Bees are extremely important pollinators for flowers, fruits and vegetables. That means they help other plants grow! They transfer pollen between the male and female parts of the plant, allowing the plants to produce seeds and fruits. (National Geographic Kids)
More than 1/3 of the food we eat relies on pollination by bees. Many fruits, nuts, and vegetables require pollination by bees and other insects in order to bear fruit, and without pollinators these crops could disappear. (Morris Arboretum)
There are thousands of bee species that pollinate many different plants, but there are only seven bee species that pollinate certain crops. 85% of plants exist because of bees, and about 400 different species of plants need bees and other insects to pollinate them to increase yield and quality.
Bees also make an invaluable contribution to ecosystems around the world. Seeds, fruits and berries eaten by birds and small mammals come from plants pollinated by bees. This shows us the importance of bees, because they are the guardians of our food chain and biodiversity.
In the last few years, unfortunately, the bee colonies are disappearing. Billions of bees around the world leave their hives and never return. In some regions, up to 90% of bees have disappeared! (Science News for Students)
Bees around the world are in danger, and their deteriorating health has major implications for food safety. (Morris Arboretum)
The primary suspects behind the disappearance of the colonies are pesticides, especially those used in industrial agriculture, and destructive pests that attack hives and spread diseases. Neonicotinoids are a group of pesticides common in the agricultural industry. Neonicotinoids are used in the production of corn, as well as wheat, soybeans and cotton. They also change the behavior of bees, limiting their ability to collect nectar and weaken their immune system, making them more vulnerable to pests and parasites. (Morris Arboretum)
Habitat loss is another major threat to bee populations. As the amount of preserved natural environment decreases, so do bee habitats and food sources. (Morris Arboretum)
Without bees, people would not have the food they do, so we must make sure that the bees are taken care of and protected in every possible way.
Although the average consumer cannot do much about the pests that threaten the bee population, they can do something about other threats to pollinator health.
Did you know that bees get most of their nectar from trees? When the tree blooms, it gives hundreds and thousands of flowers for bees and other pollinators. Trees are not only a great source of food for bees, but also an important habitat. Tree leaves and resins provide nesting material for bees, while natural wood cavities are excellent shelters. With growing deforestation and development, we can help strengthen bee habitats by perhaps planting a tree ourselves or participating in a tree planting campaign. (The Bee Conservancy)
Bees get very tired collecting pollen and in addition develop a great thirst. Especially in summer, when finding water is a big challenge for many animals, it would be best to place a bowl of clean water outside, a few pebbles and flower petals, on which bees and other insects will gather to take a long break to drink, and we all know that they deserve it. (The Bee Conservancy)
Avoid foods grown with pesticides that contain neonicotinoids. This means buying eco-friendly wheat, corn and soy products and choosing organic products whenever possible. If you can, support one of the many agricultural markets in your city and nearby areas and buy your fruits, vegetables and nurseries from farmers who completely give up pesticides. And be sure to ask before buying. Just because something is labeled organic doesn’t mean it’s bee-friendly: even pesticides used in organic farming can harm bees. (Morris Arboretum)
If we really want to protect wild bees, we should focus on creating wild flower meadows and more efficient use of our outdoor spaces to maximize the potential of natural world pollinators. The best way we can do this is by adopting a vegan lifestyle and converting land that is currently used for animal farming.
We can free up 75% of the current agricultural land by switching to a plant-based diet. (Research “Reducing the impact of food on the environment through producers and consumers” by J. Poore and T. Nemecek, 2019.) This is a lot of land for wild bees and pollinators.
Bee populations may be endangered, but it is not too late to make a difference. By spending your money consciously and making your home more comfortable for bees, you can help preserve the nation’s food security.