This little guy here should be the most familiar to you as he is often portrayed in Disney movies and children books: this is Bombus (his friends call him Bumble bee). Bumble bees are commonly found in North America, but they are not the only bee that exists. In fact, according to the National Academy of Sciences, there are over 20,000 species of bees.
"20,000 types of bees?! That is so scary, think of how many beestings you can get!"
Hold your horses cowboy, not all bees have stingers. According to beekeeper Phil Chandler of Biobees, most male bees don't have stingers, and while I am sure that hurts those bees' egos, it goes against what most of the population believe about bees. Bees have better things to spend their time on like flying and pollinating than stinging you.
Speaking of pollinating, do you like vegetables? No? Ok what about fruit? Well, you can thank our bee friends for all the fruit we are able to eat. Bees are said to be responsible for one out of every three bits of food we eat (and this has been confirmed by Michigan State University). Not to mention they also pollinate fiber plants such as cotton, so they also had a hand in making that ugly sweater you love so much.
We cannot talk about all the things bees make without discussing the bae of all bee products - honey! The U.S. Honey Industry Report states that 157 million pounds of honey was produced in 2015 with each active colony producing on average 58.9 pounds, or in other words each colony produced an obese corgi worth of honey.
Heck yeah yum honey. In addition to the typical honey in tea concoction, uses for honey range from medicinal to cosmetic. Eating honey from your local area has also been proven to boost your immune system because it is made from pollen in your area, basically making it a type of vaccination for the sniffles of spring. Don't believe me? Google fructophilic lactic acid bacteria.
So now that you know enough about bees to no longer call them evil, we need to talk about some serious stuff. Bees are dying. University of Maryland determine U.S. beekeepers lost 44% of their colonies from 2015 to 2016 due to colony collapse disorder (CCD). CCD is when worker bees leave behind the queen bee with some provisions, but never return, effectively killing the colony.
"That sucks. What does this have to do with me?"
It always has to come back to you, huh. Actually, this is a big deal to us humans and basically anything above bees on the food change because bees are an indicator specie. An indicator specie is defined by Encyclopedia of Life as organisms whose presence, absence or abundance reflects a specific environmental condition. To break that down, if the bees are disappearing, that indicates to us that something bad is happening in our environment that will ineveitably catch up to us all. Dun dun dunnn.
If you are now asking yourself why this is happening, you are not alone. Researchers have studied the cause of CCD for years, more so recently due do the increase in bee disappearances. What they found has been scary - nothing. Thats right, no one has yet determined the causation of CCD, but correlations have been found with the following: