Science & Tech Editor
The Santa Barbara city council on Tuesday, Sept. 19 unanimously passed a resolution to join the Bee City program, a group of 60 cities committed “to sustain pollinators… by providing them with healthy habitat, rich in a variety of native plants and free to nearly free of pesticides.”
In an effort to support a species “responsible for the reproduction of 90% of the world’s wild plant species,” the city of Santa Barbara’s new resolution commits to improve bee habitat and educate the public.
According to the resolution, the city will maintain and create pollinator-friendly habitats, develop a new pest management strategy, and spread information to farmers and the public about the importance of bees and ways to protect them. The city council also plans to hold a celebration for National Pollinator Week to raise awareness and show Santa Barbara’s commitment to the Bee City USA program, which the city plans to apply for annually.
Bees and other insects like butterflies and beetles are essential pollinators for the reproduction of many plants. When bees land on flowers and crawl around in search of nectar, they pick up pollen that they deposit on the next flower, completing an essential step in the sexual reproduction process of plants.
However, bee colonies have suffered across the country in recent years. Factors like parasites, diseases, and a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder have lead huge die-offs in commercial and recreational bee colonies as well as natural colonies. In 2015 alone, a study found that beekeepers lost 44% of their bees.
Plants from apples to broccoli rely on insects like bees as their main source of pollination, and some fruits like blueberries are “90% dependent on honeybee pollination,” according to the American Beekeeping Federation. Other crops, like almonds, are completely dependent upon bees for pollination. In California, almonds need nearly two million colonies of bees for pollination.
“Over 80% of the world’s flowering plants require a pollinator to reproduce,” according to the US Forest Service. “Without pollinators, the human race and all of Earth’s terrestrial ecosystems would not survive.”
Santa Barbara county is made up of approximately 40% agricultural land which is filled with flowering plants that could benefit from more bees. More pollination from larger, natural colonies of bees would save farmers money from having to temporarily import bee colonies and would lead to more successful crop yields.
According to a University of California Berkeley blog, “Bees contribute an estimated 15-30 billion dollars in annual agricultural productivity. In North America, pollination is integral to the production of at least 90 commercial crops, which account to 15-30% of the typical American’s diet.”
Beekeeping itself is an industry that employs over 30,000 people and brings in nearly $350 million yearly, so investing in bee protection could have big economic benefits.
“It’s that kind of education that can add to what we’re already doing in the city,” said Mayor Helene Schneider at the Sept. 19 S.B. City Council meeting. “To me, this process compliments that very nicely and is a good role of promoting to the community what it can do not only in its own area, but in the public area.”