Bees are dying at an alarming rate, which is negatively affecting the environment, economy and human health. The main cause of the increasing deaths comes from a phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind their queen, plenty of food, and the immature bees, according to the EPA. There are many possible causes, including pesticides, mites, poor-quality queens, starvation, loss of habitat, and climate change.
From January through March 2017, 84.4 thousand honey bee colonies died due to CCD. This is a 27 percent decrease from the same time period in 2016, according to United States Department of Agriculture.
Julia Cartabiano, farm manager at the University of Connecticut Spring Valley Student Farm, said that Colony Collapse Disorder would be devastating for the hives at Spring Valley.
“We [would] have to start all over again with new hives. We wouldn’t get any honey the first year. It would impact [UConn] financially,” Cartabiano said. “It would decrease the number of pollinators in the garden... [T]hat could impact the pollination of our vegetables. It’s not just one thing, it’s a variety of factors.”
Cartabiano said a bee loss would also affect UConn on a more personal level.
“Dining Services uses the honey in Chuck and Augie’s restaurant. Catering uses the honey in their products and if there is extra, they sell it at the C-Store [located in the Student Union]. We have a beekeeping club on campus and they extract honey from their hives,” Cartabiano said. “One of the farmers at Spring Valley Student Farm, Danny Mitola… took care of the bees this past summer, will work with them this semester and is a member of the UConn Beekeeping club.”
In addition to Mitola, there are several UConn students working with bees and the promotion of bee awareness. Emily O'Hara, a sophomore, is the secretary of UConnPIRG and the campaign coordinator for the Save the Bees campaign.
“Save the Bees is dedicated to advocating for the protection of pollinators not only here at UConn, but also in the community, throughout the state and on a national level,” O’Hara said. “Last semester, we collected more than 500 photo petitions of students letting the EPA know that they believe pollinators should be protected.”
The Save the Bees campaign targets harmful pesticides called neonicotinoids (sometimes shortened to neonics), O’Hara said, which have destructive properties on bees and their hives and can contribute to Colony Collapse Disorder. The state of Connecticut significantly restricted the use of these pesticides in the spring of 2016.
“Bee populations have been declining at a rate of 40 percent per year, and what a lot of people don't realize is the fact that bees are responsible for one in every three forkfuls of food we eat. That means that without bees, we wouldn't have a significant amount of our food; even dairy would be impacted because bees pollinate much of the grass cows eat,” O’Hara said.
“Right now, we need to be cognizant of how we benefit from our environment, and we cannot afford to be complacent. We will be the [first] generation that feels the effects of any harm being done to our environment. To have a better future, we have the opportunity now to volunteer, advocate and actually make tangible change,” O’Hara said.
Rachel Philipson is a contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.