While politicians and lawmakers continue to put forth the image that they’re working to save the bees, the facts on the ground remain the same: America’s pollinators are dying at an alarming rate.
According to a recent report from the USDA, American beekeepers lost a shocking 44% of their colonies from April 2015-2016, a stark decline that the Friends of the Earth organization called “too high to be sustainable for the U.S. agriculture and beekeeping industry.”
Now, a young beekeeper from one of America’s top farming states is traveling the country with millions of dead bees in hopes of waking up more people to the plight of the honey bee.
“It’s Definitely Not Just One Thing”
At age 30, Minnesota beekeeper James Cook is a bit young for his profession. But in this case it’s also an advantage as he’s able to keep his finger to the pulse of the industry nationwide while seeing its struggles first-hand, including witnessing a massive bee die-off in 2013.
“I’m only 30, and I’m looking at trying to do this as my livelihood for the rest of my life,” Cook said to the Associated Press. “I want to be part of the next generation of beekeepers, but if I don’t start talking about it and fostering discussions about it, I feel like nothing is really going to change.”
Cook is touring the country from his home base in Barrett, MN for his ‘Keep Hives Alive’ tour, which kicked off this month. It all began when loaded up his silver Dodge Ram pickup truck with the remains of 2.5 million bees, traveling the country in hopes of spreading awareness about what’s really happening at apiaries, orchards and farms everywhere.
Stops were planned for South Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C. and North Carolina according to the tour’s Facebook page throughout the month of June, with more locations expected (see the end of this article for more info on how you can support the tour).
While multiple causes have been suspected as the cause of colony collapse disorder in the United States, many activists, farmers and beekeepers on the ground believe that toxic pesticides such as neonics (bee-killing seed coatings), glyphosate sprayed en masse on GE and other crops, and other agricultural chemicals are the biggest cause that is being ignored.
“Chemical companies killing everything. This is about having a voice & demanding change.” said Lewisburg, PA beekeeper Dave Hackenberg of Hackenberg Apiaries.
On the Pennsylvania stop, farmers and beekeepers discussed the importance of switching to organic and sustainable farming.
“My chemical guy isn’t happy with me because my bill isn’t as high.” said Pennsylvania farmer Luke Criswell about his own farm’s changes, according to the Keep Hives Alive Twitter account.
New Report Blames Monsanto, Others for Bee Die-Off
The tour has kicked off right in the middle of a new report release by Friends of the Earth that implicates Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer and others in deliberate attempts to mislead the EPA and other government bodies about the true cause of the shocking bee declines.
The bombshell report alleges that they have distorted and twisted science in their favor by lobbying and creating a “revolving door” in key federal regulatory industries. It can be viewed by clicking here.
Critics of the report have pointed out that honeybee colonies in total are up about 10 percent over the past decade in total. But May survey results showed a 28 rate of bee colony losses, 11 percent higher than the industry says is acceptable according to the AP.
Considering the allegations in the FOE report above about corporate influence on science, along with the countless stories of beekeepers like Cook, it’s clear that the debate is far from over, however.
In the meantime, Cook continues his tour, hoping to spread the truth about what he and many others feel is the biggest cause of the alarming bee decline. He’s hoping to raise money to help complete the tour through an IndieGogo campaign that you can support by clicking here.
James Frazier, Professor Emeritus of Entomology at Penn State University, offered his own advice on what people can do to save the bees at a recent tour stop.
“Buy organic. Make choice w/your dollar. Vote for change. It is the right answer to ‘Keep the Hives Alive.’”
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