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Let's Give 'Em Something to Buzz About

honey_bees_shutterstock_113350948By Deirdre Imus, 8-23-2016
There’s been a lot of buzz lately about honeybees, those quasi-nuisances that can send even the most stoic among us into a tailspin trying to avoid an encounter. And while a bee sting is undesirable, the pain you’ll feel then is nothing compared to the pain we’ll all feel – and soon – if we don’t do something to protect these sometimes petrifying pollinators. 

About ten years ago, commercial beekeepers started to notice their honeybees were disappearing, and they didn’t know why. Scientists coined the term colony collapse disorder (CCD) to describe this mysterious phenomenon, and anxiety set in: how would the agricultural system in this country survive without the mighty honeybee to pollenate our crops?

Some of the food grown in this country is self-pollinating, but much of the most nutritious fruits and vegetables require pollenating: blueberries, apricots, almonds, lettuce, avocado, green beans, coffee, and many more. Some evidence points to rampant, widespread pesticide use as the cause of CCD, while other theories suggest a fungal infection might be to blame.

Sadly, another possible reason for honeybee loss is that honeybees live in a country that has become increasingly inhospitable to their needs. A 2013 article in TIME Magazine noted that our “industrialized agricultural system has conspired against” the honeybee’s access to flowers and wild spaces. Instead, the U.S. countryside has transformed into “vast stretches…of factory fields of corn or soybeans that are little more than a desert for honeybees starved of pollen and nectar.”

To highlight this impending environmental and health crisis, and to provide some lucky bees a nurturing shelter, Hackensack University Medical Center has installed two beehives containing 30,000 bees on a rooftop garden. They’ll be used to pollenate plants, harvest honey, create a healthier community, and educate anyone who is interested about the vital role of bees in the worldwide food supply.

The two beehives lovingly maintained on the roof of this hospital will not stop or reverse the potentially catastrophic effects of CCD. What they’ll do is signal that honeybees are important, and they are disappearing at an alarming rate due to some combination of toxins, climate change, and other human activities. The plight of the honeybees is everybody’s plight. Let’s not destroy yet another of nature’s gifts at our own expense.

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