What is going on in Brazil? Half a billion bees died in the past three months, and the Amazon Rainforest is burning even now.
Bees are vital to the human food chain, pollinating about 1/3 of all foods we eat on a regular basis… foods like apples, cherries, coffee and avocados.
Beekeepers from four Brazilian states have reported mass deaths of bees, with the worst report by far coming out of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, where 400 million dead bees have been found.
What’s killing the Brazilian bees? Researchers say pesticides are poisoning the bees to death.
Brazil is a heavily agricultural country and allows the use of deadly pesticides like neonicotinoids and fipronil which contain ingredients that were banned in Europe in April 2018. In the same year that the EU banned almost all neonicotinoids because they harm bees, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro lifted a long-term pesticide ban on the same types of pesticides despite environmental protests.
This short video is only 1:33 minutes long and sums up the plight of the Brazilian bees:
Greenpeace says the use of pesticides in Brazil is on the rise. In the past three years 193 products containing EU-banned chemicals were registered in Brazil.
Meanwhile, another catastrophe is underway in Brazil… over 74,000 fires have ravaged Brazil in 2019, the most ever recorded according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE). That’s an 80% increase over 2018. More than half of these fires are in the Amazon.
The Amazon Rainforest helps create the air we breathe. We all benefit from having a healthy Amazon, where trees absorb carbon dioxide and pull planet-warming greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere while they infuse oxygen into the atmosphere. Without this rainforest, climate change would speed up.
These fires are set intentionally to clear the forest and are caused, according to experts, by slash-and-burn and deforestation to prepare the land for agriculture or, in some cases, to enrich the soil for cattle pastures, since Brazil is the world’s top beef exporting country.
Watch this short 3:52 minute interview with an Indigenous leader in Brazil:
As Earth’s largest rain forest is gobbled up by mining, agricultural businesses and logging, our future lies in the balance. What if the Amazon reaches a point of no return and can no longer sustain itself as a rainforest? Scientists warn that this is no far-fetched idea. If the trees and plants die, they will release billions of tons of carbon they have been held for decades. This would trigger a climate catastrophe.
How are these fires affecting Brazilian bees? We haven't come across any data indicating the fires are killing bees, but it must be a stressful environment for them.
Bees are having a bleak time of it around the world. US beekeepers had the worst winter on record last year, losing 4 of every 10 honeybee colonies. There were massive bee deaths in Russia, where they expect at least 20% less honey production. The same deadly pesticide fipronil that is used in Brazil was said to be responsible for 1 million bee deaths in South Africa in November 2018. Australian bees are suffering from drought and lack of nectar and pollen producing flowers in many areas. Other countries reporting mass bee deaths in the past year and a half are Turkey, Mexico, Canada and Argentina.
Is there anything we can do to help bees survive these tragic times? The World Wildlife Foundation encourages us to create more urban green spaces to protect bees. Global researchers believe it is time to start creating “wild patches” of plants, weeds, grasses and herbs to encourage pollinators like bees, and that this can lead to positive outcomes.
World-sized problems are so vast, it is easy to feel discouraged and overwhelmed. We cannot change what is happening thousands of miles away, and this can make us feel helpless. We can, however, change what we are personally doing in our own back yards. Literally.
Whether you have just a balcony, a city garden or a small farm, you can make a real difference for your local bees. Grow flowering plants that bees love to pollinate, let your grass grow longer so they have more shelter, create a bee bath for them, build or buy a small bee house… above all, keep your bee garden FREE of pesticides, insecticides and herbicides. Ensure they have plenty of nectar that is rich with nutrients that make bees strong. Create a bee haven, because life is a struggle for many bees these days. Give them some love.
Share your thoughts about the Brazilian bee and tree catastrophes over on our Facebook page.