Portland – We don’t see many bees flying around Oregon at the end of November, but we do see the fruits of their labor. Pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, green beans and more of the foods that make Thanksgiving dinner 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 Thanksgiving,” said Celeste Meiffren-Swango, Director of Environment Oregon. “Without bees, Thanksgiving dinners in Oregon and around the country would look and taste different. No bees means no pumpkin pie.”
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 Thanksgiving favorites such as cranberries, green beans, carrots, brussel sprouts and pie fillings from pumpkin to apple. Bees also pollinate coffee, chocolate and the alfalfa eaten by dairy cows.
“At Urban Farmer, we are committed to creating a connection between the diner and the grower,” says Matt Christianson, Executive Chef of Urban Farmer in Portland. “In this case, that connection would not be possible without the tireless work of the bees from our rooftop apiary, who provide us with countless fresh ingredients and allow us to present an artful tribute to Oregon’s bounty.”
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 Oregon 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.
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 Oregon, chefs and restaurant owners are calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to stop the use of bee killing pesticides.
“I’m looking forward to eating my mom’s legendary pumpkin pie next week,” said Meiffren-Swango. “We need to take action now to protect the bees and ensure we can enjoy our favorite foods with friends and family for many Thanksgivings to come.”