Whole Foods Market bees

A Whole Foods Market store in Rhode Island graphically illustrated the importance of bee loss by removing all the items from the store’s produce shelves that rely on bees for pollination.

More than half of the Whole Foods location produce section’s selections were removed for the demonstration. Some 230 types of fruits and vegetables sat in storage while the photos were taken in an effort to drive awareness about the importance of bee health.

Whole Foods is working in partnership with the Xerces Society, an international, nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat, in raising awareness about the importance of bee loss and other pollinating species threatened by excessive pesticide and herbicide use.

Among the hundreds of items pulled for the demonstration were produce mainstays: apples, onions, avocados, carrots, lemons, melons, kale (not KALE!), cucumbers, squash, and celery.

As the bee death total in the recent Oregon tragedy is now closer to 50,000 than previous estimates of half that number, pesticides are again being pointed to as the culprit in decimating our precious bee populations. Colony Collapse Disorder, as the mysterious affliction is called, causes bees to become disoriented, abandon their hives and eventually die. It’s estimated that as many as 40 to 50 percent of commercial beehives have been affected by Colony Collapse Disorder in recent years. Bees provide an estimated $30 billion worth of free pollination every year—accounting for 30 percent of our food. Without bees, we’d not only see drastic declines in food options, but serious price hikes as well.

The EU recently enacted a minimum two-year ban on neonicotinoid pesticides, believed to be one of the main culprits in widespread bee deaths, including those in Oregon earlier this month. And efforts to help revitalize bee populations are underway across the globe, including a bee sperm bank.

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Images: Whole Foods Market