Bees are awesome flying insects that are closely related to both wasps and ants. There are over 16,000 known species of bees, and they can be found on every continent except Antarctica.
Bees are pollinator powerhouses helping to maintain 30% of the world's crops and 90% of our wild plants. Two of the most popular types of bees are honey bees and bumble bees.
Bees pollinate some of our favorite foods like pumpkin, almonds, and strawberries, and without bees, these foods could vanish.
In 2015, 42 percent of bee colonies collapsed in the United States alone. And, while we normally think about honey bees there are 4,000 species of native bees in North America with many of them in danger like the rusty-patched bumble bee.
The bumblebee is actually a better pollinator than honey bees, although honey bees seem to get more attention due to so many hives collapsing.
Here are four of the issues that bees are currently facing:
1. Pesticides & herbicides: These chemicals are designed to kill weeds and insects. But some varieties, like neonicotinoids and clothianidin, are especially dangerous for bees.
2. Loss of habitat: As we grow and expand, we're losing green spaces. And, many of the green space we do have are being sprayed with pesticides and herbicides removing many of the flowers and weeds bees depend on for food.
3. Climate change: Unusually warm winters have caused plants to shift their growing schedules. When bees come out of hibernation, many of the flowers they need have already bloomed and died.
4. Disease: Bees can get sick just like you and me. Pesticide poisoning can weaken bees and pathogens carried by mites make them more susceptible to pesticide poisoning so it's a pretty vicious cycle.
Of course, we're not going to leave you there, now that you know the problem - it's time to get to the solutions!
1. Don't hurt the bees!
Bees just want to bee your friend. Don't kill them!
2. Get to know your farmers:
Since pesticides and herbicides are a big part of bee health, try and get to know your farmers. Ask them about their farming practices and how that affects bees in your area.
A lot of lists you read will tell you to opt for organic food, but did you know organic farmers still use pesticides and herbicides? We talked more about it in this post.
So, it's not that conventional is bad and organic is good, it's that different farmers use different practices. The best way to find out if the farmer is helping the bees is to ask them!
3. Keep the Harmony:
Turn your yard or balcony into a bee sanctuary!
- Plant bee friendly flowers, you can use this guide to find native plant species that bees love!
- Don't use pesticides and herbicides on your lawn.
- Don't pluck the dandelions! They're one of the bees first food sources after winter so leave them.
- Be careful when mowing your lawn. Bumblebees bury underground. Try to save some of your clippings and put them in a corner of your lawn that you leave a little wilder.
- Bees can be thirsty, create a little drinking station for them.
- Help create some bee homes For the bumblebee for the mason bees.
4. Try to save the hive:
If you wind up having a beehive in your home call a local beekeeper before you call the exterminator. They might be able to come and remove/save the bees!
5. Let your representatives know:
Make sure that you let your representatives know that you want tigheter legislation around bee health. You can check learn more at Pesticide Action Network's Save the Bees campaign.
A way to help at a smaller level is to approach your city council and request that they plant native, pollen-rich flowers. Ask that they set up bee baths or bee homes around the city.
If you're looking for more information on bees, this a great mini-documentary!