By Chef Martin Lopez
When you think of honeybees, you probably picture beehives abuzz with activity and that sweet, sticky honey that bees produce. But did you know that honeybees are responsible for far more than just the honey that comes from their hives?
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), bee pollination accounts for about $15 billion in added crop value – value far beyond the product of the hive alone. Honeybees contribute to approximately one in every three bites of food eaten daily by people living in North America. That is because many, nearly 100 varieties, of the fruits, vegetables, and nuts that are part of our diet rely on honeybees. Much of the food your company consumes at meetings and events depends on this bee pollination, delivering produce from hive to plate!
The Collapsing Hives
In recent years, bees have faced increasing trouble in maintaining their health. Multiple factors, such as pests and disease, lack of a varied diet, exposure to pesticides, and harmful hive management practices, have contributed to anywhere between 30 and 40 percent of hives succumbing to collapse every year. In areas with harsh winters, the rates are even higher.
Additionally, a recent study found that agricultural practices in the United States have become 48 times more toxic to insects over the past 25 years. This is largely due to a class of pesticide called neonicotinoid pesticides, or neonics, which can be particularly harmful for honeybees. Over a 22-year period, researchers found that neonics accounted for 92% of the increased toxicity found in honeybees.
Urban Beekeeping on the Rise
Surprisingly, at least one solution to the array of issues that have been affecting honeybee and hive health over the past 30 years appears to be urban beekeeping. Just 10 years ago, there were only about 300 beekeepers in urban areas throughout the United States. Today, that estimate has increased to more than 1,000.
In the absence of large-scale pesticide use in urban areas compared to rural areas, city bees seems to be thriving. The success of urban beekeeping may also be attributed to greater dietary diversity in urban settings, which seems contrary to what you might expect. Increased industrial farming has led to increased monocultures in the countryside, however, which limits the food choices of bees in rural areas.
Take Action with Your Company
Modern beekeeping in urban settings is doing more than just improving the health of bees. In many ways, it is also improving the communities in which urban beekeeping takes place.
An impactful way to engage your company at the next group outing is by working with local, urban beekeeper organizations to build hives and help reestablish and grow honeybee colonies. The group effort required for this project makes for a great teambuilding exercise, and it also reverses the declining population of honeybees and promotes pollination.
To learn more about Chef Martin Lopez, visit his website: www.ChefMartin.net.