“How can I save the bees?’” Maybe it’s not the question on everyone’s lips, but it should be. Bees are one of the most important species on earth. And they’re in trouble.
If you think of bees as nothing more than charming garden visitors, you’re missing the bigger picture. Bees are a vital part of the planet’s ecosystem. Honey bees, in particular, are responsible for the vast majority of cultivated crops on earth (including some of your favorite foods).
If you want to know more about why bees are important, and why they’re in danger, we’ve got the basics.
Why we love bees
It’s not just for their honey.
Imagine a world without coffee. Or without avocados, apples, and mangos. That is what a world without honey bees would look like.
While beehives create valuable resources like honey and beeswax, bees most valuable byproduct is their contribution to agriculture. Bee pollination makes up about $15 billion in added crop value and more than 90 crops rely directly on bees.
If enjoying the foods you love and a sustainable agriculture industry is important to you, there are lots of ways to get involved to help save the bees.
Why bees are dying
Also known as Varroa destructor – and the name says it all. These mites are the most critical threat to honey bees. They can be detrimental to a hive if the mites grow in large numbers. Varroa mites are external parasites to honeybees and often feed on larvae, causing malformation and weakening of the bees. It’s a brutal tale of crippled honey bees with the inability to fly or impaired flight, fewer bees returning to the hive after foraging, shorter lifespan, and reduced weight of worker bees. Of course, all of these gruesome effects lead to a decreased population.
Pesticides are used to kill insects, making them also extremely harmful to bees. However, Neonicotinoid insecticides are the worst of an already harmful product. Neonicotinoid insecticides make the entire plant toxic. They were banned in Europe in 2018, but remain in use in the United States even though they are directly tied to a decrease in the bee population. Glyphosate, or Round-up as it’s more commonly known, is another pesticide to stay clear of to protect the bees.
Just as we’re seeing a changing climate affect many other species, honey bees are no exception. Changes in weather, plant diversity, and seasons are all taking their toll on bee colonies.
They say variety is the spice of life, and bees would tend to agree. It’s increasingly common for a farm to grow only one crop, which isn’t good for bees because they like to feed on and pollinate a wide variety of plants in order to improve their nutrition and resistance to pesticides.
Urban sprawl has taken over many bee habitats and contributed to a lack of biodiversity. As more space continues to be built upon, we can expect bee populations to fall.
How you can help
Talk to your family and friends about how the falling bee population affects everyone and encourage them to take action. They might not be aware of just how important bees are to our food supply and ecosystem.
Encourage your neighbours, local city, town or county to discontinue the use of pesticides. You can also add a community garden to your neighbourhood, talk to city-planners about urban sprawl and creating more green spaces, and encourage pillars in your communities, like your child’s school lunch program, to carry organic foods.
3. Buy local and organic
Buying local is key because it means there were less climate-change-causing emissions used to get your food and goods into your home. Additionally, buying organic means another step of your consumption didn’t involve pesticides.
4. Use the Everbee solution at home
Similar in size to a bird feeder, Everbee can help save the bees right in your own backyard. It is used to feed bees while at the same time removing the Varroa mites parasite in order to help the bee population survive. Launching soon!
5. Plant a bee-friendly garden
Whether it’s in your own backyard or a community garden for your neighbourhood, bee-friendly flowers and plants will help bees pollinate in a biodiverse place.
In 2021, consider how the bees impact your day-to-day life and how you can start making changes to help them. We want our ecosystem to continue to thrive, so we’re creating bee-friendly products to Help Save the Bees.
Bee the Change photo by Mika Baumeister, 2020.