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Hay Que Poner Atención to Protecting The Bees

Photo Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service

Photo Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service

 

Earlier this year the Super Bowl commercial “God Made a Farmer” attracted keen attention by various Latino blogs and advocacy groups for overlooking the fact that the modern “farm” relies on much Latino and immigrant labor.

It was necessary to call that out, as Cuéntame amusingly did. Fact is that a large part of our agricultural system relies on often unseen and underappreciated (or conveniently ignored) labor.

This provides a connection to a conservation issue and another often unsung labor force that is under threat: bees.

If we were to ask you, dear Latino reader, how do we get the bountiful fruit that is picked by the farmworker, how would you respond?

The plants and trees provide the fruits, but it requires pollinators to make sure the pollen from some flowers end up in the flowers of other plants. Flowers do not simply rely on the wind to carry that pollen, it requires pollinators, which can be a range of creatures: bats, birds, moths, and butterflies.

But bees, las abejas obreras, are key pollinators for many agricultural crops—and they are under threat as millions of bees have disappeared and died in what is commonly known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

Why does this matter? ¿Porque poner atención?

Bees are a business for many farmers who hire companies that bring whole hives to pollinate their crops—simply put, it is a key economic service.  But there are also many bees out there that do this work “for free”, a key example of an ecosystem service that we either take for granted or do not pay attention to how we benefit. Bees may pollinate crops but they also pollinate other plants, providing an important ecological service.

For years, the causes of Colony Collapse Disorder have been studied, often leading to many questions with few concrete answers. But more recently, several answers keep pointing back to us, people—and how we treat the environment.

A key factor has been the role of pesticides, which is being studied by the EPA, but which gardeners can notice in their own backyards, as noted this year in this NoozHakwk news article from Santa Barbara, CA. As the article notes:

“Carrie Kappel had just returned from a weeklong trip last October when she noticed something was amiss in her Montecito backyard.

Piles of dead and dying honeybees littered the inside and outside of the thriving beehive she and her two young children had been watching over since April.

Local beekeepers recently learned that a combination of pesticide chemicals highly toxic to bees most likely were the cause of the Montecito die-off, according to results from samples tested in an Agriculture Department lab.”

Similar issues were noted in this article by National Geographic highlighting a new study:

“This study shows that when pesticides are combined, the impact on bees is far worse than exposure to just one pesticide. ‘This is particularly important because one of the pesticides we used, coumaphos, is a ‘medicine’ used to treat Varroa mites [pests that have been implicated in CCD] in honeybee colonies throughout the world,’ neuroscientist Geraldine Wright said.

The pesticide, in addition to killing the mites, might also be making honeybees more vulnerable to poisoning and effects from other pesticides.”

Studies will continue, and when you involve industries with money to lose, there is bound to be some politics to consider and policy delays.

But the question will still be, can we afford to lose bees? Why keep them mind and what can we do if we realize we are in danger of losing them?

Bees are certainly special. The Mayans carefully studied bees, which you can see in some surviving codices, and continue to respect and work with them to this day. Those bees, a different specie than our common European honeybee, are under threats for differing reasons, but they provide the similar benefits we derive from the bees in our farm fields.

So as we pay attention and fight for the rights of the human labor force out in the fields, let us also see what we can do about the other labor force in the fields and in ecosystems beyond, las abejas zumbando de flor a flor.

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