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It’s More Than The Birds and the Bees

2008 August 7

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

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Judging from previous blogs, there’s quite a bit of interest and concern towards the apparent lack of butterflies this summer. Yet we haven’t addressed something even potentially more worrisome—honeybees. The situation has been identified as the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). The disappearance of these pollinators could have serious repercussions on U.S. agriculture and ultimately the entire food supply. Experts still do not know the exact cause for the vanishing of the honeybees. Among the theories considered are: invasive parasitic mites, new and emerging diseases, pesticide poisoning, poor nutrition and I’ve even read some articles that attribute the situation to climate change.

Nonetheless, EPA, USDA, universities and the private sector have moved into action. The Agency is addressing the CCD through regulatory and voluntary programs. And it’s actively participating in the Colony Collapse Disorder Steering Committee and Working Group. One of the many collaborative efforts to address the issue has been a partnership between the Agency and the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign.

As I’ve been reading up more on this crisis, images of childhood–my grandfather with a hat and a veil tending to the bee colonies in his farm in Guayama, Puerto Rico come to mind. I also remember eating sticky, deliciously sweet, fresh honey. More recently, my daughter’s boyfriend, Scott, concerned over the CCD decided to take a beekeeping class by the Bowie Upper Marlboro Beekeepers Association (BUMBA) at Watkins Park Nature Center in Maryland. Both he and his brother started raising bees in their backyard in March. They started with one box and in June added a second one on top for them to expand. Scott hasn’t had any major problem and only one bee sting while working on the hive. The bees have made some honey, but he’s trying to save it for the winter. That will be the real test to his success so far.

While I haven’t taken the challenge to set up my own bee colony, I’ve been trying to use greenscaping techniques to minimize the use of pesticides in my garden. Overall, integrated pest management principles both at home and in agriculture, can go a long way to protect the ecosystem of these invaluable pollinators. We can’t live without them. So don’t just buzz by this blog, help to take action.

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Va más alla de las aves y abejas

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

Juzgando por el interés de previos blogs, hay muchas personas preocupadas por la aparente falta de mariposas este verano. Sin embargo, todavía no hemos abordado un tema de mayor preocupación—las abejas de miel. La situación se ha identificado como el desorden del colapso de colonias (CCD, por sus siglas en inglés). La desaparición de estos polinadores podría causar serias repercusiones en la agricultura de Estados Unidos y en la totalidad del suministro de alimentos.

Los expertos aún no conocen la causa exacta de la desaparición de las abejas de miel. Algunas teorías son: pequeños ácaros parasíticos invasivos, nuevas enfermedades, el envenenamiento por pesticidas, la pobre nutrición y algunos artículos incluso atribuyen la situación al cambio climático.

Mientras tanto, EPA, el Departamento de Agricultura Federal, las universidades y el sector privado han entrado en acción. La Agencia está tratando el tema mediante programas de regulaciones y voluntarios. También está participando activamente en el Comité Timón y Grupo de Trabajo sobre el Desorden del Colapso de Colonias. Uno de los muchos esfuerzos colaborativos para abordar este asunto es el consorcio entre la Agencia y la Campana de Protección de Polinadores de Norte América. []

Mientras voy leyendo más sobre la crisis, surgen las imágenes de mi infancia en Puerto Rico—mi abuelo con su sombrero especial cuidando de las abejas en su finca en Guayama, Puerto Rico. También me recuerdo comer la miel fresca, pegajosa y deliciosamente dulce…Recientemente, Scott, el novio de mi hija, preocupado por el colapso de colmenas decidió toma una clase para criar abejas que ofrece la Asociación de Apicultores de Upper Marlboro (BUMBA, por sus siglas en inglés) en el Centro de Naturaleza del Parque Watkins en Maryland. Tanto él como su hermano empezaron a cultivar las abejas en su patio en marzo. Comenzaron con una caja y en junio añadieron una más como una extensión para que las abejas pudieran expandir la colmena. Scott no ha tenido problemas en esta empresa y sólo una abeja lo ha picado. Las abejas han producido miel, pero él quiere conservarla para el invierno. Esa será la prueba real.

Mientras no ha tomado el reto de desarrollar mi propia colonia de abejas, estoy tratando de usar técnicas de jardinería verde para minimizar el uso de plaguicidas en mi jardín. Sobre todo, los principios para el manejo integrado de plagas tanto en el hogar como en la agricultura pueden contribuir enormemente a la protección del ecosistema de estos valiosos polinadores. No podemos vivir sin ellos. No ignoren este blog. Por favor, tomen acción.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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16 Responses leave one →
  1. Karen permalink
    August 7, 2008

    I have also read that there was a German study that found that mobile phone signals throw off a bee’s ‘internal navigation system’.

