by Beryl Anderson, Communications Director Photo: Bees by Michelle Suski
Have you heard the buzz? If you have, count yourself lucky. Bees are disappearing at faster and more alarming rates than ever before. There are several reasons bees are rapidly dying off, several things we can all do to help bees, and one big reason we all should do everything we can to save them.The famous physicist Albert Einstein has been quoted as proclaiming, “Mankind will not survive the honeybees’ disappearance for more than five years.” That’s because the most important service honeybees perform for humanity isn’t making honey, it’s pollination. For an estimated hundreds of thousands of plants, pollination is essential and for many others it drastically increases the plant’s success. Those plants feed people and animals which then feed other animals and people. Every third bite of food you take wouldn’t exist without pollination. An estimated 80% of food crops in the U.S. rely on bee pollination. Without bees, our food sources practically vanish, not to mention how the impact would continue to ripple further damaging the environment at large.For all our technology, our advanced society still hinges upon this small winged insect. However, all is not lost yet. Thanks to forward-thinking individuals like you there is still hope. Preserving land is one of the greatest things we can do to save the bees and save ourselves.
Flying amongst the olive trees of Olivina’s protected orchards are the honeybees of Cervenka Apiaries. Their beekeeper, Bill Cervenka, has enjoyed working with bees for more years than he cares to claim. As a former high school teacher, he loves the challenge of delving into every aspect of biology to care for his bees and being able to familiarize the public with bees in any way he can. Keeping his honeybees on the preserved Olivina property is a win-win.
The common denominator between bees and people is the need for land. Both species need land on which our food can grow–be it plants or livestock—and of course, we must eat to survive. Our preserved agricultural and parkland also provides healthy habitat for bees. In return, bees aid the plants which provide food. “Olive trees bloom April to May and I see the bees working the olive trees. They had a really great harvest last year due in part to honeybee pollination,” Bill pointed out. Even agricultural lands which bees don’t directly pollinate, like vineyards, have natural vegetation growing between the rows that are great for bees. Bill’s bees produce local honey, beeswax, and pollinate tree fruits, pumpkins, cucumbers and gardens just to name a few. But these bees, particularly critical to an agriculture producing community like the Tri-Valley, are dwindling.
WHERE HAVE ALL THE BEES GONE?
“The decline of bees is due to loss of real estate,” Bill explained. Domestic beehives could once be seen all over Pleasanton and Dublin’s hills in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Today, houses have replaced hives. The loss of open space hurts both wild and domestic bees, who are left with fewer places to live and less plants to sustain them.Surprisingly, commercial bees may be taking the hardest hits to their numbers. An exotic parasite was introduced to the U.S. in the 80’s and hives like Bill’s had massive losses. Bill monitors his bees constantly and has carefully administered medication when needed to protect his bees. Most commercial bees haven’t been so fortunate. Many beekeepers noticed a huge decline in their bee populations by 2006. According to Global Research, 30% of our nation’s bee population disappeared in just five years. The rate of depopulation is growing each year. In California alone, the 2nd highest producer of honey in the U.S., honey production fell nearly 50% by 2011. January 2017 marked the first time a bumblebee has ever been placed on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife endangered species list in the continental U.S. Global Research estimates the monetary loss from the bee decline will reach 30 billion dollars a year.
HOW TO HELP
The effects of decreasing bee numbers are staggering. However, there is more than one cause of their demise and you’ve already started helping in the most paramount way. “Saving land in perpetuity is the best thing you can do,” Bill stated. He sited loss of habitat as the top detriment to both wild and commercial bees. Protecting more land for parks, farms, orchards and vineyards will give bees a place to live and work—resulting in better food production. Here are several ways that we all can help to save our bees:
• Plant Bee Attractive Plants: You can make your garden welcoming for bees by planting plants like rosemary, lavender, and black-eyed Susans that help attract and support bees. U.C. Berkeley’s Urban Bee Lab has a list of recommended seasonal plants that will keep bees coming back all year. Visit helpabee.org and select “Best Bee Plants” under Gardening.
• Use Pesticides Cautiously: Pesticides can be harmful. An organic garden is ideal for bees but if you must use pesticides Bill urges to follow directions carefully, use single use pesticides, and spray them in the evening to avoid spraying bees directly. Bees come out in the morning when many flowers bloom with the sun.
• Buy local: Buying local food like honey creates less waste, is great for the community, and as Bill noted, honey sold on supermarket shelves often comes from another country and is loaded with things honey shouldn’t have in it.
• Become a Beekeeper: You can become an amateur beekeeper. Local workshops like Gerard’Z Honeybees are only three hours long and even include winetasting on some of the vineyards you’ve helped protect! Visit gerardzhoneybees.com and select “Beekeeping Workshops” from the menu.
• Preserve More Land: You can make a donation to preserve more natural and agricultural land which acts as healthy bee habitat at TriValleyConservancy.org or (925) 449-8706.