Not sure if you’ve heard, but bees are dying at an alarming rate. You’ve probably seen the meme that’s been circulating for the past few years, but it’s also something that celebrities like Morgan Freeman, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Scarlett Johannson aren’t here to joke around about.
McDonald’s built a tiny restaurant for bees in Sweden, Haagen-Dazs gives away free ice cream once a year to raise awareness about the declining population of honeybees, and Morgan Freeman converted his 124-acre ranch into a bee haven. We should all be taking steps to ensure our bumbley friends stick around.
The Bees Needs
Morgan Freeman is doing everything possible to stop the honeybee population from complete extinction. Freeman took up beekeeping in 2014 in an effort to halt the mass bee die-off currently happening in the United States.
As he said in a 2016 interview with Larry King, “There’s been a frightening loss of bee colonies, particularly in this country.” In order to do his part, Freeman has converted his Mississippi ranch into a paradise for bee colonies.
The 82-year-old Tennessee native imported more than two dozen beehives from Arkansas to his 124-acre Mississippi ranch, which he turned into a haven for honeybees by planting tons of bee-friendly plants.
Clover, lavender, and about 140 magnolia trees were all planted at the newly-converted bee sanctuary (as well as other plants) to welcome the bees and make sure they thrive while living at Freeman’s ranch.
In an interview with Jimmy Fallon shortly after he started beekeeping, Freeman talked about his relationship with his bees. “And what I’ve discovered is I don’t have to put on a bee suit or anything to feed them” to which Jimmy replied “that’s wrong. That’s a rookie mistake. You’re going to get stung by bees.”
Morgan says you just have to “resonate” with the bees and they’ll never sting him. How could they ever sting a man with a voice like that anyways? Freeman also has no intention of harvesting the honey or disrupting their beehavior, he is simply there to provide a solid environment for them.
Why Are Bees Dying At An Alarming Rate
The overall reason that we’re losing so many bees is called Colony Collapse Disorder, which is a result of four main contributors: pesticides, parasites, poor nutrition, and stress caused from climate change and relocation.
According to Greenpeace’s website, the number of working bee colonies in the U.S. has gone down by 90% since 1962, due to Colony Collapse Disorder. A typical beehive or colony will decline by 5-10% every year during the winter, potentially 15-20% if it’s a particularly bad year. In the U.S., winter losses have reached 30-50%.
Why Should You Care
80% of the world’s food crop cultivation comes from bees, and 70/100 of the top human food crops – which supply approximately 90% of the world’s nutrition – are pollinated by bees. It’s estimated every 1 in 3 bites of food we eat is made possible due to honey bees and other pollinators.
If honey bees become extinct, humans as a species will be on the verge of extinction. Without bees, we would no longer have foods like apples, oranges, onions, almonds, broccoli or avocadoes, which would really sting.
Bees aren’t just important for humans; they’re crucial members of the ecosystem. Pollinators like honeybees support the growth of flowers and other plants, which contribute as food and shelter for other creatures in our ecosystem. Bees also help with vital growth in areas like tropical forests or woodlands. Tree species like willows or poplars wouldn’t be able to grow without bees.
You won’t beelieve how valuable bees are from a monetary perspective either. It’s estimated bees contribute more than $40 billion to the US economy every year because of all the crops they help produce.
From a less cheery perspective, bees serve their place on the food chain under many animals. At least 24 species of birds, including blackbirds, hummingbirds, and starlings all prey on bees. Spiders and insects like dragonflies or praying mantises also feed off of bees.
Sure, maybe you don’t like spiders, or maybe you don’t care if they have a food source or not, but every animal or insect – no matter how creepy looking they are – contributes to our ecosystem.
others helping out
Morgan Freeman isn’t the only person trying to save the bees either. Actress Scarlett Johansson took up beekeeping in the late 2000s after she was gifted a beehive full of bees as a wedding present from Samuel L. Jackson following a discussion about the global collapse of bees.
Pope Francis owns several hives on his Vatican farm at Castel Gandolfo. The papal bees help with the pollination of 800-year-old olive trees, an orchard, and multiple vegetable gardens at the 50-acre self-sustaining farm.
The White House has been home to their own presidential colony of bees since 2009 when First Lady Michelle Obama requested a hive for her garden. I wonder if the Queen Bee would meet with President Obama about issues of state…
Approximately 35,000 bees still call the White House their home away from a hive and are tended to by Charlie Brandts, the White House beekeeper. The White House chef uses the honey and these presidential bees are also responsible for the White House Honey Ale that is served on site.
McDonald’s opened the world’s smallest restaurant location, named the McHive, as part of a global initiative to save the honey bee population. The McHive was opened for ‘thousands of important guests’ and is meant to be a tribute to McDonald’s locations in Sweden that have been placing beehives on their roof. Each rooftop hive can home around 20,000 bees.
