Boston – We don’t see many bees flying around Massachusetts in December, but we do see the fruits of their labor. Pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, apple cider, and more of the foods that make our holidays so special are possible through the work of bees. But bees are at risk. So this holiday season, chefs, restaurant owners and environmental advocates are speaking out to protect bees and help stop them from dying off at alarming rates.
“We’re thankful for bees this holiday season,” said Ben Hellerstein, Environment Massachusetts state director. “Without bees, holiday meals in Massachusetts would look and taste different. No bees means no pumpkin pie.”
Environment Massachusetts joined Chef Peter McCarthy at EVOO and Za Restaurants in Cambridge to highlight the important role that bees play in making many of our favorite holiday foods possible.
Honeybees, bumblebees, and other bees are critical both to the environment and our food supply. Bees pollinate many of the world’s most common crops, including holiday favorites such as cranberries, apples, and pumpkins. Bees also pollinate coffee, chocolate and the alfalfa eaten by dairy cows.
Unfortunately, millions of bees are dying across the U.S. every year. Beekeepers report they are losing an average of 30% of all honeybee colonies annually. Not only are honeybees are in danger; native bees, including bumblebees, are also at risk. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added the first bee in the continental U.S., the rusty patched bumblebee, to the endangered species list earlier this year.
Scientists point to several reasons why bees are dying off, including global warming, habitat loss, parasites and a class of bee-killing pesticides known as neonicotinoids, or neonics.
Sharing some of the same chemical properties as nicotine, neonics are neurotoxins that can kill bees immediately and also can disorient bees, making it harder for them to pollinate plants and get back to their hives. Despite the fact that the science is clear on the dangers, neonic use has dramatically increased over the past decade. A recent study found that 86% of North American honey sampled contained neonics.
In February, Environment Massachusetts joined with Environment America to launch the Bee Friendly Food Alliance, a national network of over 240 chefs, restaurant owners and other leaders in the food industry working to protect the bees. In Massachusetts, 12 restaurants & chefs are part of the Alliance, including EVOO and Za.
Together, chefs and restaurant owners are educating their customers and the public about the problems facing bees and the food supply and making their voices heard to protect bees. Working with Environment Massachusetts, chefs and restaurant owners are calling on state officials to stop the use of bee-killing pesticides.
The Legislature’s Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture Committee recently approved An Act to protect Massachusetts pollinators (H.2113 and S.2164). This bill, filed by Representative Carolyn Dykema and Senator Jamie Eldridge, would restrict the use of neonicotinoid pesticides linked to bee die-offs. The legislation now sits before the House Ways and Means Committee.
“We need to take action now to protect the bees and ensure we can enjoy our favorite holiday foods with friends and family for many years to come,” said Hellerstein.
Environment Massachusetts is a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization working for a cleaner, greener, healthier future.