Oh they sting, oh they seem so hostile, they are mean, they are this they are that, well, all your speculations might be right, but how important are honeybees to the human diet? Typically, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, these under-appreciated workers pollinate 80 percent of our flowering crops, which constitute one-third of everything we eat. Losing them could affect not only dietary staples such as apples, broccoli, strawberries, nuts, asparagus, blueberries and cucumbers, but may threaten our beef and dairy industries if alfalfa is not available for feed. One Cornell University study estimated that honeybees annually pollinate $14 billion worth of seeds and crops in the U.S. Essentially, if honeybees disappear, they could take most of our insect pollinated plants with them, potentially reducing humankind to little more than a water diet.
There is a variety of threats facing the bee population, including habitat loss and climate change, but the most pressing threat to bees is pesticides. Ironically, humans spray pesticides on crops to protect them from pests that could harm their productivity, but these chemicals are also responsible for killing bees, which make many of these same crops possible. Neonicotinoids are some of the most harmful pesticides to bees as they function by attacking the insect’s nervous system which can lead to instantaneous death, but also bees that do survive exposure can become disoriented and forget how to find their way back to the hive – hence, Colony Collapse Disorder. The good news is that this class of pesticide has already been banned in the European Union and many stores in the U.S. are opting to remove them from their shelves for the bees. There is still a long way to go before neonicotinoids are no longer a threat to bees, but progress is certainly being made.
Humans’ intense agricultural practices have greatly affected the pollination practices of bees. The increased use of pesticides, the reduction in the number of wild colonies and the increased value of both bees and pollinated crops have all added to the importance of protecting bees from pesticides. Furthermore, many homeowners believe dandelions and clover are weeds, that lawns should be only grass to be mowed down regularly, and that everything but the grass should be highly treated with pesticides. This makes a hostile environment for bees. There are many ways you can be bee friendly in your own community. You can do this by planting bee-friendly plants in your garden, support organic farmers who do not use chemicals on their crops.
Spread the word about the importance of bees and their declining population! This in your little way can help us save them so they can in turn save us. Bee friendly!