May 012014
 

Honeybee visiting native New England AsterMary J. Metzger

Honeybee visiting native New England Aster

Ten thousand bees must fly to 2 million flowers to make one pound of honey. You can taste the result of this busy work at a honey tasting at the Groton Public Library, Tuesday, May 6, 6:15 p.m., followed by a showing of More Than Honey: A Film on the Disappearance of Honeybees at 7 p.m. The event is co-sponsored by the library and Groton Local with support of the Town of Groton Trust Funds’ Lecture Fund.

The honey is provided by Cambridge-based Follow the Honey, which seeks raw untreated honeys all over the world to foster peaceful economic development, in what the company calls “bees without borders,” or “beeplomacy.”

“More Than Honey” is a 2012 Swiss documentary film about a global story, the world-wide disappearance of European honey bees. Oscar-nominated director Markus Imhoof investigates the mystery of bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), which appears to have many interacting causes. Mites, viruses, loss of habitat, malnutrition, droughts, and pesticides are all studied as contributing to the crash in commercial honey bee hive populations across the earth. Since 2006, an average of 30% of U.S. bee colonies have been lost each winter, twice the acceptable rate.

The title of the movie is apt, as bees contribute much more to humans than honey. A third of the food plants we consume need honey bees for pollination, including apples, almonds, strawberries, and flowering fields for livestock grazing. In 2005, before the collapse, the Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimated the honey bee’s pollination of global crops to be worth close to $200 billion. CCD has led to increased production costs for farmers who struggle to find adequate numbers of commercially rented hives. In some parts of China, pollination of fruit trees now has to be done by hand, due to the loss of bees.

Asian honey bee populations, which cannot be domesticated, have also declined in recent years, but not as dramatically. These native bees yield less honey but are more adapted to the environment. Saving the ancient traditions of honey-gatherers also saves their forests.

In the Americas, European honey bees are not native bees, but they will forage a variety of plants, native and non-native. Gardeners can provide food for honey bees and all native pollinators by not mowing native weeds, like goldenrod, whose nectar supports scores of pollinators. The elimination of pesticide use is also beneficial for all bees and other pollinators.

Register for the program on the Groton Public Library web site.