It has become clear that bee populations are declining more rapidly than expected. In fact, as Colony Collapse Disorder progresses, 1 in 4 native bee species are at risk for extinction. And this is bad news for our diets. New research from the working group at UC Santa Barbara’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis showed that:
“…animal-pollinated crops contain the majority of the available dietary lipid, vitamin A, C, and E, and a large portion of the minerals calcium, fluoride, and iron worldwide. The yield increase attributable to animal-dependent pollination of these crops is significant and could have a potentially drastic effect on human nutrition if jeopardized.”
Bees pollinate 70 of the world’s 100 most consumed crops. Most of the nutritional diversity in the American diet is entirely dependent on bees. Yes, you could live off of soda, grains, meat and beer, but there would still be a huge gaping hole in your nutrition. In fact, this is especially apparent if we look at how much of an impact bees have on a nutritious breakfast. If you are anything like me, here are 7 favorite breakfast foods that are in jeopardy if bee populations continue to decline in massive numbers.
Any almond butter/almond milk fans out there? Almonds rely hugely on bees for pollination, requiring multiple hives per acre of almond trees. In California, where 80 percent of the world’s almonds are harvested, there aren’t enough bees to keep up. Growers actually have to lease bees from other parts of the country and have them shipped in so that the almond blossoms can get pollinated—which can be pretty disruptive and extremely harmful to the bees, who aren’t made for traveling long distances away from their home environment. Needless to say, almonds do not exist without bees.
If you enjoy avocado toast, it is time to listen up. Avocados rely on pollinators, mainly bees, to produce fruit and effectively reproduce. A substantial drop in bee populations would make avocados more scarce and even more expensive than they already are. Nobody wants that.
I don’t know about you, but I use coconut oil for everything. Yes, coconuts are mainly wind-pollinated, but yields can potentially double when bees are present. While the absence of bees might not spell doom for the magical coconut, it is unlikely that production could keep up with the current trend of “coconut makes everything better” without a boost from bees.
For 54 percent of American adults, coffee is the most important part of any morning. Luckily, coffee is self-pollinating, meaning it will continue to exist even if bees do not. However, while bees aren’t essential for coffee production, their interaction increases the quality and yield of the coffee plants by as much as 50 percent. If bees were to disappear, coffee would likely become much more expensive and harder to get. With so many people relying on coffee daily, this isn’t good news.
There is no better way to start a day than with a big bowl of fresh berries or a berry blast smoothie. But, bees are hugely responsible for pollinating most berries. If we lose the bees, we lose juicy, colorful, supremely healthful berries as well. So long, blueberry pancakes.
Love your morning glass of o.j.? A world of few bees is a world with little citrus. While navel oranges are self-pollinating, it is estimated that 90 percent of oranges rely on bees for pollination. We need bees if we want to continue to enjoy those glorious orange bundles of juice.
This one should be obvious, but stop for a minute and think about how incredibly delicious honey is—especially on almond butter toast. Without bees, honey is the first thing to disappear from our morning tables, which is why it is important to support honey farmers. The more sustainable, honey-harvesting beekeepers the world has, the more support bee populations will get. Think honey harvesting is dangerous and cruel to bees? Consider the massive populations of bees that are killed when they are shipped in to pollinate foods like almonds just so you can have almond milk on the table. Entire colonies are collapsing as we ship them across the country to do our bidding in unfamiliar, pesticide-ridden territory. Honey farmers are increasing our bee populations, often in sustainable and humane ways. Support local honey.
Bees are hugely responsible for the diversity and nutritional-punch of our breakfast plates. Sure, you can live on eggs, bacon and toast, but the foods that bees bring to the breakfast table are some of the most colorful and nutritious foods we have. Take a minute to thank bees for your next smoothie bowl, avocado toast or almond milk latte. They are pretty amazing little workers.