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The Decline of Bee Populations in South Carolina

Background Information

Do you eat produce regularly? Have you ever thought about what is necessary so that you can eat the fruit or vegetable? Many processes occur but also many bees are necessary for pollination of the plant. Only after the plant is pollinated, it is able to produce a fruit.

There are many types of bees (31 different species of bees and wasps in South Carolina (*6)) but one characteristic they all share is that they are pollinators. There have been many reportings over the last decades about “massive bee deaths” during which thousands of bees die within a short time period. One local example is the bee death that occurred in South Carolina, in August of 2016, sadly there are much more around the globe. These mass bee deaths have been happening for decades all around the world, but only since the internet spread, have these cases reached global news. In the case of South Carolina last year, the government sprayed pesticides to kill mosquitos carrying the Zika virus in them. This is the reason why I asked myself how we, as a community, can prevent such carnage. During my research, I came across several hurdles the bees have to overcome and most were associated with the food supply. So I looked into how everyone can help the bees overcome the lack of food and create a sustainable way of doing so.

The Bigger Picture

We not only need bees as pollinators for our plants for produce but think about the bigger picture! We eat cheese, which is produced from milk. Milk is from cows, sheep or other animals which need food too, mostly grass. This grass is pollinated by pollinators such as bees. So once the bees go extinct there are not enough pollinators for all the plants. We see this phenomenon already in countries like China, where workers pollinate plants by hand. Another way even local farmers solve this lack of pollinators (especially for peach and apple trees) is by bringing in bee hives for a limited time period and allowing them to pollinate the trees. After this process is over, the beekeepers take their bees to the next farm where their help is desperately needed.

 

Issues:

  1. The mass bee death 2016: The Mr. Bousman (*2) and Mr. Greer (*3), both free time beekeepers, said many beekeepers had been informed about the spray of pesticides but did not properly protect their bees, leading to the death of millions of bees.
  2.  The effect of climate change on bees: Mr. Greer said due to the abnormal and unstable climate the bees tend to fly out at irregular times, decreasing their survival rate over the winter. Mr. Bousman on the other hand proposed a different perspective on the issue. He said global warming might even increase their survival rate since the winters are getting less harsh, decreasing the mortality rate.
  3. How to support the bees: To this question, all of them answer the same thing, decrease or entirely stop the use of pesticides and harsh cleaning products. But Mr. Greer had another idea, planting bee-friendly flowers, which the Obama Administration supported. [(“They make use of food and habitat anywhere it is found, whether on national park
    land, a roadside strip, the edge of an agricultural field, or a schoolyard garden. Therefore, no single
    organization, Federal or private, can independently shoulder the burden of helping pollinators, and the
    Task Force has been charged with an “all hands on deck” approach to promoting the health of honey
    bees and other pollinators.” *4) If you want to learn more about it…(links to external site)]

Eye-Opening Survey Results:

I conducted a survey (*5) in which I posed two questions and the results are the following:

Although many were aware of the bee crisis, many others did not think it was not an issue nor a global issue (6 out of 86).

I’m interested to hear what you think, so if you could please take the survey below.

Create your own user feedback survey

Thank you!

 Raising Awareness

I conducted a survey to find out what students at my school think about bees. While looking at the results I noticed they do not know much about bees in general, so I decided to raise awareness by going to the 5th grade to talk about bees, why they are important to our ecosystem and why/how we can help them flourish. I had planned to go out with the kids and plant bee-friendly flower seeds while speaking about the bees and the challenges they face not only in South Carolina but also globally. Sadly, the weather got in the way (tornado warning  🙄 ) and I just presented my project and went out with them the following week. We had so much fun deciding where to plant the seeds and what flower seeds were.

I bought the flower seeds according to what grows well in the area and how bee-friendly they are. These are a few examples of flowers:

Sunflower (*10)                                  Poppy (*11)                                             Zinnia (*12)

Sustainability

By going out with the 5th grade I hope I have not just raised awareness but also inspired someone to help protect our bees. When inspiring younger children in our community we can create sustainability since they too will go out and help in the future. When deciding where to plant the flowers I thought of where they can be seen, maintained and are valuable to the ecosystem. So I chose the “garden” area between the middle and high school, where there are only trees, a pond, and shrubs. Since my entire IB class is doing this project, we came together and are reviving the garden. One of my peers is putting mosaic stepping stones out of recycled glass in the garden, one is tree tagging with middle school students and another is making kudzu crafts to hang in the garden. I hope next year we will be able to place a bee hive there since a couple of my school’s teachers are bee keepers and we might even start a beekeeping club. We are not only reviving the ecosystem there but also trying to interest younger children for the ecosystem in general and show them how important it is for all of us.

Above is a picture of the garden area between the middle and high school (l.) and one of the many patches where we planted flower seeds(r.).

I would love to hear what your school or community is doing… (please comment)

Thank You!

References Cited:

*1 Whitten, Dan. SCNPS Upstate Chapter President. E-mail interview. March 2017. (South Carolina Native Plant Society website: http://scnps.org/)

*2 Bousman, Eric. In-person interview. March 2017.

*3 Greer, Brad. In-person interview. March 2017.

 *4     White House. National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. Retrieved from: http://apps.washingtonpost.com/g/documents/politics/national-strategy-to-promote-the-health-of-honey-bees-and-other-pollinators/1554/

*5 “Make Better Decisions with the World’s #1 Survey Platform.” SurveyMonkey: Free Online Survey Software & Questionnaire Tool. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2017.

*6 “Of South+Carolina.” Insect Identification – Identifying Bugs of North America. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2017.

*7 Webmaster. “Bee Pollination.” Bee Pollination. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2017.

*8 Ko, Oleg. “Bee.” S: Pictures, Information, Classification and More. N.p., 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 12 Apr. 2017.

*9 N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2017

*10 “Sunflower.” Wikipedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2017.

*11 Poppy.” N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.

*12 N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.

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COMMENTS: 3
  1. April 27, 2017 by Leena

    This page is great! I’m so happy you spoke up about this, as this topic is so important in my opinion and affects us all!

  2. April 30, 2017 by Haley P

    I really enjoyed your presentation and think that this is such an important topic that tends to get pushed to the side or ignored. I think that you wrote about your topic in a really clear and engaging way that allows the audience to understand the topic and recognize their own impact and connection to this reality. I was wondering if there are also other ways to help protect the bee populations and how the consumption of honey impacts bee populations? Thanks!

    • April 30, 2017 by Mia W

      Hello Haley,
      Thank you for your comment. There are other ways to support bees. One example is using less to no pesticides in your home and/or garden. Beekeepers for example use sugar water during harsh winters to reduce mortality rates since there are little to no food sources over the winter, this is similar to bird feeding. On one hand, this lowers the mortality but on the other hand the honey that the bees produce with the sugar water is thrown away.
      Another way to support bees is to actually just buy them and start beekeeping.
      Thank you for the great question!

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