The number of bees has declined drastically over the course of the last few years; unfortunately, if enough action isn’t taken immediately this decrease will carry on until all 20,000 species of bees officially become extinct.
The main culprits for this decline are parasites and pesticides. The harmful pesticides (neonicotinoids in particular) we use on plants target the bee’s nervous system and lead to a slow, painful, and unnecessary death for these beautiful creatures, who are so essential to maintaining the delicate ecological cycle of the popular ecosystems humans inhabit. Once a seed has been treated with the pesticide, it will be incorporated into the DNA of the plant and every bit of it will be deadly. As if this weren’t terrible enough, the pesticide will also contaminate nearby air, water and soil.
The habitats that once allowed the honey bee population to thrive are being torn down and used for human artificial purposes at an alarming rate. The available resources and number of bees have a strong relationship, if the food and pollen supply for bees continue to be traded in for new, unnecessary commercial buildings, the bees won’t have enough food to sustain themselves and will ultimately starve.
Why should you care?
Bees play a vital role in cross-pollination of our crops and flora, resulting in the spread of the seeds for the next generation of vegetation. As bees land on flowers, the pollen from the stamen sticks to their hairs and is transferred to the other flowers stigma, allowing for plant reproduction. In fact, bees are responsible for two thirds of all crop and flower pollinisation, which we benefit from for food, medicine, and even cosmetics; well-known examples of everyday plant-based products would be cotton, apples, and raspberries. Of course, pollination can happen independently of bees by other organisms and abiotic factors (wind), though without these insects, there would still be a massive decline in the rate of pollination that we would be unable to account for.
Lastly, as it comes with any extinction, the loss of any species is regrettable, decreases the species richness and thus the planet biodiversity left for future generations. Bees are fascinating creatures and are the perfect candidates for us to study, due to their unique sociability.
Honey. You guessed it. Honey bees provide us with that sweet sickly liquid that we love to use daily. Without bees there will almost certainly be artificial honey available but it won’t have the beautiful natural make-up and vitamins of the original. The natural production of honey counts many stages and requires some of the bee’s enzymes, and they use their wings to fan the honey to thicken it. It is then stored in the bee-wax honeycomb cells. Not only is honey used for food but also for medical processes, due to its antiseptic and antibacterial properties.
What can we do to help conservation efforts?
- Fight deforestation and land destruction: these sections of land are home to many essential species besides bees, and are threatened by expansion plans for rather non-ecofriendly businesses.
- Plant the right vegetation: Grow flowers that bees love to pollinate and feed on. Lavender is an effective source of nectar (which provides essential carbohydrates and amino acids for their physiological functions), and it smells great! Bluebells and rosemary are amongst an endless list of other bee-friendly plants to grow in your garden.
- Stop using pesticides: not only do they have dire impacts on bees, but they also threaten other insects and our beloved pets. Try and buy organic produce whenever possible. The EU has put a ban on deadly neonicotinoids, and this ban should be kept in place after the UK leaves the European Union.
- If you see a bee you suspect to be ill, bring it sugar water to help it rehydrate and hopefully save its life. This works as a short-term solution but at the end of the day, the main way to ensure the fuzzy little insect’s survival is taking the urgent action environmental companies are calling for.
- To summarise, although many species of bees remain, their numbers are dropping drastically; many are becoming endangered and extinct in the last few years alone. Taking action, even as an individual, can have a drastic impact on their survival, and if enough of us help, we stand a real chance of stopping yet another animal extinction.