Bees sustain us. In an age of industrial farming and urban sprawl, honeybees pollinate countless acres of nuts, fruits and vegetables. Softly they cultivate lush fields of alfalfa sprouts fed to dairy cows expected to produce milk. Migratory beekeepers transport millions of bees seasonally each year to fields gushing undulating currents of almond blooms and cotton blossoms. In California alone, 550,000 acres of almond trees employ 1.1 million colonies of domesticated honeybees. Consequently, exhausted bees dance a monotonous rhythm.
Mysteriously, however, farmers and beekeepers now find themselves stunned by unprecedented losses of honeybees to a plague labeled Colony Collapse Disorder. Honeybees are not just dead. They are gone, no parasitic beetles, no moths invading hives in their wake, nothing.
An abomination to nature hives sit in shunned silence harboring an abandoned queen and an unfathomable secret. Scientists still do not understand the exact pathology of the disorder. Researchers suggest accumulated exposure to imported mites, dangerous fungi and designer pesticides collectively paralyze honeybee immune systems. In the absence of adequate pollinators, researchers, farmers and beekeepers scramble to re-commission pollination practices once dominated by the domesticated honeybee.
According to Ed Spevak, curator of invertebrates at the St. Louis City Zoo, Bees in crisis thrive on biodiversity, a concept abandoned long ago by factory farmers. As many as 50,000 native species of wild bees burrow in the ground, dwell in trees and possess unfarmed spaces of natural habitat throughout the United States. Not surprisingly, they gravitate to organic farms and orchards.
Native bees working in conjunction with honeybees produce five times more fruits and vegetables than honeybees alone. Once harvested, such produce exhibits larger sizes and fewer imperfections. The United States Department of Agriculture, farmers and beekeepers agree. Diverse habitats suited to native bees and other pollinators must be re-established. Although, recreating biodiversity throughout farmlands and local neighborhoods represents only one objective outlined in the government's official action plan issued last November, it is the most crucial. Anyone can plant hedgerows or nurture natural habitats.
Wild lands, organic farms and home gardens untainted by non-organic pesticides are ideally suited to seducing and sustaining strains of bees and pollinators resistant to CCD. State highway developers and city planners may choose to lace unadorned areas with treasure troves of assorted wildflowers. Homeowners can refurbish tightly manicured landscapes with lavish "weeds" and shrubs soaking in sanguineous color and textures.
An adventurous few may even romance the notion of backyard beekeeping, eventually reveling in honey concoctions tempered by luscious herbs and subtle flowers scattered in a hundred directions from their back porch steps. Consumers may simply choose to support local, organic farmers whose lands already accommodate alternate pollinators. Ultimately, bees may still sustain us if we in turn choose to sustain them.