Honey bees are a key player in the Earth’s ecosystem and provide a telling indicator of the planet’s overall health.
The declining population of honey bees demonstrates the effects of climate change on our planet. They are responsible for more than just honey, playing a vital role in keeping our planet functioning. Bees also keep crops and plants flourishing and ensure a diverse food supply. We think it’s time to prioritize honey bees because while the statistics can appear bleak there’s good news – the bees can be saved.
If you’re not familiar with all that bees do, these tiny insects may go unnoticed in your day-to-day life. That’s why we’ve put together a full guide of the role they play and how you can help save their population.
The Importance of Pollinators
Most people learn the basics of pollination in school, but have you considered just how important pollinators are to our ecosystem?
There are lots of pollinators in our ecosystem including bees, bats, hummingbirds, and butterflies. They carry pollen on their bodies as they travel from plant to plant, allowing for the transfer of genetic material that is key to the reproduction of most flowering plants.
An estimated 78-94% of flowering plants are pollinated by insects and animals. These plants make up much of the food we eat and contribute to clean air, prevent soil erosion, support other wildlife, and protect from severe weather.
The Incredible Honey Bee
Honey bees gather pollen with combs of bristles called pollen baskets on their legs. As they visit plants, they collect pollen and pass it between plants. As a result, the plants are fertilized and pollination has occurred. While all pollinators are a valuable part of a healthy ecosystem, bees carry the biggest responsibility.
Bees are Specialists
Bees are considered the most effective pollinators because they visit so many flowers and spend much of their life collecting pollen. They also focus on one type of flower at a time, so that plant gets cross-pollinated. Some flowers require cross-pollination for fertilization, making the bee’s work invaluable for ensuring vibrant seeds grow from that plant.
Agriculture’s Hardest Workers
More than 100 important crops are pollinated by honey bees, including fruits and vegetables, seeds, coffee, and forage for livestock. This means that 1 in 3 bites of food rely on bees and they contribute 15 billion dollars to the global economy.
Many of our favorite foods like vanilla, avocados, and strawberries would not survive without pollination. Without bees to pollinate crops, the world would face widespread food insecurity.
Healthy Planet Indicators
As the Earth’s climate changes, the honey bee population falls. Extreme weather, shrinking habitats, and increased risk of disease have made Earth less hospitable to one of our most vital creatures. In 2019, the honey bee population fell by as much as 30 percent.
Bees are also plagued by an external parasite called the Varroa mite, which has become more prominent with rising temperatures. These mites are deadly to a hive and are one of the honey bee’s most concerning threats.
As climate change continues, we can expect to see the honey bee population continue to decline and as a result, changes to our ecosystem. Luckily, steps to reverse climate change will also help save the bees.
How You Can Help Save the Honey Bee
While it can feel overwhelming to help save the bees, there are lots of everyday measures you can adopt right in your own home that help the population and our overall ecosystem.
A great place to start is by planting a garden or planter boxes to add green space and a location for bees to land and pollinate. Remember: don’t use pesticides as they not only kill the insects you don’t want in your garden but the good ones too.
Honey bees thrive when they can pollinate many flowers across the growing season. Be sure to plant flowers with overlapping blooms.
Additionally, don’t forget to buy local and organic when at the grocery store. Buying local results in fewer climate-change-causing emissions used and organic means another step of your consumption didn’t involve pesticides.