The Sweetest Sting

3 05 2007

Leaf Cutter Bee

By Jill Ettinger

It’s well known that beekeepers are some of the longest-living people on the planet. Honey bees are the most studied insect ever because of their impact on our food supply. We rely on them to pollinate most of our fruits (they are responsible for pollinating a whopping one-third of our total diet, probably even more so for vegans and vegetarians). I keep hearing and reading about these dying honey bees and with no real answer in sight to what is causing the situation, we should become educated on the matter – and prepared to find answers.

Bees, like birds, fish and frogs, are an indicator species. When they have population and survival challenges, it is a sign that there is a grave, serious situation at hand. I lived in south Florida for several years and there were a number of birds that had simply disappeared from parts of the Everglades due to sugar crops, pollution and irrigation. Whether or not they come back is telling of whether or not the ecosystem is sustainable. Once an indicator species has disappeared, there’s no real way of knowing when, or if, they will ever return to that environment.

With honey bees so ubiquitous a species, their recent widespread decline would elude to our worldwide environmental pandemic. (Though if you’re a republican, of course I’m exaggerating.) I’m reminded of John Muir’s quote “tug on anything at all in nature and you’ll find it connected to everything else.” Bees are that link between anything and everything else.

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