From the very large (see our post on elephants published last week) to the very small: today’s Earth Month post is about bees. Bees are extraordinary creatures. Wild bee species populate every climate in the world, from forests to deserts to the arctic. Honeybees are a common site in our fields and gardens.
But these amazing creatures are threatened. Both wild and honey bees are in decline, particularly over the past 10 years. Beekeepers have noted annual honeybee hive losses at 30% or higher. These levels far exceed what is considered normal or sustainable.
Why protect bees? Plants need bees to pollinate, making bees indispensable pollinators of most ecosystems. A honeybee can visit up to 1,000 flowers in one trip. At 10 trips per day, a colony with 25,000 forager bees can pollinate 250 million flowers. This means bees contribute $ bilions to the global economy. In the U.S., pollinators contribute $24 billion to the agriculture industry, making up one-third of the food we consume.
Bees are also a keystone species, with other species dependent on them to survive. Many species of animals depend on bees for their survival because their food sources, including nuts, berries, seeds, and fruits, rely on insect pollination. We simply cannot survive without bees.
What threatens bees? Bees face many threats, including increased use and residual effects of insecticides, climate change and loss of habitat. Loss of bio-diversity, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and monoculture can also pressure bee populations. Finally, bees face greater threats from pests and disease.
How to help? Celebrate Earth Month by urging your Congressional representative to pass the Pollinator Recovery Act and to protect the Endangered Species Act. Also, support a ban on the use of pesticides, especially neonicotinoid pesticides. Finally, become a beekeeper and/or plant a bee-friendly garden.