A Story of Bees and Drought

Image via  Rakib Hasan Sumon/Flickr
Image via Rakib Hasan Sumon/Flickr

Bees are dying. For the past several months, on a daily to weekly basis, I have noticed bees floundering on the ground, struggling to fly, or lying down with their life force gone. Has anyone else noticed this?

I did not think too much about it. Just kept this nugget of information in the back of my mind, figuring it was a normal occurrence. However, that may not be the case.

According to an article by Alice Daniel on KQED, California Drought Dries Up Honey Supply, I learned that the drought is a big factor in the demise of the honey bee. Central Valley beekeeper David Bradshaw explains that he has to feed his bees a syrup blend to keep them from going hungry. Nectar from wildflowers, sage, buckwheat, alfalfa and other plants are not available this year due to the drought. With a lack of water, these plants are staying dormant instead of producing nectar rich flowers.

The article also reports from Gene Brandi, the vice-president of American Beekeeping Federation, that California is typically a top producing state for honey. However, he explains that with the drought this time around there is a scarcity with both rainwater and irrigation water.

What does the future of California look like if this drought persists?

There are already weekly news articles about water issues from across the state, particularly in Central Valley on the over-use of ground water, sinking water tables, and uncertainty of water availability in some communities. Not to mention this recent article that indicates that El Nino is no longer a sure thing this coming winter.

With a moderate chance of rain this winter let us consider the historic precedence of drought in California. The chart below indicates that during the medieval time period California experienced two “megadroughts” spanning 200 years. Now that is a scary prospect.

via Mercury News

So if those “megadroughts” occurred in our recent past, pre industrial revolution, what does that mean for our present and future with climate change thrown into the mix?

A report, Indicators of Climate Change in California, by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, explains that summertime temperatures have increased between 1950 and 2010 in California. Daytime heat temperature increased for all of California expect for Central Valley, while nighttime heat temperature increased for all of California.

According to the report “increases in both minimum and maximum temperatures, particularly during the summer, are expected to have public health, ecological, and economic impacts, such as heat-related deaths and illnesses, decreased agriculture production, and greater demands on California’s electricity supply.”

Additionally, a white paper released by the California Climate Change Center indicates that “climate change will increase the number of dry years and decrease the number of wet years.”

The climate is going through an uncertain transition prompted by our impact on the earth. Inevitably there is always change, but man-made change is not the same. The question is do we do something about it or sit back and watch?


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