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Bees are among some of the most important creatures in the world but have you noticed that there’s a lot of talk about saving them? With more than 2 trillion estimated individual bees in the world, it seems hard to believe that they would be under threat, yet the fact remains that bee populations have decreased in recent years. But why are bees dying and what can we do about it?
Many factors have affected bees and their ability to survive in the wild. A lot of the threats to bees are as a result of human activity through things like habitat loss, the use of pesticides and global warming, but there are also certain parasites that seem to be killing off bees.
The problem is that a lot of people don’t realize why it’s so important to protect our bees. It’s so important, in fact, that without bees, you and I probably wouldn’t have the food we’re used to on our plates.
In this post, I want to talk about the problems faced by bees as well as look at what we can do to make things better for them and stop this worrying decline in their numbers.
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Bees are pollinators which means that they collect pollen from one plant and deliver it to another of the same species. This is how many plants reproduce and without bees, they simply wouldn’t be able to. What many people are unaware of is that it isn’t just those pretty wildflowers in the meadow that our bee friends are pollinating. The reality of the situation is that these winged creatures pollinate up to two-thirds of all human crops.
Without bees, the plants that we use for food would die out and getting your five a day would become much more difficult. Even things like coffee would become sparse since plants like this have very specific pollination periods and without bees around, they just wouldn’t get pollinated.
What’s more, you have to consider that our livestock feed on plants, many of which are pollinated by bees. A lack of bees would have a knock-on effect on animals that we use for meat and the pattern continues.
There has been some suggestion that humans would eventually become extinct if bees were to die out first. However, there’s no real scientific evidence to back this up and most experts believe that, while we would struggle, it wouldn’t signify the end of humanity.
There are a number of different reasons that bees are facing a decline in numbers. Many of these things have been caused by humans and, in turn, could be reversed by us as well. Of course, things like habitat loss due to building developments cannot be reversed since I can’t think of any big business that would be willing to knock down a development to give back to nature.
But the more that we learn about how our behavior is affecting bees, the more mindful we can be. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the dangers for bees.
Global warming has caused problems for species all over the world, including humans. But bees have been very badly affected.
Creatures of habit and routine, bees go into a state of dormancy over the winter before emerging in spring to begin their process of breeding, collecting nectar and making honey stores for next winter. They’re incredibly busy creatures but everything has to run like clockwork. So, how does global warming play a role in this, I hear you ask?
Well, it’s all to do with timing. Winters today are a lot milder and significantly wetter than they were even just 15 to 20 years ago. This shift in the seasons means that a lot of bees might end up in the wrong place at the wrong time and this is mainly in relation to their nesting habits.
When bees come out of their winter hibernation, the climate used to be ideal for nesting. However, with changing temperatures, conditions may change causing the bees to emerge earlier than usual. This might not seem terrible at first thought but one has to consider the lack of available food at this time.
Moreover, the habits of flowering plants have changed due to global warming meaning that many of the resources for bees simply aren’t around at the same time that they are. The main concern here is for the bees’ health but we also have to keep in mind that this also directly impacts the pollination of our crops so essentially, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot.
Humans have spent decades impacting the earth’s atmosphere which has led to global warming. While we may not have been aware of it way back when, we’re certainly aware of it now and governments all over the world are doing what they can to make a difference.
But one thing that we can change right now is habitat loss. One of the top reasons that bees are in decline is that their natural habitat has been largely taken away. As humans populate the earth more densely, there is a need for housing, office space, shopping malls, recreation centers and many other buildings. And where do we put all of this? On bee habitat.
Where once there were acres of fields and woodlands now stand skyscrapers, retail parks, and many other urbanisations. I’m not denying that humans have a need for these things but it wouldn’t be the end of the world if we could be more mindful of where we are placing them and how this affects local wildlife.
In the UK, it’s thought that as much as 97% of wildflower meadows have disappeared since the 1930s all in the name of human development. That’s less than a century so just think about where things could be headed over the next ten decades if we don’t make a change now!
A lot of agriculture now takes an organic approach but there are still many non-organic farms that use a whole host of chemicals to kill and deter pests from damaging their crops. It’s a method that works well but it also has a serious impact on bee populations which are affected by pesticides.
The varroa mite is a mite that mainly affects honey bees but doesn’t seem to bother with species like the bumble bee. Many honey beekeepers have faced the devastation of an entire hive, sometimes more than one, as a result of this parasite.
Varroa mites will feed on the honey bee’s blood and once it attaches to its host, diseases are also transmitted. The problem is that bees have a really hard time fighting off these parasites which are almost always successful.
Some of the things that have taken place and affected bees cannot be undone. But going forward, we can all do our bit to ensure the survival of these incredibly important creatures. It might be easy to assume that there isn’t a lot you can do from your backyard but just imagine the impact we could have if we all did just a little bit.
Whether it’s creating a bee-friendly patch of flowers in your garden, setting up a bug hotel or providing bees with a water source, there are lots of things you can do right now to help save the bees.
When people think of bees, they usually imagine them living in a hive. Now, if you’ve got the time, space and money to start a beehive then I’d be right behind you and there’s plenty of information on this website to help you get started. But you don’t have to take up apiculture to give bees a place to nest.
Wild bees nest in things like cavities, under logs, in stone walls and even under the ground! To help them find a safe place to breed, homeowners can create areas specifically designed for bee nesting. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, a simple log or rock pile could be enough. If you’re looking to help ground-nesting bees then be sure to have a quiet, secluded area of soil where the bees can burrow.
Most people are aware that bees love flowers so having plenty of them in your garden is one of the best ways to attract bees. And this has two-way benefits. For starters, you are providing the bees with the flowers they need to collect pollen and nectar to sustain their colony and secondly, you get to have a front-row seat to bee behavior which, believe me, is nothing short of an honor!
However, if you are going to plant flowers then you need to keep in mind that not all flowering plants are bee friendly. There are some they’re not so keen on.
Sticking with things like foxglove, lavender, marigold, basil, primrose, willows, dandelions, bee balm, and coneflowers, among others will be your best bet.
I know that spreading chemicals over your garden is one of the easiest ways of maintaining it. However, as I have already discussed, chemical pesticides are not good for bees so if you can stop using them then this is a really simple way to protect local bee populations.
The great news is that there are plenty of natural alternatives that are just as effective. What’s more, you’ll be doing your family a favor by not using nasty chemicals in your outdoor space.
There are trillions of bees in the world but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t under threat. With more than 20,000 bee species, these are among some of the most abundant and important insects on the planet but if humans continue the way they’re going, it won’t be long before many bee species become extinct.
Bees are dying largely because of human activity including the effects of global warming, deforestation, a change in land use and many other factors. They are also susceptible to disease and parasites which may not be something humans can control but there are things we can do.
Ensuring that you don’t use chemicals in your garden and creating a bee-friendly habitat are simple things that we can all do to improve the quality of life for bees. In return, they’ll pollinate our crops and ensure that you always have your favorite fruit and veg on your plate at dinner time!