The global bee population is plummeting. This is alarming, because a threat to the bees is a threat to us. Although many people may not think about them on a daily basis, bees are massively important in providing for our food. In fact, at least a third of all human food crops are pollinated by bees. This means they are massively important for our food security. They are also indispensable for the diversity of wild flora and fauna around the world. Bees are being threatened by a phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder, which is caused by factors such as the destruction of their natural habitats and the pesticides used in agriculture. So what can we do to save the bees?
A world without bees
Without bees, our planet would be a much worse, and much less colorful, place to live on. If there were no bees, many favourite foodstuffs including almonds, blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes and zucchini would disappear — or at least become multiple times more expensive luxury items. Even if the pollination process of bees could somehow be replicated by humans, it would be much more expensive, leading to a hike in prices of most foods.
Not just affecting the veggie world, the loss of bees would have serious consequences even for the most committed carnivores among us. Without the pollinating bees, many flower and plant species would diminish, thus decreasing the food supply of all animals. Animal farming would then become more expensive, meaning that your supermarket bill would become much less affordable.
Besides, there are no guarantees that we would be able to replicate what the bees have already perfected over millenia. There is a reason they have always had a central place in human life and society, being depicted in art and folklore since the times of Sumer.
What is threatening the bees?
Bees around the world are being affected by a strange phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder. This means that a perfectly healthy colony suddenly falls apart, with the working bees simply disappearing in swarms. This strange behaviour has not been exhaustively explained, but it is probably caused by several interconnected factors such as climate change, agricultural pesticides, and destruction of natural habitats. In the United States, about 30% of bee colonies have died from CCD since 2006; some beekeepers have lost up to 90% of their bees overnight.
Climate change is harmful to bee populations, because it causes flowers to bloom out of their usual season. This means that their blooming seasons no longer match the hibernation patterns of the bees. When the bees come out of hibernation ready to feed on and pollinate the flowers, they might be already too late. Pesticides used to destroy pests on farms can also harm the honeybees that are necessary for pollination. Bees are also threatened by factors such as diseases carried by non-native species and the loss of their habitats caused by careless human development.
How can we save the bees?
On an individual level, there are several things we can all do to help. As a consumer, try to buy bee-friendly by choosing honey from local producers who promote biodiversity and the well-being of bees with their practices.
If you have a garden, you can provide bees with flowers they can use as food. Find out which plant species thrive in your area that would be beneficial to bees, and plant them. You can also take up beekeeping as a hobby that is both educational and rewarding — just think about the honey! Beekeeping societies can also be influential in making people aware of the importance of bees.
On a society-wide and even international level, more should be done to find out what is destroying bee populations and to fight against this loss. We should all use our voice to keep this issue visible on the agenda. Show your love for the bees by spreading awareness — they deserve it. After all, they provide for all of us, every day.