By Jessica Sanders

Scientists have been puzzling over this strange phenomenon for years. The bee population has been reportedly declining since the early 90s. This problem affects far more than just the buzzing insect we run away from.

We actually need bees to grow crops and maintain ecosystems. They are also considered to be an indicator species scientist use to measure the health of our environment. So, why exactly is the bee population dramatically declining?

Every year, scientists are finding that millions of bees are disappearing, simply gone in an instant leaving the queen bee and larvae to die of starvation. This is called colony collapse disorder (CDC) and could be big trouble for the United States, Asia, Canada and Europe.

declining bee populationThe Cause of CDC 

Though the cause of bee death is not simply answered, scientists believe there are a number of factors bringing the insects to die off. Environmental hazards are responsible for wreaking havoc on our modern food system and are significantly endangering bees. Let’s look at this impact on bee casualties.

Factory Bee Farming

Just as animals are farmed in large quantities, so are honeybees for their honey. Unfortunately, the important staple in the bee’s diet is replaced on these farms with sugar substitutes like high fructose corn syrup. The delicate yet productive bee relies on the nectar and pollen in honey for protein, energy and nutrients – not HFCS. And, the more we take the bees’ honey, the weaker they become. As a result, they die from being susceptible to disease or parasites.

Lack of Plant Diversity

Slowly the modern food structure is moving toward a monoculture based plant system. With less balance in the ecosystem, bees are left squandering for nutrients that were once easy to find in wild flowers.  Scientists are discovering that bees’ immune systems don’t do well when they forage from just a single pollen source. They need diversity. So, instead of needing the bee’s pollination, these monocultures are fed with chemicals.


Some of the largest players in the genetically modified food game use systematic pesticides, which are deadly to the bees. Instead of traditionally spraying pesticides on the crops, these pesticides are placed on the seed, where they are absorbed by the roots and move up into the rest of the flower, including its nectar and pollen. This means sudden death for any bee that stops for dinner.

Taking One Small Step

save the beesThough you may not be able to eliminate all use of pesticides and factory bee farming, you can make a small difference in the decisions you make every day.

  • Keep your garden clean: By clean, I mean, chemical free. Avoid using pesticides, but most importantly avoid neonicotinoids.
  • Always buy organic produce: Produce on an organic farm is grown with fewer chemicals, which is better for the bees and your body.
  • Don’t support industrial honey: Large-scale honey operations are more focused on output and profit than with the health of the bees. If you’re going to eat honey, make sure it comes from a small operation.
  • Start at home: Beekeeping operations can be done relatively anywhere, from a porch to apartment building roof. With extremely low costs and minimal time required to maintain a hive, many people are becoming amateur beekeepers in an attempt to help restore declining bee populations.
  • Plant a bee-friendly habitat: Pollinators need a place to pollinate, and by providing bee-friendly plants in your yard, porch, or window box, you give them a place to just be. Plants like fruit, herbs, melons, and even some trees can attract bees to your yard or garden.
  • Consider switching: Opt for cooking, baking and eating with alternative natural sweeteners like agave nectar or pure maple syrup, etc. Most of the honey is substituted with high fructose corn syrup anyway, which you always want to avoid.

By the way, much of the commercially produced honey has been filtered to remove pollen.  If you want to try controlling allergies with honey, there is a theory that eating locally grown honey – with the pollen present – can help combat allergy symptoms.  In addition, raw honey is thought to have many medicinal properties. Stomach ailments, anemia and allergies are just a few of the conditions that may be improved by consumption of unprocessed honey.

The collapse of the bee population is becoming more and more apparent in a variety of countries and is clearly detrimental to the health of our crops and environment. With millions of bees dying each year, it’s important to do what you can in your own life, like buying organic produce and maintaining a chemical-free garden, to help the bees survive.

We wouldn’t starve without bees, but we’d lose an awful lot of good, healthy food, from cherries and broccoli to onions and almonds. Bees are healthy natural pollinators. Plus, bee health can tell us a lot about environmental health, and thus about our own well-being. They are worth keeping around.

Can you find small beekeepers at your local farmers market? Tell us about their beekeeping adventures!