The replica comes fully equipped with two drive-thru windows and an outdoor patio with mini umbrellas. The McHive was then auctioned off for US$10,000 which was donated to charity.
Haagen Dazs Loves Honey Bees
Haagen-Dazs started their “Haagen-Dazs loves Honey Bees’ initiative in 2008, and since then they’ve donated more than $1 million to honey bee research. The funds they donated go to the honey bee research facility at the University Of California, Davis, which is the largest and most comprehensive state-supported apiculture facility in North America.
In 2016, Haagen-Dazs planted 6.5 miles of hedgerow at the farm of their almond supplier as well, which created a pollinator habitat for bees for an entire year.
In 2016, Haagen-Dazs planted 6.5 miles of hedgerow and 11,000 drought-tolerant shrubs and flowering plants over 840 acres of farmland at their almond supplier in California’s Central Valley. These plants created a pollinator habitat for bees for an entire year.
Haagen-Dazs believes that “by working hand-in-hand with our farmer suppliers to change the way ingredients are grown, we can better support native bee populations and help keep these little heroes buzzing.”
Getting Everyone Buzzing
For the past several years, Haagen-Dazs has hosted a ‘Free Cone Day’ in late spring or early summer as a way to bring attention to the decline of the honey bee population. In exchange for your free cone, the company hopes to teach their customers about the protection of bees and also to raise donations.
Haagen-Dazs’ website also highlights their flavors that would cease to exist if the bees vanish, including fan-favorites such as Rocky Road, Strawberry, and Vanilla Swiss Almond.
We can’t forget the man who received his stage name because his bandmates believed he resembled a bee after repeatedly wearing a black and yellow striped sweater. The English rocker Sting doesn’t tend any bees himself, but he’s an avid supporter and advocate for the charity Bees For Development.
Bees for Development is an international charity that uses beekeeping to alleviate poverty in countries such as Ethiopia, Zanzibar, and Uganda. The charity teaches poverty-stricken or remote communities how to use beekeeping to support livelihoods, as well as to protect biodiversity.
Burt’s Bees is a self-proclaimed “bunch of hands-on, tree-hugging, greased elbow do-gooders” who believe bees are magical fuzzy little flower-hopping life-bringers (their words, not mine) who should be protected at all costs. They have donated more than $2 million to date to research, education, and conservation projects that contribute to saving the bees.
Through the Burt’s Bees Foundation, they have planted over 5000 acres of pollinator plants, which helps to support thousands of acres of surrounding farmland with pollination services and pest reduction.
Wild For Bees
Burt’s Bees’ Wild For Bees campaign has helped to plant 15 billion seeds across more than 4200 acres in the past two years, simply through the purchase of their Wild For Bees products. The campaign helps promote pollinator-friendly farming practices that support bees and our food system, according to their website.
BB also suggests other ways you can help the bee population stay healthy, happy, and alive, including planting wildflowers in your community and eating honey from your local farmers or beekeepers.
Whole Foods Protects Pollinators
Whole Foods Market launched its campaign ‘Protecting Pollinators’ in order to restore wildflower habitats, protect pollinators, and mobilize communities to make a difference. The chain released a series of videos to highlight what some popular foods would look like if bees died off, including apple pie, guacamole, and fruit smoothies.
The company is urging its customers to practice three simple steps to help protect pollinators: plants lots of different wildflowers, eat organic foods when possible, and to not use pesticides.
As part of their #BringBackTheBees campaign, Cheerios removed their mascot Buzz from a number of boxes, leaving just the silhouette, to represent the deteriorating bee colony health. PIN Codes were also included on Cheerios boxes which Canadian citizens could redeem online to have seeds sent to their house.
The goal was to have Canadians contribute to the honeybee population in their own communities, and through this program Cheerios reportedly gave away over 18 million seeds. They distributed more than 520,000 sunflower seed packs, and a free guide is available on their website to help families learn how to maintain their plants for the bees.
Bees & Trees – Cheerios
Cheerios teamed up with Nature Valley for Earth Day in 2019 to support the bees and the trees of the U.S. Nature Valley planted 100,000 trees around the U.S. in support of The Nature Conservancy, and last year Cheerios planted 1.7 billion seeds of pollinator plants.
In order to support the bees and other pollinators of our world, Cheerios’ goal is to host around 3,300 acres of nectar and pollen-rich wildflowers on their oat farms by 2021, because “People need bees. And now bees need people.”
Me And The Bees Lemonade
Age is just a number for the 14-year-old owner of Me & The Bees Lemonade company, Mikaila. Using her great-grandmother’s recipe for Flaxseed Lemonade, Mikaila is bringing awareness to the bee population issue with her ‘buy a bottle… save a bee’ mantra.
Mikaila donats a percentage of the profits from every bottle of lemonade she sells to local and international organizations who are fighting to save the honey bees. When she’s not making lemonade, she also leads workshops on how you can help save the honeybee population in your own community.