So by now quite a lot of you have probably heard that not only are bees incredibly important, but that the bee population is actually having a bit of hard time.
Why are Bees Important? (British Beekeepers Association)
- We use more than just the honey from honey bees – we also harvest pollen and wax.
- About 70% of crops in the UK are either dependent on bees, or benefit from bees.
- Bees don't just help with human food crops, they pollinate crops which are used to feed animals in the wild and farm animals.
- We would lose about 30% of the food we eat if there were no bees.
- They are responsible for around 400 different agricultural types of plant (One Green Planet).
What's the Problem?
The bee population is declining at an alarming pace.
According to the British Beekeepers Association, one of the things causing problems for the bees is the 'Varroa Mite' is and it's only the efforts of beekeepers that are keeping honey bee colonies alive. Most wild honey bee colonies have already died because of this mite.
Sadly, and ironically studies show that it's also our farming practices which are causing a lot of damage to the bee colonies (The Guardian). The very practices that are used to ensure maximum yield may just result in a third of the food we eat being lost forever. One Green Planet lists a few of the foods we would not have anymore – broccoli (think of the vitamin C), strawberries (where would Eton Mess, the classic dessert, be without strawberries?), almonds and cherries (goodbye Cherry Bakewell's), apples (we all know an apple a day keeps the doctor away), and cranberries (we can't lose the craisins!).
But seriously, without the bees pollinating 400 or so plants (and providing us with honey), things would look seriously different at your local farmers market and supermarkets in a very bad way.
Blimey, why is this happening?
Studies show that bees that are exposed to pesticides are more likely to get sick, lost, and die . Not only do the pesticides damage the bees immune system and confuse their amazing sense of direction, it also damages their homes to they can't thrive even when they do manage to not get sick or lost.
How Pesticides harm the Bees
Pesticides are used in farming to get rid of unwanted pests. Put like that it sounds pretty sensible – if you don't want pests, get rid of them using pesticides. However, pesticides are also toxic to the honeybees. If a bee is in the field when a pesticide is sprayed the bee dies instantly. This is the best scenario. If the bee survives and takes pesticide contamination back to the hive, the whole hive could become contaminated and suffer from sickness, which may result in the whole hive dying out (Hive and Honey Apiary).
Pesticides harm bees brains – it literally makes them forget what they are doing, what flowers smell like, and makes them a slow learner.
Pesticides are directly linked to an increased rate of colony death (Phys Org)
Well stop chatting about it and tell me how I can help?!
Luckily there are things we can do to give the bees a helping hand. One Green Planet has a useful article – 5 Easy Ways to Help the Bees so check it out (and plant some bee friendly flowers). One of the things they touch on is going organic, which makes a lot of sense to me. They. Outlying reference organic food but with the amount of pesticides being used to grow cotton I think organic cotton deserves a mention.
According to Ethical Fashion Forum "[producing] cotton uses 22.5% of the world’s insecticides and 10% of all pesticides, on 2.5% of agricultural land". That is a lot of pesticide and insecticide and it needs to be cut down. Choosing organic cotton could make a big difference.
Another Reason to Choose Organic Cotton
Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN UK) write a really good article about the concerns of using pesticides. They acknowledge that cotton is a tough crop to grow and don't just focus on the environment, but also on the workers health. Before I read this I had no idea pesticide poisoning was responsible for 1000 deaths per day (seriously). It's also linked to cancer and breathing difficulties.
Buying Organic Cotton
I've recently started designing fabric patterns and selling them via a website called Spoonflower. They offer two types of organic fabric (as well as loads of non- organic but eco friendly fabrics) and literally thousands of designs. Before I discovered this website I struggled to find a wide variety of prints in organic fabric (especially perfect patterned knit fabric). Other websites that sell awesome organic fabric are Minerva Crafts, My Fabrics and Ray Stitch (I'll go into detail about where to buy organic fabric in my next post).
I've linked all the websites I used in writing this within the text, however if you want to do some extra reading here are a few interesting reads:
- The World Counts – this has some scary information about dangers of pesticides which are in your clothes, and how much worldwide has been spent on cotton pesticides.
- Mother Earth News – a great article on the benefits of going organic with your cotton.
- Beyond Pesticides – an easy to read leaflet which explains everything I have written in more a bit more detail and also includes a section on Colony Collapse Disorder.
You need to be a member to see these articles but as non-members you can read the short abstract.