  2. Linda permalink
    August 8, 2008

    It’s not only honey bees that are diminishing; native bee species are also disappearing in alarming numbers. Many of these speceis are so-called solitary bees that don’t live in colonies. Carpenter bees, among others, live solitary lives, are not particularly agressive; these large-bodied bees rely on native plant species for pollen and nectar. As they forage, they are responsible for pollenating many flowering plants. I love the early-spring sight of them buzzing in euphoria among my holly hedge, roses, privet and honeysuckle, when the air is thick with fragrance and the sound of their soothing drone. An on-line search will turn up web pages devoted to helping preserve all bee species, with lots of ideas of how you can help bees in your area survive.

  3. Mary Ann permalink
    August 12, 2008

    The National Agricultural Library has collected a growing array of resources on Colony Collapse Disorder. We even had our own blog post on the subject back in February. Check it out.

  4. Lina-EPA permalink*
    August 20, 2008

    Just got back from a family vacation in Lebanon and there were bees galore in my mother-in-law’s garden. Few butterflies, but bees a plenty. Don’t know the exact variety, though.

    Unfortunately, too many mosquitoes! The repellants I took from the states didn’t work. Bought some local ones and they worked the first couple of days, but not enough. Maybe it was a language barrier. Just joking.

  5. sohbet permalink
    December 31, 2008

    i like that thanks..

  6. Kerry Stuart permalink
    September 17, 2010

    Phil Chandler, author of the book The Barefoot Beekeeper has recently published a short pamphlet called, Beekeeping, Pure and Simple where his holistic approach is laid out in a very accessible manner. I recommend you all download yourselves a copy. Additional beginning beekeeping information is also available.

  7. Scott permalink
    September 27, 2010

    Just wanted to compliment you on the article. You’ve got some great links for further research on beekeeping…even picked up a nice pdf from a link in the comments.

    Beekeeping is a fascinating hobby that really seems to be picking up steam. I see more and more “amateur” beekeeping enthusiasts getting involved. I guess you would say home beekeeping. Anyway, hopefully we can make a dent in keeping the bee population healthy until a solid cure for CCD comes up.

    One more point.

    We home school our kids and beekeeping makes a great subject for science or nature study…..long term studies.

    I found a free ecourse on Home Beekeeping ….might be a good way for someone to look into backyard beekeeping.

  8. Nick permalink
    October 6, 2010

    We can all help to combat this Bee shortage whilst also maintain the food chain by starting to keep bees it a great and can help unwind and destress as well, more information is available

  9. ShakD permalink
    October 21, 2010

    Beekeeping is spreading across the world! But not fast enough! I am a beekeeping expert and wish to spread the word about how to start beekeeping properly! The great hobby is essential to receiving fresh honey and even making a quick buck on the side! Who doesn’t enjoy fresh honey? I strive to share my beekeeping information around the world, even from Canada!


  10. ShakD permalink
    October 21, 2010

    Beekeeping is a fascinating hobby that really seems to be picking up steam. I love the early-spring sight of them buzzing in euphoria among my holly hedge, roses, privet and honeysuckle, when the air is thick with fragrance and the sound of their soothing drone. I am a beekeeping expert, and strive to spread the word about what beekeeping is, and how to get started! I’m interested in telling everyone about the first lessons in beekeeping, so stay in touch!


  11. Alex permalink
    November 22, 2010

    Bees are such a precious resource and we can all play our part in helping honey bees and beekeeping. Whether we decide to keep our own bees or to plant bee friendly gardens and severely limit our use of pesticides

  12. learn simple german permalink
    December 13, 2010

    Collecting honey from wild bee colonies is one of the most ancient human activities and is still practiced by aboriginal societies in parts of Africa, Asia, Australia, and South America. Some of the earliest evidence of gathering honey from wild colonies is from rock paintings, dating to around 13,000 BCE. Gathering honey from wild bee colonies is usually done by subduing the bees with smoke and breaking open the tree or rocks where the colony is located, often resulting in the physical destruction of the nest location.

    Thanks for sharing,

  13. Scott permalink
    December 21, 2010

    bee colonies in upstate new york is deliciously sweet and fresh honey.
    north east US has the best honey I feel =)

  14. April 17, 2012

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  15. xinwenglcyx permalink
    April 23, 2012

    Thank you for sharing
    I really like

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