Jack Simpson: Bees in danger



It has been a few years now that a sizeable colony of bees took up residence in the eaves of my house. Seeing them there, I naturally feared for family safety and considered using my best bug spray to discourage them from hanging around.

After some thought, I realized how important bees were in nature ... so I contacted a local beekeeper to see if he could come and remove them.

A gentleman showed up in his bee suit, jacket, veil, hat and gloves with a smoker to remove the swarm. Mission accomplished and no one was stung. It turned out to be a wise decision, because today bees are in danger of extinction.

Ask the beekeepers in Maryland who are complaining that something is killing honey bees and the suspect is pesticides.

Of course, this is serious business because of our dependence on pollinators like butterflies, birds and bees. A loss of any of these creatures will result in declining agriculture yields. Prices will rise for food such as melons, berries, apples, etc. if bees die off. Pesticides, toxins, parasites and bad weather have all contributed to a 31 percent decline in bee colonies just last winter. Billions of dollars will be lost if crops lack pollinators.

It is scary to think of the consequences if we cannot reverse this decline in bee deaths. Perhaps it is time to remove certain chemicals from the marketplace. Few bans of these products have been imposed thus far.

Those who manufacture and sell some of the questionable pesticides argue that not only chemicals but poor nutrition and loss of genetic diversity also cause the death of bees. Even so, Europe has imposed a moratorium on certain chemicals used in agriculture. Maybe we should follow their lead. Why? Because bees pollinate 70 percent of the world's important crops and their deaths can be disastrous. We could be faced with lower crop yields and higher prices.

The United States government is getting more concerned. Environmental Protection teams have already gone into California to study the problem. That state has even brought hives from Montana to pollinate their 800,000 acres of almonds. No bees. No harvest.

Let the studies continue and wise decisions be made to stop the decline in bees. Restrict certain pesticides if that is what it takes. In spite of their painful sting, we still hold bees in high regard just as I once did when finding them in the eaves of my house. Sorry to say yellow jackets, wasps and hornets still have not earned my respect!

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.