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The Bee's Knee's

Did you know that honeybees are a global commodity, moved and traded all over the world like any other good? I did not.

Did you know that honeybees were not indigenous to America? I did not.

The first shipment arrived in Virginia in March of 1622 and it would take 231 years before the honey bee reached the west coast. Whaaaaat?! They were sent over because they pollinated the European seeds and saplings that the immigrants brought with them and they changed the environment by making it more acceptable for the livestock that was also imported. They also provided honey, wax, and propolis ( which is like glue or sealant) and that, in turn, created commerce for the goods. Isn't that amazing? Bee's did all that.

There's been a lot of talk in recent years about a "bee apocalypse" and endangered bees and how our food supply is in imminent peril. For the most part, science and scientists say the honeybees are fine because they are commercial hives. Now, this doesn't mean that bees aren't facing tough times right now. Just because domesticated honeybees, which are raised like livestock, are in greater abundance, that doesn't mean that their wild counterparts aren't threatened.

But what's threatening them is a combination of parasites and disease. And because they are traded all over the world, the parasites that infest them can spread globally.

Pesticides could be another contributor to the decline of wild bees. On the whole, there does seem to be some harm from overexposure. For example, some pesticides may make bees slightly more susceptible to parasites or interfere with their "waggle dance," which is a key way that bees communicate.

Habitat destruction is also harming wild bee species. We have acres of cropland but that's not nearly as nourishing as an expansive meadow full of wildflowers.

There are 8 types of bees on an endangered species list and there are over 16,000 species of bees. The causes for the loss of the bees that are on the list are believed to be due to habitat loss, natural disasters, and invasive species.

So what can we do? We can plant plants that grow natively in our region and that attract many species of bees. We can also monitor our pesticide use closely and follow all label instructions before use.

These truly incredible little creatures were brought here on a ship, transplanted into a new climate, helped cultivate the grasses and clover that were also imported, managed to thrive and multiply, eventually making it to all 50 states - all the while producing products for people to eat, use and sell.

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