Students speak: Declining bee populations
As part of their AP U.S. Government studies, Marshfield High School students researched and compiled information on an issue they cared about and wrote letters to the editor. Hub City Times will publish a collection of their letters.
I recently discovered that Wildwood Zoo has become a home to a colony of honey bees. Bees have been the subject of national debate for the past several years as there has been a steep decline in their numbers. I feel that the arrival of these bees to our community is an appropriate time to inform the public of the national bee situation and what can be done to protect them.
According to the Department of Agriculture, in 2014 alone, 60 percent of Wisconsin’s bees died off, almost twice as much as in 2013. In 2015 more than 7,000 honey bee colonies nationwide were lost.
This fast growing problem requires fast action. Research, though not able to pinpoint an exact cause of this decline, does point to several factors that certainly contribute to the bees’ depleted numbers. One of these factors is the spraying of pesticides, notably neonicotinoids, newly developed pesticides that attack an insect’s central nervous system.
Like many animals, urbanization leads to the destruction of bees’ habitats. Separated by urban areas, bee populations may become isolated from others, losing genetic diversity and making colonies more susceptible to viruses. Mites and viruses may cause wing deformities and paralysis, and fungicides are thought to lower bee immunity to these viruses. Migratory bees, or bees that are trucked around the country to pollinate crops, may carry viruses that are spread to each area they visit.
Bees are responsible not only for the creation of our honey but also in the pollination of many crops, so their decline has a profound impact on our own community and globally.
Here are a few easy steps anyone can take to improve life for bees. Avoid using pesticides if possible, especially if plants are in bloom, and be sure to read the labels on insecticides before use. Plant native flowers in your yard, or let dandelions and clover grow so that bees can pollinate. Buy produce from local or organic farmers to support those not using pesticides. Finally, tell lawmakers to support bee research, regulate pesticides like neonicotinoids that may contribute to the decline, and extend tax exemptions for beekeepers with any number of hives.