Quantcast

5 People Leading the Charge to Save the Honeybees

In 1974, a bored teenager picked up a book about bees in the library. Immediately fascinated by bees and the people who loved and cared for them, she went to work for a commercial beekeeper in New Mexico. “I never looked back,” Dr. Marla Spivak says.

Dr. Marla Spivak: Raising awareness of the declining bee population

Spivak, who now holds a doctorate in entomology from the University of Kansas, has recently turned her efforts to raising awareness of the declining bee population over the last decade, a situation with serious consequences. “Bees are the most important pollinators of flowering plants, which includes most fruits, vegetables and nuts in our diet,” she says. “Our nutrition, health and food supply depend on bees.”

Dr. Marla Spivak. Photo credit: Dan Marshall

In her lab at the University of Minnesota, Spivak breeds bees for hygienic behavior. “Hygienic bees are able to detect diseased and parasitized brood—immature bees—and weed them out of the nest,” she says. The Bee Squad, an extension and outreach program that runs from the lab, provides beekeeping services to businesses and helps educate and mentor urban beekeepers. But for those of us who aren’t scientists or beekeepers, Spivak offers a much simpler way to help bees: “Plant flowers.”

Rob & Chelsea McFarland: Welcoming bees to the city

Rob and Chelsea McFarland didn’t choose the bees; the bees chose them. “One day, we were out in the garden and a swarm showed up,” they say. Years later, the founders of the Los Angeles nonprofit HoneyLove are dedicated to training urban beekeepers and raising awareness of bees in cities.

Rob and Chelsea McFarland. Photo credit: Rebecca Cabage

As they learned more about—and fell in love with—honeybees, the McFarlands realized promoting bee habitat in cities was an important part of health and food sustainability. “We need to grow more of our food closer to home. That means growing food in the urban environment,” Rob says. “That means honeybees.”

Cities can even provide a safe haven for bees, Chelsea adds. “There are fewer pesticides in the city than in the traditional farmland setting,” she says. “Our bees are actually healthier in the city.”

HoneyLove’s mission is to spread that message through outreach and media presence. If there’s something he hopes they accomplish, Rob says, it’s “that the narrative has been changed from fear of bees to one of really embracing bees and welcoming bees into our community.”

Read page 1

Lori Ann Burd: Taking the fight to Washington, DC

In the battle for conservation, it’s nice to have someone like Lori Ann Burd on your side. Burd is the environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity, a veteran activist turned seasoned lawyer.

Lori Ann Burd

After advocating against Keystone XL and ­mountaintop-removal coal mining, Burd is now fighting the chemical industry’s use of pesticides, notably neonicotinoids. “They’re a new class of insecticide in which the entire plant is insecticidal,” Burd explains. “The plant is fine, but all parts of it are poisonous to bugs.” In March, Burd helped draft a letter urging President Obama to take action against the widespread use of these poisons and filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to fulfill its obligations under the Endangered Species Act.

“It’s hard to overestimate the importance of pollinators,” Burd says. “One out of three bites of food that we take requires pollination. What I’m trying to do is help people understand that the fate of humans is intertwined with the fate of all species.” And when asked what keeps her going in the face of constant challenge, she replies, “Winning.”

Sarah Hatton: Activist’s message beautifully written in dead bees

Sometimes you can’t understand the battle until you see the bodies. Quebec-based artist and beekeeper Sarah Hatton’s mathematical arrangements of dead honeybees are an entrancing and sobering reminder that human activity, like the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, is responsible for the death of bees on a mass scale.

Detail from “Cluster (Flower of Life).” Honeybees (Apis mellifera), resin on petri dishes, 2015. 46 x 36 inches.

After losing two of her own beehives, Hatton coped by transforming her dead bees into art. As the project gained attention, she saw the opportunity to raise awareness and help people understand the implications of bee colony collapse. Now other beekeepers donate their own casualties to her work.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

3 Problems With Obama’s Plan to Save the Bees

Thrilling Ted Talk Looks at the First 21 Days of a Bee’s Life

How Garden Centers Are Getting Toxic, Bee-Killing Pesticides Out of Their Plants and Off of Their Shelves

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Climate activists protest Chase Bank's continued funding of the fossil fuel industry on May 16, 2019 by setting up a tripod-blockade in midtown Manhattan, clogging traffic for over an hour. Michael Nigro / Pacific Press / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Julia Conley

Climate campaigners on Friday expressed hope that policymakers who are stalling on taking decisive climate action would reconsider their stance in light of new warnings from an unlikely source: two economists at J.P. Morgan Chase.

Read More
Protesters holding signs in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en Nation outside the Canadian Consulate in NYC. The Indigenous Peoples Day NYC Committee (IPDNYC), a coalition of 13 Indigenous Peoples and indigenous-led organizations gathered outside the Canadian Consulate and Permanent Mission to the UN to support the Wet'suwet'en Nation in their opposition to a Coastal GasLink pipeline scheduled to enter their traditional territory in British Columbia, Canada. Erik McGregor / LightRocket / Getty Images

Tensions are continuing to rise in Canada over a controversial pipeline project as protesters enter their 12th day blockading railways, demonstrating on streets and highways, and paralyzing the nation's rail system

Read More
Sponsored
padnpen / iStock / Getty Images

Yet another reason to avoid the typical western diet: eating high-fat, highly processed junk food filled with added sugars can impair brain function and lead to overeating in just one week.

Read More
Horseshoe Bend (seen above) is a horseshoe-shaped meander of the Colorado River in Page, Arizona. didier.camus / Flickr / public domain

Millions of people rely on the Colorado River, but the climate crisis is causing the river to dry up, putting many at risk of "severe water shortages," according to new research, as The Guardian reported.

Read More
An alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, as seen here in Christmas Valley, South Lake Tahoe, California on Feb. 15, 2020. jcookfisher / CC BY 2.0

California is headed toward drought conditions as February, typically the state's wettest month, passes without a drop of rain. The lack of rainfall could lead to early fire conditions. With no rain predicted for the next week, it looks as if this month will be only the second time in 170 years that San Francisco has not had a drop of rain in February, according to The Weather Channel.

The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.

"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."

While the Pacific Northwest has flooded from heavy rains, the southern part of the West Coast has seen one storm after another pass by. Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor said more Californians are in drought conditions than at any time during 2019, as The Weather Channel reported.

On Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor said nearly 60 percent of the state was abnormally dry, up from 46 percent just last week, according to The Mercury News in San Jose.

The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.

"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.

Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.

Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.

"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.

NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.

As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.

"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.

The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.

"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."