As we mentioned in this month’s newsletter, bee populations are suffering at an alarming rate across the globe and especially in North America; where some 700 species are in decline. And while some would find that to be music to their ears, the ramifications for that decline could be devastating to our future. Yes, bees sting and annoy us from time to time, but they’re also essential to the global food supply. A third of our diet comes from plants pollinated by bees.
What’s causing the bees to die out? Scientists have cited a number of factors including insecticides, parasites, disease and the lack of a diverse food supply. The loss of biodiversity and destruction of habitat also threaten bees and other wild pollinators. It’s becoming increasingly evident that some insecticides, at concentrations applied routinely in the current chemical-intensive agriculture system, have a clear negative effect on the health of pollinators. The growing pest and weed resistance, decreasing soil fertility and widespread water contamination have also contributed to their downfall.
The global food supply already has trouble keeping up with the demand, but without bees it would become nearly impossible. Who would pollinate all the crops? Pollinating by hand is extremely labor-intensive, slow and expensive. So, from an economic standpoint, it pays to protect the bees. In fact, the economic value of the bees’ pollination work has been estimated at around $300 billion annually, worldwide.
Another major factor threatening our bees is the Varroa mite; a parasite that’s been plaguing honeybees since its introduction in the mid 1980’s. Introduced in Florida, the Varroa mite has since traversed the continent, wreaking havoc along the way. Watch the video below to learn more about these parasitic mites and the effects they have on bee colonies.
So how do we save the bees? With so many factors affecting their decline it’s an ambitious mission, but over the years a number of non-profits and conservation groups have teamed together to tackle the issue. They’ve lobbied against bee-killing insecticides in industrial agriculture and (as seen I the video above) have created some great products to stop the dreaded Varroa mite. Scientists are even experimenting with altering bee genetics, in an attempt to make them more tolerant of adverse weather conditions and immune to disease.
Another way you can help is quite simple; by incorporating bee-friendly plants into your landscape. At any rate, we must come up with a solution quickly to save our bees, our food supply and potentially our entire planet. If you want to do your part in saving the world’s greatest pollinators, check out the list below to see the best plants for bees.