Linda Poole

NCAT Regenerative Grazing Specialist
A May 9 article in Civil Eats by Lisa Held asks, "How Bad Is It For Bees?":

How Bad Is It for Bees?​

This month, researchers published results from the largest global assessment of insect declines to date, which found that the combined impacts of climate change and intensive agricultural land use were associated with a 50 percent reduction in insect abundance. A 2019 scientific review estimated that a whopping 40 percent of insect species around the globe, which are critical to pollination and countless other ecosystem functions, face the threat of extinction within the next few decades, and roughly 46 percent of all bee species are in decline.

Bees need diverse plant life to forage for nectar, and an increasing percentage of land is being developed and planted with monocrops. As a result, many are starving. And the lack of nutritious forage is just one of several overlapping, interconnected factors that currently threaten the health of America’s commercial honey industry. Climate change, pesticide use, and price competition from cheap and often fraudulent honey imports are also important factors.

Raggio has big ideas about the best beekeeping standards, maintaining ecologically diverse forage zones, and testing for adulteration and pesticide contamination. But for beekeepers like Coy to simply find a place where their bees can survive and produce enough honey, changes will have to happen throughout the larger agricultural system. “Beekeepers are being pushed to the extreme southern part of the United States for the winter to rebuild their numbers and then taking them as far north as the Canadian border to get to areas where there’s not as much monoculture of commodity crops,” Coy said.

Regenerative farming practices that reduce pesticide use and build soil health and biodiversity back into the agricultural landscape, Adee said, would likely go a long way toward improving the overall landscape for bees. “It’s time to reevaluate how we’re doing things,” he said. “You can cheat nature for a while, but eventually you’ve got to pay a price.”

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