It’s time we have the talk – you know… the birds AND the bees! 😉 No not THAT talk, the one wherein we talk about how even though we focus a lot on birds, bees (and other insects) matter, too.
Birds are easier to see, hear and often admire their beauty, but the insects do a huge amount of the hard work in any functioning ecosystem. Insects exist in far greater numbers than birds and have much more diversity to serve in functional niches. Everyone knows bees are pollinators, essential to the reproduction process of many plants, but so, too, are butterflies, wasps and many other insects. Without them, ecosystems would collapse.
So it is no wonder there is much growing anxiety for an insect apocalypse. Bugs of all types are dying off around the planet, and people are rightfully concerned about what this means for the fate of the rest of us. As with birds, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when you take away their food and poison what’s left, that there’s fewer around, but here we are.
Now the tech-centric mind wants to solve the problem by replacing the bees with tiny robots. I imagine that technically it’s quite doable, but I like to say ‘why bother when the bees will work for free if we just stop killing them!’
In contrast, my friend Dr Jonathan Lundgren, who was the scientist that discovered the particular danger of some pesticides on bees, and subsequently blew the whistle on the industrial ag complex, is now hot on the trail of regenerative agriculture. He’s now set up the Ecdysis Foundation, and Blue Dasher Farm, to continue rigorous science documenting our understanding of regenerative agriculture production systems.
Most exciting is that he continues to supervise the development of the next generation of young scientists that are documenting the power of regenerative models of things as different as corn in South Dakota and almonds in California.
Below one of my favorite charts showing how it’s not just the area of production, but the area around it that can make a big difference in bee health and populations. In this 2019 study in the journal Nature Scientific Reports that dug deep into a set of bee nutritional biomarkers associated with land use quality, it was their Figure 4 that I found most interesting.
For all of the bee colonies in an almond orchard, they looked within a 4km radius, and broke down the land area into cropland and grass. What they saw was a remarkably strong correlation. The bee population in the almond orchard was a strong function of whether the surrounding land was in crops or grass. The more surrounding crop land there was, the fewer bees could be found in the orchard. And conversely, the more grassland there was, the more bees they found in the orchards.
What a marvelous example that the health of bees in the orchard are not just a function of what happens in the orchards, but also what happens in the lands all around them! offer diverse, perennial habitat for species large and small – yes, birds, but bees and other small insects, too. Now when those are managed in a way that further increases that biodiversity, they not only win, but so does the world around them.
Jonathan and his team are now launching an initiative to get out there and measure what’s really happening on 1000 regenerative farms across America, and I can’t wait to see what new insights they uncover! Until then, we’ll keep doing our part to help bring America’s grassland birds, AND also her bees.
Blue Nest Beef Co-Founder & CEO