Summer is in full swing and with it oftentimes some buzzing friends that you see roaming around… bees. Bees are super important for our planet and well-being. But why you might be asking? Well, I am laying it all out for you below 😉.
Bees Are Important Pollinators
About 90% of plants rely on pollination in order to survive. Pollination is the process where a pollinator moves pollen over from the male flower to a female flower in order to produce fruit. In essence, anything that has a pit needs to be pollinated (think fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and oilseeds). There are over 200,000 different types of pollinators who provide “pollination services” to roughly 180,000 plants and species. Only 0,5% of said 200,000 species are birds, bats, and/or small mammal animals. The remaining 199,000 are so-called invertebrates. Invertebrates are animals that do not have a backbone, such as flies, beetles, butterflies, moths, and bees.
We Need Pollinators In Order For Our Plants to Survive
Without pollinators, there would not be most fruit or veg. A third of our global food supply (so every third tablespoon) is depending on pollinators! In fact, the annual global production of the food industry dependent on pollinators is worth ca. $217 billion. Wow 😱!! Pollinators also make up about 50% of the world’s oils and fibers (think, e.g., cotton seeds).
In addition, they help to create medicine, clean waterways, provide food for wildlife, prevent soil erosion, clean oxygen, and absorb CO2. We basically need pollinators for a clean, stable environment, and to continue to be able to eat loads of colorful plants and veggies.
Why Bees Are Important
Bees (there are native varieties, as well as honey bees) are one of the most efficient pollinators in the entire world. One bee is able to pollinate about 2,000 plants a day!! That is a lot of hard, and important work in order for a plant to survive and produce fruit. In the US alone, the food industry relies on bees as their pollinator of choice by over 90%. Bees are also an excellent indicator of the state of our environment. Their presence, absence, or quantity tells us a lot about the biodiversity of an area.
As vital as bees are for our ecosystem, their population is also, sadly, decreasing quite heavily year on year. And when I say “quite heavily” I am talking about a reduction in billions 😱😥.
Why Are Bees Disappearing?
As said above, bees are vital to our environment, habitat, and overall wellbeing. Without bees, there would likely either not be any plant food or it would become significantly more limited and thereby expensive. In the UK alone, to pollinate crop manually it would cost farmers an incredible $2.5 bn per year. So, if we know bees are so important, why do they keep disappearing?
More and more urban development areas and conventional farming methods have meant a loss in the bees’ natural habitat. This is not just a problem for bees, it also means that there are fewer trees, and potentially nature in general. Less nature, in turn, means that there is also a loss in food resources for bees and other pollinators.
Use of Pesticides
Technically, pesticides are meant to kill pests. These pesticides do not simply kill pests on food though but also things in the surrounding areas… amongst other insects, 🐝. When the bee comes to pollinate the crop, it will ingest the pesticide, which is highly toxic and likely poisonous for the bee.
Extreme weather conditions are not a friend for the bee. It can disrupt the bee’s nesting behaviour, and also alters how flowers are blossoming and when. So perhaps, the bee has a shorter amount of time to feed, or the pollination process starts earlier and it is not aware, etc. You get the picture 😉.
Parasites and Invasive Species
There are some parasites that and bite and infect bees with fatal viruses, which gradually drain their strength. These parasites are a serious threat to the bee, and unfortunately far too common nowadays. Non-native species of other insects can also be a threat to the bee when they are brought into native regions due to globalization (e.g. the Asian hornet, which eats bees).
This was the first of our two-part series “Why Bees Are Important”. In a follow-up, I will explore how we can help the bees, from larger projects to small-budget options available to everyone 💕.