The honeybee is more crucial to humanity now than ever before, but since 2006 bee populations have been on a steady decline for many reasons—colony collapse, natural habitat shrinkage, monoculture, climate change, pesticides, parasites and much more. Human food production relies on the pollination services of these little insects to a great extent.
Our survival depends to a large degree on bees, so it is in our best interests to ensure they are thriving. The global human population continues to expand. We currently have about 7.7 billion people on earth and the United Nations expects that number to grow to around 9.7 billion by 2050. Crop sustainability is vital if we are to avoid famine and starvation, and the honeybee remains one of our greatest allies and hopes.
If we need more and more food to feed the world, then we need more and more honeybees to pollinate massive commercial farms. The most obvious example of industrial-level honeybee pollination is in the almond orchards of California. Honeybees make such crops profitable. But in truth, they are responsible for every third bite humans eat, and are the power pollinators behind most popular fruits, vegetables, and several tree-growing nuts.
There are beekeeping groups that manage thousands of beehives, bringing beekeepers and almond farmers together. One such company is Exchange Bees in Northern California. It is one of the largest beekeeping networks in the USA, and not only produces and sells honey to grocery stores but also provides pollination services for a variety of crops, including almonds.
The two newest concerns that could make things worse for honeybees are the Asian Giant Hornet, which has been found in the Pacific Northwest in Washington state, and the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis. These present very different problems but both could deal a hard blow to an industry that has been struggling for nearly 15 years.
This 1:36-minute video by CBS News shows what these invasive hornets look like, but the term "murder hornets" is sensationalized and is no longer used to describe them.
The Asian Giant Hornet is a great source of danger to honeybees in countries like France where it got a firm foothold. To avoid this from happening in the USA, we will have to proactively seek out their nests and destroy them to keep them from spreading or at least slow their spread considerably. European honeybees, which account for most honeybees in the USA, are unable to defend themselves from the Asian Giant Hornet. This leaves no choice but to eradicate these hornets.
COVID-19 has economically affected the honey market by creating a decline in the sales of US honey. Cheaper imported foreign honey not only undercuts US beekeepers’ honey sales, but consumers don’t always know what they are consuming. A lot of cheap foreign honey is cut with corn syrup and other cheap sweeteners. If US beekeepers can’t sell their honey, they won’t be able to continue to take care of their bees, and this will eventually impact pollination in the area. So, when a consumer is choosing which honey to buy in the store, keep in mind there is much more at stake than meets the eye.
Often we choose by price. Please try to buy local and support your agricultural community. When you eat quality raw honey you consume an antiviral and antibacterial superfood that is rich in supportive antioxidants and nutrients. Honey is proven to have a host of beneficial properties for the human body, like keeping your heart healthy, your digestive tract in good shape and your immune system supported. So spend a little more money to get yourself and your family some quality honey.
You may not have a garden, and even if you do, you may not have time to plant flowers. Maybe you live in a big city and aren’t comfortable attracting bees to your balcony. Buying local honey is a fantastic way to support honeybees and beekeepers, so you can feel good that you are helping to save the bees in your own sweet way.