“Flight of the Bumblebee” is an orchestral interlude written by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov for an opera composed in 1899–1900. It is a delightful piece that I have enjoyed listening to from time to time for more than sixty years.
This article, though, is about the plight of bumblebees, honey bees, monarch butterflies and other important pollinators that are now dying out at present.
You probably have been hearing about this serious problem, deserving our attention, although it doesn’t make the nightly news very often. But here are some things I have recently found and read/watched:
On April 19, 2013, Bill Moyers presented and introduced a short documentary “Dance of the Honey Bee,” narrated by environmental activist Bill McKibben. Here is the link to this significant video.
Some of you may remember that McKibben, whom I mentioned in my May 15 blog article, is a major opponent of the Keystone Pipeline. He is also a strong proponent of bees: his 2013 book is titled Oil and Honey.
Last month HuffPost posted an article with some interesting interactive photos that you might want to take a look at. The title is “This Is What Your Grocery Store Looks Like Without Bees.”
Just a month ago, on June 20, the White House issued a Presidential memorandum titled “Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators.” That document begins with these words:
Pollinators contribute substantially to the economy of the United States and are vital to keeping fruits, nuts, and vegetables in our diets. Honey bee pollination alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year in the United States.
(To see the whole document, click here.)
A few days later, journalist Gregory Barber of NPR posted an article titled “White House Task Force To Save Bees Stirs Hornet’s Nest.” As this article points out,
At the center of the controversy is the bee initiative’s language asking the Environmental Protection Agency to investigate the role of neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides that researchers have implicated in the disintegration of bee colonies.
And as you might guess, it is the companies that make and sell neonicotinoids who are most upset. Others, though, fear that discontinued use of insecticides would also reduce the production of corn and other crops used for human and animal food.
It is reported that in the U.S., neonicotinoids shield over 90% of the corn crop from pests.
The new government action is causing a big headache especially for the Bayer company, the pharmaceutical company founded in Germany in 1863 and the first to use the name Aspirin (even having that name trademarked until the end of WWI). It is the major producer of neonicotinoids.
Just as the tobacco companies used to do, Bayer is claiming that their pesticide product is safe for use. On their current website, they proclaim, “Bayer has proudly dedicated 25 years to ensuring the protection of bees through its Bee Care Program.”
Monsanto is another major producer of pesticides that are suspected of killing bees. And like Bayer, Monsanto is trying to debunk that charge. Last year they held the Honey Bee Health Summit (info. here).
In his Memorandum, though, the President said,
The problem is serious and requires immediate attention to ensure the sustainability of our food production systems, avoid additional economic impact on the agricultural sector, and protect the health of the environment.
I wish the Task Force well in their efforts to alleviate the plight of bumblebees and other pollinators. After all, our food supply depends on it!