By Jackie Pickford

BEE Educated

Bees are an integral part of our ecosystem, providing more for us than just honey and pollinated flowers; bees provide fruits and vegetables for us to eat, supply food for the animals that we consume, and pollinate many of our resources and food such as cotton, herbs, coffee beans, and more. The UN Environmental Programme states that “of the 100 crop species that provide 90% of the world’s food, over 70% are pollinated by bees,” which exemplifies a world-wide dependence on the pollinators.

Alarmingly, however, these creatures have begun to disappear at a rapid pace. The increasing extinction rate can be attributed to habitat loss, parasites, pesticide use, and increasing temperatures due to climate change. If this trend continues, it will have massive consequences on our daily lifestyle.

What’s BEEing Done

Locally, many organizations are attempting to play their part in the movement to save the bees. One unique example in our area is the Hilton Washington Dulles Airport Hotel, which just recently adopted two honeybee hives in hopes of getting involved in the preservation of honeybees. Each hive hosts roughly 50,000-60,000 bees, producing approximately 40 to 60 pounds of honey annually. The hotel plans to use the honey in menu items as well as providing bottled gifts to VIP members; however, the hotel emphasizes that the primary goals of its hives is to encourage sustainable practices and restore bee health.

Nationally, legislation has been introduced to ban pesticides that are especially harmful to bees and other pollinators. The Saving the Pollinators Act of 2017 would suspend the use of neonicotinoids—a harmful pesticide linked to bee decline—until the EPA could determine the safety of the pollinators based on peer-review studies. Although the legislation is still in the works, it has the potential to not only transform agriculture on a large scale, but also take measures to support local farmers, food systems and
sustainable practices.

BEE Involved

As an individual, there are a number of ways to support the bee movement. First, get involved with a local organization! The Northern Virginia Beekeeping Association (NVBA) and the Loudoun Beekeeping Association (LBA) both work to educate and support sustainable beekeeping practices in the area. Local organizations like the LBA provide mentor programs and offer courses for those who are interested in hobby beekeeping, another way to contribute individually. One can also donate to local organizations like the NVBA and LBA, and support companies that take part in sustainable practices, such as Hilton Washington Dulles, for example. Another simple way to contribute is to plant pollinator-friendly landscapes in backyards or patios and use neonicotinoid-free pesticides. Both NVBA and LBA can provide guidance on this as well.

Overall, the goal is that we BEE proactive in any way possible. The extinction of pollinators would have major social, economic, and physical repercussions on our species, which is why doing our part individually, locally and nationally is so important.