Friday, August 7, 2015

Sustaining Wild Bees

Mark Bittman appears in a four-minute video segment titled “What’s the Buzz About Wild Bees?” with University of California, Berkley conservation biologist Claire Kremen, The author and professor discuss honey bees and native bees and other pollinators. They also talk about the state of modern agriculture as they visit Full Belly Farm in Gwenda, California, a model for sustainable agriculture, where crops are grown to attract and support pollinators. Bittman explains, “Without bees our grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and dinner tables would be pretty barren.” Kremen defines pollinators as any animals that visit a flower and transfer the pollen from the male parts to the female parts of the flower or from flower to flower. Fertilization allows plants to produce seeds and fruit. Kremen states that California imports 1.5 million colonies of honey bees to pollinate the state’s biggest export, almonds. She mentions that California farmers import honey bees when while there are 100 to 150 species of native bees that also pollinate crops. Bittman says that just as we have become dependent upon monoculture crops we have become dependent upon a “monopollinator,” the honey bee. Colony Collapse Disorder has adversely affected honey bees in agricultural areas where bees are exposed to pesticides in crop fields. Bees imported for pollination service live on a restricted diet. Full Belly Farm is designed to supply plants to provide blooms for bees throughout the growing season.

Claire Kremen, a McArthur Fellow,, received the prestigious award in 2007 when she was recognized for her studies of the behavior of bees and other natural pollinators and their critical role in the global human food supply. Kremen’s studies reveal that the ability of native bees to adequately pollinate farm crops is dependent upon their access to natural habitats. She points out the importance of restoring and protecting natural habitats on farms, a departure from the monocultural agriculture found on many large farms. Today’s photo: butterflies and sweat bees forage basil in my garden.

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