Bees are a topic of continuous controversy. On one hand, their stings have earned the fear of most of mankind. Their stings are painful and for those that are allergic, can be deadly. They are, however, highly respected for their agricultural abilities and the part they play in our ecosystem. We all know by now that bees endangered, but which bees are endangered?
Bees are some of the best pollinators in the world. Researchers estimate that the value of their pollination is around $3 billion every year. That is a lot of free labor. Certain types of bees can specialize in pollination of certain types of plants, while others are more general pollinators. General pollinators such as honey bees, are a great asset to a lot of crops.
However, types of bees that are more specialized for a certain crop are usually faster, more effective, and better at it than the general pollinators. Tomatoes, for example, require a larger bee to pollinate them, like the bumblebee. If we were to lose our native bee populations, it could devastate agriculture around the globe. We might go hungry and so would our livestock. Regardless, every year more bees become endangered.
Why are Bees Endangered?
Bees can become endangered for several reasons. Some are natural; some are not. The primary natural cause is disease. Bees are just as susceptible to diseases and illness, like any other animal. Most commonly these diseases come from parasites such as varroa mites. If these little guys get into a bee colony or a hive of a single bee mother, it can be devastating. Most populations do not recover from it, and the disease spreads quickly. The only real way to kill off this parasite is using pesticides.
Pesticides, however, are the main manmade cause of bee endangerment. While pesticides might kill off the mites that infest the colony, they also kill off the bees. Therefore, the solution can get a little tricky. Recent research about certain pesticides known as neonicotinoids and the devastation on insects it can cause shows they affect the plant's entire system, including the nectar and pollen, and stays with the plant throughout its life. Bees consume both pollen and nectar for themselves and for their young.
Due to their general pollination, honey bees are in particular danger. With their diminishing population, conservationists started a worldwide movement to "save the bees." Since then there have been millions of honey bees farmed to help increase their population. In some areas, it is not always the bees that people are worried about so much, as their ability to aid humans in our agricultural endeavors, such as pollination. Apiarists introduced honey bees into areas all over Europe and globally.
However, this has adversely influenced many other native bee populations. The honey bees are taking over habitats that were once prime real estate for native ground and bumble bees. So along with being killed off by the harmful pesticides that also hurt the honey bee, they are now being left without homes to raise their young, and without food to sustain themselves.
Let us not blame the honey bee. It is doing what nature tells it to do: survive regardless of its environment. This proves to be a man-made fault. Human interference with the goal of replenishing the honey bee population has instead endangered other bee species.
Which Bees Are Endangered?
Which bees are endangered? Are all bees endangered? Not all varieties of bee are on the endangered list. Now widely cultivated, honey bees, for example, have many allies that stand up for their well being. However, many other bees are in trouble. So which bees are endangered? In 2016, the United Nations announced the findings of a worldwide study of bee populations. The results were clear; over 40 percent of all of our insect pollinators, bees included, were facing extinction. This is a huge amount.
Upon further research, specialists confirmed that about 47 species of native US and Canadian bumblebees were in danger. Four endangered varieties have had population declines of 96 percent in the last 20 years. Scientists believe three more varieties to be extinct already. And that is just bumble bees. There are over 25,000 known species of bees. When considering the overall bee population, the statistics remain grim.
It is difficult to estimate the number of species and population averages of bees in most areas. Over 70 percent of all known bees do not live in hives like most believe. These are solitary stingless bees that live on their own in holes they burrow in the ground or in plant stem cavities. They move frequently and migrate to certain areas during certain times of the year. This makes them difficult to track and count.
Researchers suspect that roughly 50 percent of all Midwestern US native bees have disappeared from their natural habitats within the last 100 years. This makes it nearly impossible to count their populations. Without having an exact count, researchers struggle to gauge their diminishing numbers. The lack of clear data makes finding reasons for the dwindling bee species difficult and finding a solution to those problems impossible.
What can we do to Help?
We can be of great help in protecting the bee populations in our own towns and neighborhoods. Our local efforts can have a global impact and help create a healthier world. And it is rather simple to do. While beekeeping is a respectable and enriching pastime, it is not for everyone. For those maintaining hectic work and social schedules, or living in tight conditions, the cost and time required to start a hive are not always attainable.
Instead, it's the little things that matter. Things like only putting insect friendly materials on and around your plants and flowers. Plant more flowers and butterfly gardens in your yard, local parks, and community gardening plots. Encourage your friends and families to do the same. Many bee-friendly flowers are low maintenance and upkeep is a perfect family activity. And when you plant these new gardens, make sure you are buying native plants that will not disrupt local ecosystems. Ensure that they are plants that naturally grow in your area and confirm that they are not invasive or likely to kill off other natural plants the bees use for survival. Plants that can house both butterfly and bee larvae are ideal.
Landscaping your entire yard is unnecessary; leaving nature in charge of certain areas of your property will benefit the bee population. There is no need to burn or get rid of an old log sitting on your property. The bees will make a home in it. If there are bare areas of ground where you have wanted to spread grass seed, don't. Female bees will burrow in this to make their nests and feed their young.
Create ground nests or bee blocks for native bees. This will ensure that they have homes to make their own. And buy local honey and beeswax. This promotes the economy in your area. Supporting your local beekeepers will allow them to keep their natural apiary practices going.
Bees are a very important part of our lives and ecosystems, regardless of your personal opinions about them. They might be some of the hardest working creatures out there in the wild. Where else would we get the term "busy bee"? They are constantly working to gather pollen and nectar for themselves to make honey and beeswax for both current use and to stock up for the winter months. And all the while, and unintentionally, they are working for us. They are pollinating our flowers, our gardens, and our commercial crops. They are producing honey for us to enjoy.
We make skincare and candles using the wax they naturally produce. Sure there are other amazing creatures and insects assisting with this job, but we cannot forget these amazing creatures and all that their hard work provides for us and our agricultural endeavors. Without them, we would be at a loss for sure.
Knowing which bees are endangered is only half the battle of protecting them. We have a larger role to fulfill. We have to be vigilant in how we handle our plants, our yards, and our properties. Though unintentionally, mankind's practices have caused devastation to bee populations. We have a responsibility to our children and the generations that will come afterward to leave this world a little better than it is. We can plant with care, adding to the world's beauty and not taking away from it. We can stop the use of harmful pesticides, containing chemicals as bad for the bees as they are for us. We can make sure they have quality habitats to live in and raise their offspring. Forget about having to have the perfect yard and garden space. Leave that space for the bees. People with allergies or other medical conditions are understandably unlikely to cultivate bee populations in their yards. But there has to be a balance. We have to take bees into consideration. Because without them, there is no us.