In 2019 the honey bee population fell by as much as 30 percent. The bee population and climate change go hand-in-hand. Luckily, there are lots of ways you can make a positive impact on both all at once. Humans have certainly been part of the problem but we can also become part of the solution.
The connection between the honey bee population and climate change
We’ve seen the honey bees population fall swiftly over the last few years. But this won’t just affect our honey supply – it’s the result of a larger climate problem. Honey bees are more than just a friend to your backyard garden, they play a vital role in the Earth’s biodiversity. They buzz from plant to plant, pollinating the crops that feed us and support a healthy ecosystem. Without them, we would face food insecurity and great damage to our agriculture industry.
Fortunately, it’s not as bleak as it may appear. This is because bee-saving initiatives will also help slow the climate crisis. Since bees and climate change are so connected, helping one is helping the other.
If you’re wondering why climate change is so harmful to bees and ways you can help, we’ve got answers:
As each year passes with more natural disasters and extreme weather, more habitats become less friendly to the small but mighty honey bee and its population.
Here is how changing temperatures make it tough for honey bees to survive:
The importance of weather cues
Weather patterns are important to bees and the plants they pollinate. Every year, bees await the end of winter and the beginning of spring. With the melting snow comes bright and healthy flowers and plants, ready for bees to travel between. Due to changing weather, our seasons are becoming more extreme and less predictable.
Extreme weather conditions mean plants may bloom earlier or later than anticipated and bees may miss their cue for spring emergence. The season we associate with fresh blooms and new life is key because if plants and bees are out of synch, bees miss their chance to pollinate. Pollination is a vital part of our ecosystem and agriculture, and without pollination, there will be no mangoes, coffee or apples for your morning breakfast.
Fighting against extremes
Honey bees, like many of us, like moderate and mild weather. They are averse to extreme cold and heat, making it challenging to survive more intense winters and summers.
With the chilling temperatures of a Polar Vortex being a near annual event in North America over the last few years, plunging temperatures and windchill have been devastating to hives.
Honey bees exercise their muscles and expend energy to keep their temperature inside the hive in winter around 95 degrees. A bee cannot survive if its body temperature goes below 41 degrees. This is when they are not able to keep moving to stay warm, and windchills can speed up this freezing process.
Meanwhile, a recent study in Australia showed the effects of extreme heat on a honey bee and its hive when temperatures soar:
- Greater than 37 degrees Celsius (98.6°F) - field bees switch from foraging for nectar to collecting water to cool their hives;
- Greater than 43°C (109.4°F) - all field bees begin collecting water; and
- Greater than 47°C (116.6°F) - wax softens and cannot support the weight of honey.
Facing a greater risk of disease
As a result of rising temperatures, there has been a growth in parasites populations as well. Honey bees are at a huge risk when it comes to this threat, as a bad infestation of parasitic mites can wipe out an entire hive.
Varroa mites are one of the honey bee’s most significant dangers to its population. Also known as Varroa destructor, these mites are deadly to a hive and are only becoming more prominent.
External parasites to honey bees, they often feed on larvae, causing malformation and weakening of the bees. Once a hive becomes infested with mites, it’s not long before a bee’s lifespan is shortened. These vicious parasites cause an inability to fly or impaired flight, reduced weight, and an inability to return to the hive after foraging.
As temperatures continue to rise, it’s likely that parasites will become even more dangerous to honey bees.
As humans continue to build upward and outward, natural habitats start to shrink away. Honey bees do not fare well in densely populated cities or even monocrop farmland (growing the same crop on the same land annually). The journey between biodiverse plants to pollinate becomes too far and impossible for a worker bee to manage.
Additionally, because of climate change, there are fewer moderate-climate areas that honey bees can call home. As the weather becomes more severe, the areas that are not too hot in the summer or too cold and in the winter have become few and far between.
How You Can Help Honey Bees While Helping the Climate
Since the falling honey bee population and climate crisis are so interconnected, helping one, helps the other. When you make positive changes towards a more sustainable lifestyle, you will also be helping to save the bees.
Measures like buying organic, planting a bee-friendly garden and avoiding the use of pesticides are great ways to get started.
You can also use the Perpetual Pollen’s Everbee solution in your yard to combat the honey bee’s most existential threat, the Varroa mite. It’s the first science-backed consumer product to help save the bees, and it’s launching soon.