Why are bees important?
Most people know that bees provide honey and beeswax but by far the most important service bees provide is the pollination of crops. Approximately 80% of the crops in the US are reliant on bees. They pollinate a lot of the fruits, vegetables and legumes we take for granted. They also pollinate alfalfa and clover which often gets fed to cattle, so the prosperity of bees also affects our meat and dairy industries. Bees also pollinate flax and cotton crops as well which are also important trade crops. It is estimated that bees provide approximately $170 billion globally in free labor by pollinating our crops. So if bees disappear we could have a lot of trouble feeding ourselves.
How are bees endangered?
Bees are currently being threatened by a lot of variables, some of which include climate change, the use of certain pesticides like neonicotinoids and intensive farming practices. Colony collapse disorder starting affecting bees in the US in 2007 and currently 40% of bee colonies are affected by colony collapse each year. Colony collapse disorder is when the majority of bees in a hive die or disappear for sometimes unknown reasons. Currently a quarter of all species of bees in the world are thought to be at some risk of extinction.
What can individuals and communities do to help bees?
There are many ways that we can help bees thrive and survive. One of the ways is to plant or make your garden bee friendly. Make sure you plant a variety of flowers so that there will always be something in bloom for the bees to feed on. Remember some weeds like dandelions can provide food for bees early in the growing season when not much else is available. Bees just like other animals get thirsty too so leaving out a shallow dish or bird bath can give them a chance to get a drink. Abstain from using pesticides in your garden especially those that contain neonicotinoids.
If you don’t have room for a garden you can also try to buy organic and local produce or purchase raw local honey. You can choose to learn how to be a beekeeper or just learn some fun facts about bees. We also need to remember to educate each other and make our voices heard on important issues when needed.