Crunch Time for Bees

by Kate Franzman

Fall isn’t really the time of year we think about bees. Fall is for pumpkins, crisp air, crunching leaves, Halloween and spooky things. This time of year, however, is crucial to many insects, especially honeybees.

Let me tell you about the birds and the bees, aka pollination. Since plants can’t just get up and walk across the yard to reproduce, they rely on pollinators to do the job for them. And bees need plants, too. They gather the sweet nectar, take it back to the hive, and create honey. Honey is bees’ food year-round, but it’s especially crucial in the colder months, when bees won’t come outside the hive and nothing’s blooming anyway.

Right now, it’s crunch time for the bees. They are working their little stingers off to create a store of honey that will get them through the impending cold season.

Unfortunately, that supply doesn’t go as far as it used to. Scientists have found that climate change is altering the nutrition of plants. The nectar in some plants is starchier and the pollen, which bees also eat, has less protein. This results in poor nutrition and a weakened immune system for bees, leaving them more vulnerable to parasites such as varroa mites.

So as we round the corner to Thanksgiving and other holidays where we celebrate the abundance of Mother Nature, let us not forget the humble bee, and all she’s given us (a third of our food supply). Maybe our New Year’s Resolution will be to give her something back.

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