Dear Ms/r. President,
I am writing to tell you about a major issue concerning our country and the world. One that requires you to take action and prevent the consequences that could be major if honeybees were to continue to suffer. Although small in size, bees and other pollinators are crucial in the production of food for humans and other animals. About one third of our crops require insect pollination and over double that would suffer reduced production in the absence of these vital creatures. (sos-bees.org) Of the entire U.S. agriculture industry, $29 billion come from crops that require pollination. (cnn.com) Despite their obvious importance, bee populations have received little attention and are finding it increasingly difficult to survive. In our ever more technological and industrial world, it is important that we understand what is causing the rapid decline of these crucial populations, what the effects will be on humans and other species, and what we can do to save the bees. In doing so, we will also improve the wellbeing of humans and other organisms that rely on them every day. Although small changes in people's lifestyles do create a difference, it is also important that key leaders like you Ms/r. President promote widespread change, knowledge, and adoption of legislation to facilitate improvement in our world.
As with every great issue, I think it is important that we understand what the causes are so we can address it properly. Of the many causes in the decline of honeybee populations, three main issues stand out. As you may notice, I will mainly focus on honeybees in this letter. This is because, beyond being one of the few economically beneficial pollinators, their commercialization has given us a great deal of data on their population and health. In the last few centuries human development has spread like wildfire, eliminating wild areas that bees and other animals rely on for food. (atlas.aaas.org) Without natural areas and an abundance flowers, even domesticated bees don't have access to certain required proteins that are found in pollen and the nectar that is used to make honey. Even when raised near agriculture, a lack of diversity can cause shortages of food for honeybees when specific crops are not growing or producing flowers. Our more technological society has also had an impact on bees through pesticides and other toxins. Bees can ingest these poisons through food and particles in the air. Although ingested in small amounts, these chemicals can have severe and often fatal effects over periods of time. (sos-bees.org) This is especially an issue for hives near to where these chemicals are used; a common occurrence in commercial operations. Although ever-present, sickness has also played a major role in the decline of bee populations. In fact, with our increasingly connected world, bees come in contact with these diseases more often just like humans. (cnn.com) Diseases can run rampant in an already weakened colony and have caused many deaths on top of the other causes. (sos-bees.org)
Another major factor for bees and other wildlife is climate change. I feel that it is worth mentioning separately because of its widespread effects on the entire world, not just pollinators. Although not directly affected themselves, bees rely heavily on factors that are controlled by climate change. Probably the most problematic change is seasons and the timing of plants. Because bees and flowering plants rely on each other so heavily, it is important that their individual seasons line up especially in the springtime. With many plants flowering earlier due to mild weather, they are finding it difficult to reproduce with the absence of bees and other pollinators. Likewise, when bees emerge for the summer, they have a lack of food that is usually provided by the same flowers that are now going to seed. Investigations done by Rebecca Irwin, an associate professor and researcher at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, show this in action. Using two groups of flowers outside of Denver Colorado, the research team counted the seed production of each group, one of which was allowed to flower earlier than usual. Unsurprisingly the early group had a smaller production of seeds in comparison to what is normal. (smithsonianmag.com)
Since the mid-2000s farmers have seen bee populations rapidly decline. Since 2007, an average of 30% of honeybee colonies have not survived the winter in the U.S. Statistics are similar in Canada and Europe where 29% and 20% were lost. These increasing rates are around two times higher than what is economically tolerable for beekeepers. (cnn.com) The effects of a decline in be populations are widespread and serious. About 90% of all flowering plants require insect pollination and the vast majority of crops for human consumption are affected in some way by these insects. Especially in less developed countries and areas where a single staple crop is affected, this could extend malnutrition significantly. One study from scientists at the University of Vermont and Harvard University estimates the effects. In places like Mozambique, 56% of the country could face malnutrition in the absence of pollinators. As Taylor Ricketts, a part of the research, puts it; “The take-home is: pollinator declines can really matter to human health” (pbs.org). But the problems extend far past less developed countries that rely on small amounts of food as it is. In developed countries like the U.S., food is still the backbone of our life and the economy. A TIME article by Bryan Walsh shows what could happen right at home in America. Among others, he gives California’s $4 billion crop of almond as an example of pollinator’s economical importance. In response to this article Whole Foods removed 237 items, over half of its produce section, from a location in Rhode Island to demonstrate the impact that honeybees have. (earthjustice.org)
Saving the bees may seem like an impossible task but it is also impossible to ignore. The consequences are far reaching to humans and also affect many different types of wildlife. Fortunately, many of the changes we can make to help bees will also impact the rest of the environment in positive ways. Preventing climate change will not only help the relationship between pollinators and plants, it will also prevent the destruction of the ozone layer and important natural resources. The solutions to preventing the loss of bees are simply to reverse some of the effects causing the disappearance and regulate others. Probably the easiest course of action for the state is to severely regulate the use of certain agricultural chemicals. Many chemicals and pesticides developed by companies are being allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with little research into what the negative effects may be. In early 2013 Sulfoxaflor was released for use as a pesticide despite being very toxic to insect pollinators including honeybees. (earthjustice.org) Since then, other pesticides of the neonicotinoid class have been developed for agricultural and personal use and continue to be used. Although they are similar to other toxins in effect, neonicotinoids can contaminate pollen and nectar much more and therefore directly affect bees to a much greater extend. (cnn.com) Regulating, testing, and prohibiting these harmful chemicals will have a great impact on bee populations. Unfortunately, it is also something that people in power must do. Another proactive solution is to promote wild areas. Restoring habitats is critical in maintaining native plants, animals, and earths beauty. Diversity is also something that needs to be promoted along with this. Because bees rely on a constant source of blooming plants having a wide range of blooming species is crucial. This diversity can also be especially beneficial in agriculture where it can prevent things like weeds and disease. (tennessee.edu)
As it is, the state of bees and other pollinating insects is tragic yet also hopeful. With bees having such a massive impact on the wellbeing and economy of the world, it is impossible to neglect the issues that we face. As a community and a country it is important to support the bees and other aspects of the environment that may go unnoticed yet play such a crucial role. I ask that you work proactively to help the bees by restoring the environment that they, and so many other species rely on. In our high-demand and very technological world it is also important to think about long term consequences of technologies we create. Large chemical companies need to be regulated while ample funding needs to go to research about bees and other issues that plague the world. Regardless of the hurdles we face you need to be a leader willing to help bees and improve the world as a whole.
St. Paul, MN