The Virginia Department of Agriculture reported this week that between October and April nearly 1/3 of the managed bee colonies in the state died. Unfortunately we contributed to that statistic, as our lone surviving hive died in February or March.
This kind of die-off is happening all over the country and a host of explanations have been suggested. Pesticides are almost certainly responsible in some way, although the details are still unclear.
I’ve seen a lot of references to the supposed disaster that will follow if all the honeybees die off, including claims that we are so dependent upon them as pollinators that if they die we humans will die off too. But that won’t happen. Sure it would mean the end of some things, like commercial almond and cranberry production, but sustainable diversified farms like ours would carry on largely as normal. Nature provides plenty of other pollinators for our vegetables and fruit trees. After all, the honeybee is not native to North America, having been brought over from Europe by the early colonists.
But having said that, the loss of honeybees would be a great tragedy. They are beautiful creatures, and aside from being great pollinators they also give us honey, arguably nature’s perfect food.
Nature has a way of adjusting to respond to threats and environmental change. Species do go extinct–far too often these days. But often they find a way to overcome threats and emerge even more resilient. Let’s hope that’s what happens with the honeybees. Without them, the world will be much less beautiful.