Why are the bees so important?
Bees are the world’s best pollinators, and when bees pollinate crops and flowers they reproduce—without bees, many flowers and crops would die out. Peaches, strawberries, watermelons, and many more all depend on pollinators according to the Canadian Agriculture and Food Museum. Additionally, while the crops would die, so would part of the agriculturally economy and the beekeeper’s careers. Joe Nicolosi an educational YouTube director creates a video on bees, and states that bees weigh a tenth of a gram. Their impact is so great that they’re worth their weight in gold, “crops pollinated by bees are worth $215 billion worldwide, and provide us with 75% of the fruits, veggies, and nuts we eat.” Between pollinating crops and flowers, and then also harvesting beeswax and honey, there’s a lot of money to be profited off bee colonies. Bees aren’t great just for the economy and agriculture either, they’re very important in local and global ecosystems. According to Beatriz Moisset and Stephen Buchmann Ph.D. partners of the USDA, “the world as we know it would not exist if there were no bees to pollinate the earth’s 250,000 flowering plants.” These native bees aren’t like the generalist honey collecting bees, which can gather honey from any plant. Some of the native bees can specifically gather honey from certain flowers, which means those bees are the only way for flowers like the yellow passionflower to become pollinated for reproduction.
How do bees pollinate plants?
Insects like bees and butterflies are crucial to agriculture and wildlife. Michigan State University has research of what bees do in general, “the main insect pollinators, by far, are bees, and while European honey bees are the best known and widely managed pollinators, there are also hundreds of other species of bees, mostly solitary ground nesting species, that contribute some level of pollination services to crops and are very important in natural plant communities.” Bees control our crops and native wildlife, which means they aren’t only a core component of our agricultural economy, but also local ecosystems. They pollinate plants well, because when a bee lands on a flower, hairs on the bee’s body attract pollen grains through electrostatic forces. The pollen then comes back with the bee, so the next time that bee goes back to the flowers the pollen will be left with that new plant. This practice is called cross-pollination, and it often produces healthy seeds. Bees usually harvest nectar from attractive flowers (or that are full of nectar). Based on information from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Bee Pollination, they look for flowers that have brightly colored petals, are open in the daytime, and provide landing platforms. When the bees go to collect honey from plants, they can take insecticides and neonicotinoids which can kill individual bees and if widespread then entire colonies. That's just the beginning of bee's woes, there's many new strains on their populations.
What is killing the bees?
There are possibly many reasons for the decline of bee populations, and many have been investigated—the most common to blame are pesticides, global warming, colonial disorder, and lack of food resources. For example, Randy Zeberl of Rochelle Park (a beekeeper), states that “[he] lost roughly 70,000 bees seven of his 25 hives. He attributes the deaths to drastic temperature changes and other factors.” Scientists have also researched global warming thoroughly, a writer who covers natural news like the bee’s decline and global warming, has also discovered many startling facts researching bees. Tim McDougal, the author of Here’s Why All The Bees Are Dying reports that the United States on average is 1.5 fahrenheit degrees hotter, and climate change has caused bees in the southern end of Europe and US to lose almost 200 miles of coast. They lose about 5 miles every year, and will eventually run out of habitats to sustain them. This might not sound like a big deal, 5 miles every year a lot of lost space, but bees are essential to the modern world’s ecosystem. For more information watch this video about why the bees are dying. Obviously bees are struggling more today than ever, but what can be done to help them? Well, beekeepers have some answers for the domesticated bees.
What is being done to save the bees?
Seven species of bees out of 4,000 are endangered, according to Christopher Ingraham and the Endangered Species List, and in the last two decades the population of honey producing bees has fluctuated from 2.3 million to 2.6 million. The reason for why the population has wavered is because of practices beekeepers can do, and the reduction of neonicotinoids. Beekeepers can split colonies into two, and eventually both of the colonies will bounce back then you have twice as many bees. Another way to save the honey producing bees is to breed queen bees, who can start a new colony. Between these two practices the honey producing bees are healthy and safe as a species. Jon Entine, the executive director of the Genetic Literacy Project (a science newspaper), reported, “In America, after a sharp decline in bee health during the 1980s linked to various diseases, since neonicotinoids came into widespread in American agriculture in the mid 1990s, commercial honeybee numbers have held steady at the level of 2.4 to 2.6 million hives. They recently reached a two-decade high of 2.7 million—the exact opposite of the misleading narrative still being promoted by some advocacy groups.” His explanation was that “nature tends to reach an equilibrium.” So, if nature always leads to a balance, then why was there such a hysteria when people began to notice less and less bees?
What started the concern about bee populations?
Concern for the bee’s well being most likely began in 2007, based on the EPA’s Colony Collapse Disorder report that stated “During the winter of 2006-2007, some beekeepers began to report unusually high losses of 30-90 percent of their hives. As many as 50 percent of all affected colonies demonstrated symptoms inconsistent with any known causes of honey bee death.” Colony Collapse Disorder’s name makes the symptom self-explanatory, bee colonies in the mid 2000s were failing with no explanation. Now, there’s more information about CCD from a joint EPA-USDA study called Death and Extinction of the Bees, and many scientists blame the combination of insecticides, neonicotinoids, and virus species. These virus species have been cited as a reason for bee loss since 1987, and with the introduction of more and more insecticides affecting the bees, they can no longer resist the virus species or mites. The frightening part is that the numbers of bees affected by these viruses is only growing, "In its sample one in five wild bees were afflicted by the Deformed Wing Virus believed to be caused by the parasitic Varroa mite. 88% of the honeybees at the 26 field sites were affected by this virus.” A quick read from the article Deformed Wing Virus reveals that DWV leads to shrunken and deformed wings, and these bees do not live long and can often wander because of the loss of flight control.