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Buzzin’ around: Honeybees make a difference in our daily lives

By Staff | Mar 15, 2019

Hood College Graduate School Dean April Boulton discusses her research on honeybees, during the First Tuesday Speaker Series at Christ Reformed United Church of Christ. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN – Although they are not native to the United States, honeybees have become a vital force in agriculture across the country since their emmigration from Europe.

In the last few decades, the honeybee population has been dramatically decreasing, and scientists have been conducting research to determine why. One such scientist is Hood College Graduate School’s dean, April Boulton.

Bolton visited Christ Reformed United Church of Christ’s First Tuesday Speaker Series on March 5, to discuss the impact the loss of the honeybee will have on the United States if preventative measures aren’t taken.

“What I like to remind people of, is that honeybees are pretty much responsible for all of the colorful, crunch food on your plate – about one-third of food on your plate is thanks to honeybees. They are important to humans’ nutritional health,” Boulton said. “The brown food on your plate are pollinated by wind, but we can’t survive on this food long-term.”

“Bees are responsible for roughly $80 billion of pollination services in this country,” Boulton said, mentioning the loss of honeybees is raising the cost of healthy food. “The bulk of what they’re responsible for pollinating, are the more expensive foods.

“Almonds take an enormous amount of honeybees to pollinate. One-and-a-half million bee colonies must be driven to California for eight to 10 weeks, which is almond season,” Boulton said. “Without bees, say goodbye to almond milk, say goodbye to almonds.”

According to Boulton, the loss of honeybees may not only influence our diets, but other aspects of our lives as well.

“I’m a foodie, so its all about the crunchy stuff, for me. But there are other benefits to humans, besides food pollination,” Boulton said. “If you look at some of these anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antibacterial pharmaceuticals, you’ll see how essential honeybees are.”

Several factors are causing the bee loss, including pesticide overuse, pests that prey on honeybees, climate change and honeybees’ nutrition and habitat. But these factors can be combatted. Boulton herself has successfully advocated for pesticide regulation in Maryland, and hopes to see advocates in West Virginia lobby for a similar bill to be passed.

When asked what community members can do at home to help the honeybee population, Boulton suggested helping honeybees diversify their nutrition, by planting patches of flowers outside of their homes, their businesses and their churches.

For more information, visit thehoneybeeconservancy.org/plant-a-bee-garden/ and http://beefriendly.ca/25-plants-for-bees-in-your-garden/.