Co.Design

This Is What Our Grocery Shelves Would Look Like Without Bees

A Whole Foods store in Rhode Island made it crystal clear to customers how their favorite fruits and vegetables depend on bees.

Last winter’s so-called Beepocalypse ravaged U.S. bee colonies like nothing that had come before. The country’s beekeepers reported that 31.1% of their colonies perished in the months spanning last fall through early 2013. The number of bee casualties in that period--twice that considered natural--is in keeping with rising honeybee mortality rates of the last six years.

Scarier still, scientists aren’t exactly sure as to the cause for the degrading health of bee populations--something that should give you great cause for concern. After all, without bees, you can kiss your favorite fruits and nuts goodbye. Now, if you can manage it, imagine life without apples, mangoes, or almonds.

Well, you don’t have to. Earlier this week, a Whole Foods store in Providence, Rhode Island, temporarily removed all of its produce that is grown with the help of pollinators like bees. It then posted the photographic results online, in which whole parts of the fruit and vegetable department are seen to be completely barren. You can almost spot the tumbleweed.

In a press release, Whole Foods says the stunt was part of the “Share the Buzz” campaign, a joint project with The Xerces Society that seeks to “raise awareness” about the importance of bees (honeybees in particular) to the health and vibrancy of our food system. Bees are the unsung heroes behind most of the world’s produce supply, and along with other pollinators like bats and birds, they are integral to growing and sustaining at least a third of its crop production.

Or as Whole Foods puts it:

One of every three bites of food comes from plants pollinated by honeybees and other pollinators. Yet, major declines in bee populations threaten the availability of many fresh ingredients consumers rely on for their dinner tables.

In total, the Providence store pulled 237 of 453 products off their shelves, amounting to just over half of the shop’s entire yield for the department. The variety of the ghost produce is astounding: Apples, avocados, carrots, citrus fruits, green onions, broccoli, kale, onions, and more would be obsolete or very expensive to grow without flourishing bee colonies.

Whole Foods says that consumers should be mindful of these facts and be proactive with, here it comes, their purchasing choices.

[1] Bee organic: Buying organic is an easy way to support pollinators.
[2] Bee savvy at home: Most pest problems can be solved without toxic and persistent pesticides.
[3] Bee a gardener: Plant bee-friendly flowers and fruits.
[4] Bee a smart shopper: Look for the "Share the Buzz" signs throughout stores to support vendors also donating to The Xerces Society.

Of course, saving the bees, or anything for that matter, isn’t as simple as following a set of steps. Regardless, the matter is certainly pressing. Just think, the extinction of bees = the extinction of guacamole.

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5 Comments

  • Anna

    Er hello.... without pollinators there aint no trees, flowers, grasses. It isn't about apples or nuts. This issue so very much more serious than this article suggests and this kind of shortfall of information is no more helpful than those who deny there is a problem at all. If you really are interested get informed, get educated so you understand the science, and get active.

  • Steve Ardire

    nicely done and as Whole Foods puts it:
    One of every three bites of food comes from plants pollinated by honeybees and other pollinators. Yet, major declines in bee populations threaten the availability of many fresh ingredients consumers rely on for their dinner tables.

  • alanomaly

    "Scarier still, scientists aren’t exactly sure as to the cause for the degrading health of bee populations--something that should give you great cause for concern"

    Actually, there's really strong evidence that it's largely driven by the widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides. 

    The only reason this evidence isn't completely conclusive is that neonicotinoids are so widespread now that it's almost impossible to set up a bee colony that isn't hit by these chemicals at least a little bit - but it's clear that the more neonicotinoids in an area, the more bees die.

    The EU has just banned neonicotinoids for this reason. The USA still uses them and in fact has just approved a new type of neonicotinoid for use - so expect bee deaths to keep on increasing in the US: http://rt.com/usa/new-pesticid...