Pollinators are the Bee's Knees

More than two-thirds of the world's crops rely on insects for pollination. Honey bees and other native pollinators provide this indispensable service that the human population, as well as birds and other mammals, depend on for food. But these helpful invertebrates are disappearing. It is estimated that the domestic bee population has declined by 50 percent in the past 50 years. This loss of pollinators is unsustainable and leaves the future of our food supply at risk. Three major contributors to the startling decline are habitat loss, monoculture and pesticide use, and diseases.

The good news is that several groups and organizations are hard at work looking for solutions to this devastating loss. The Xerces Society is a non-profit organization focused on invertebrate conservation, and they manage the largest pollinator conservation program in the world. Working with everyone from gardeners to farmers to land managers, the Xerces Society educates and provides practical support for habitat restoration and attracting native pollinators. Bee Girl is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of bees and their habitat. Through classes, events, and public lectures, Bee Girl is busy inspiring and educating communities around the globe on the important roles bees play in our lives.

Some are even looking beyond bees as the situation grows more desperate. Scientists at Harvard are experimenting with “RoboBees” that could potentially be used for pollination if and when the technology is perfected. But even the scientists working on the project do not believe RoboBees would be “a wise or viable long-term solution to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).” Across the globe in China, people have recently begun to pollinate apple and pear orchards by hand due to the lack of native pollinators. Workers tediously go from flower to flower with a small brush attempting to replicate a process that bees have been doing almost effortlessly for the last 120 million years.

You can help, too. Get involved with a group like the Xerces Society or Bee Girl. Plant bee friendly flowers in your garden. Eliminate the use of pesticides on your property. You can even take the dive and get your own hive: take a beekeeping class in your area to learn the basics or invest in a BEEcosystem. And lastly, you can support those that support pollinators: buy local, sustainably farmed products. Local and sustainable products are available at your local food co-op and farmer's markets.

For current or prospective beekeepers living here in the Rogue Valley, there are several upcoming bee-related events that may be of interest. The Southern Oregon Beekeeper's Association (SOBA) is a local resource and they will hold their monthly meeting on October 5th in Grants Pass. On October 17th, the Oregon Honey Festival will celebrate bees, honey, and almonds at the Ashland Springs Hotel in Ashland. And the 4th Annual Beekeepers Ball will be held at the Bigham Knowl Ballroom in Jacksonville on Saturday, November 14th. Also, the OSU Extension Service has a Master Beekeeper Program and they offer apprentice level classes usually beginning in January or February each year.