Why save the bees? Because the bee population is in decline, and we’re only just beginning to understand how detrimental this could be for all of us. Maintaining a healthy bee population is crucial for our health and our economy. It’s the only way to keep fresh produce growing on our farms and coming to our kitchen tables.
If we’re being honest, the notion of having fewer bees around doesn’t exactly sound like much of a hardship. No more bees would mean no longer having to console fearful children. We wouldn’t have to worry about anaphylactic reactions from bee stings. No more bees would mean that we could enjoy a picnic in peace.
Without understanding why bees are vital to our wellbeing, it’s difficult to imagine actually wanting those pesky critters around. Which is precisely why the general public hasn’t been overly concerned with the massive decline of the bee population.
Unfortunately, no matter which side of the voting booth you stand on, it seems that our government has not made the bee population a priority up to now, nor are they planning to do so in the near future. Yet the declining bee population is a change that should seriously concern us all.
Over $15 billion a year in U.S. crops are pollinated by bees, including all of our favorite fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts. Additionally, bees produce about $150 million in honey in the United States per year.
How to Help Save the Bees Without Getting Stung
Here’s how and why we need to save the bees before it’s too late:
How much is the bee population declining?
Though we have yet to see what 2017 holds, United States beekeepers lost a whopping 44% of their bee colonies from 2015 to 2016. It marks the second consecutive year that summer bee losses were as high as winter losses, and at a higher rate than the previous year.
The decline is so concerning that bumblebees just became the first species from the United States to be placed on the endangered species list.
Why is the bee population disappearing?
Bee population declines appear to be due to: climate change, more farming, fungus, disease, pesticides and urbanization – all of which are arguably man-made factors.
Pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and other agrochemicals destroy bee colonies. Honeybees are exposed to these toxic chemicals as they pollinate the sprayed crops and plants. Exposure to the insecticides then inhibit the ability of a queen bee to maintain a healthy colony. Even some chemicals that are thought to be safe can make honeybee larvae significantly more susceptible to viruses and death. It should also be mentioned that in states where the bees are in decline, the amount of land cultivated for growing conventional crops (such as corn) has doubled over a five year time period.
Also, the aerial spraying of mosquito control programs across the country is effectively killing millions of bees too. Our growing concerns about the Zika and West Nile viruses in various cities have added to the decline of the bee population.
What happens if bees become extinct?
Crops need bees for pollination, and if the rapid decline of the bee population continues, it’s safe to say that we could be in for deep trouble. The decline will severely hurt both crop production and the economy. (The global cost is estimated at up to $5.7 billion per year.) The enormous drop in viable produce could also result in famine, illness, and loss of life.
What can I do to help save the bees?
We’re glad you asked! The bees sure do need all the help they can get right now, and every one of us can make a difference. Here are 6 ways to help save the bees without getting stung:
Leave your lawn and trees alone.
Less mowing means less soil disturbance, which is crucial for bees because they often nest underground. Additionally, bees create their colonies in trees, so less tree trimming means that they’ll have a natural habitat in which to settle. Doesn’t it seem somewhat backwards that having a neatly manicured green lawn became our goal rather than maintaining a natural environment that is ripe for growth? When did we decide that a dandelion is a weed that should be destroyed and forget that it has numerous powerful health benefits? It’s time for us to get back to the basics.
Stop using pesticides on your lawns.
Not only is eliminating pesticide use on your property helpful for the best, it also is better for the earth, better for your health, and better for your pets too. Up to 80% of American honey recently tested showed levels of glyphosate, the active ingredient in the common herbicide known as Roundup.
Reducing or simply switching from Roundup to another toxic pesticide won’t save the bees either. It seems that the number of different pesticides within a colony, regardless of the dose, closely correlates with bee colony death.
Buy only organic produce.
At the same time as we stop putting toxic pesticides on our own lawns, we can also commit to not buying products made from crops that are grown with pesticides. In fact, last year scientists from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration tested American honey and found glyphosate levels of 20 to 100 parts per billion and higher.
Though it’s not just about the honey. Bees surround all sorts of crops, from corn to wheat to apples and berries. Anything that is grown using conventional pesticides and herbicides could be harming the bee population.
Consumer demand can speak volumes. Supporting companies that don’t use toxic chemicals will lead to the growth of even more organic farming.
Plant more trees and flowers.
Bees need flowering plants and trees. They especially love ones that emit fragrant oils, such as: clover, echinacea, goldenrod, oregano, lavender, mint, rosemary, sage, thyme, and yarrow. Bees can see purples and blue flowers more clearly than any other colors.
Before you plant, be sure that you are purchasing organic seeds and bulbs.
Reduce or stop buying aluminum products, such as tin foil.
Another theory behind the declining bee population is the increase in aluminum contamination, which may also be responsible for harming fish populations. Higher levels of aluminum have been found in much of the bee population. Find alternatives other than aluminum, such as reusable glass.
If you want to support a healthy bee population, consider making a donation organizations that are doing excellent work to preserve them. Save the Honeybee Foundation is dedicated to raising honeybee awareness, teaching holistic beekeeping methods, and providing pristine habitat for honeybees. The Honeybee Conservancy is another non-profit organization established in response to the bee crisis. They engage in education, outreach, research and developing viable bee habitats.
Why save the bees? Because it’s up to us now. Whether by fault of our own or not, we created this, and we can save the bees if we all pitch in together.
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