half the public is not even aware of the bee decline, the company awarded a $250,000 research grant to UC Davis and the University of Pennsylvania. It also opened a public education campaign, starting with a limited edition flavor called Vanilla Honey Bee and a goal to distribute one million flower seeds to consumers and community groups to aid native pollinators. A Web site, www.helpthehoneybees.com, provides information.

The idea is to educate consumers about things they can do to help now, such as creating habitat, and avoiding pesticide use.

"All Americans can help now with pollinator-friendly practices in their own backyards," said Laurie Davis Adams, executive director of the San Francisco nonprofit Pollinator Partnership, established a decade ago to promote biodiversity.

Planting native salvias rather than hybrid tea roses, providing water and shelter or devoting a patch of yard can help. "Plant, and they will come," she said. Such practices save money, too, by reducing the need for mowing, watering and chemical fertilizers. If one person sets aside 15 percent of a lawn, it might not help much, she said, but if a million people do, "what kind of change is that?"

The group, at www.pollinator.org, is issuing guides for each of 35 eco-regions of the country that can be used by farmers, public land managers, corporations and consumers for choosing pollinator-friendly plants and practices.

"People who were afraid when they saw a bee are now afraid when they don't see one," Adams said.


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