You may have heard the phrase “save the bees” and wondered, why do bees need saving? What is their purpose besides stinging people’s fingers and buzzing around picnics? The answer is actually very simple- bees are essential to the environment and without them, our ecosystem will crumble. As world honeybee day approaches, it is important to protect the bees- *all bees, not just honeybees*.
Why are bees important?
Bees are the most numerous and efficient pollinator species on earth. Without bees, plants do not survive. Over 90% of plants on earth, both wild and crops, rely on pollination to reproduce. There are not enough pollinator species alternatives to replace the billions of bees working hard to provide us with plants. The loss of our most common pollinator would have disastrous effects on the plants that could grow.
Plants account for 1/3 of the worlds food supply, and indirectly over 80% of the food supply through feeding cattle; “[plants] make up 80 percent of the food we eat, and produce 98 percent of the oxygen we breathe” (1). Not only are pollinators needed for food, but pollinated plants also account for 98% of oxygen, 50% of the oils used in western medicine, and almost 95% of herbs used in eastern medicine. Plants do not only support humans either, but all wildlife as well. Plants are homes, food, and life for wild animals
Why are bees dying?
The main causes of bee death are the use of pesticides, pollution of water sources and soil, and mono-culture farming. Pesticides and other chemical products make bees sick and eventually kill them off. The pollution of water and soil makes it difficult for bees to find uncontaminated food and water. Mono-culture farming has also led to the rise of poor nutrition in bees, making it difficult for them to pollinate and live long healthy lives.
How do we help save and protect the bees?
- Plant a bee garden- Bees thrive with plant variety, not in lawns with mono-culture plants. The rise of manicured, chemically treated lawns has driven bees away from suburban areas. Bees do not pollinate grass so replacing wildflowers with grass takes away from the bees. Gardens or yards untouched by humans with a large variety of plants high in nectar and pollen are what bees want and need to survive. These do not even need to bee large areas of land, simple planter boxes and small gardens on terraces or patios will make a difference!
- Go chemical free- Synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides make bees sensitive systems sick and kill them off. They ward off insects like intended, but also harm the bees necessary to pollinate crops, domesticated flowers, and wild flowers. A good alternative is to use compost in gardens to protect the bees, a non-toxic alternative to harmful fertilizers ( and compost will allow bees to still nest in the ground for eggs unlike other fertilizers and mulch).
- Make a bee bath– Take a bird bath and put in stones large enough to break the water’s surface. This provides a place for bees to land to drink water without getting wet.
- Build homes for the bees– One of the largest threats to bees is a lack of safe places to build homes. Most bees are local variety bees and do not migrate around like honeybees. There are many ways to make homes for bees, like ‘planting’ a dead log, saving a dying tree from being cut down, or making your own tube apartments out of drilled wood or toilet paper rolls (5 ways to increase nesting habitats for bees ). Another way to welcome bees is to leave a small patch of land undisturbed on your property. This is so bees can naturally buzz around without human intervention.
- Support local bee keepers– The best way to support bees is to support those who nurture them! Buy local honey and other beeswax products (which may even help allergies and sleep patterns – local raw honey benefits ) and donate when you can. Always call local keepers for bee removal to relocate them to a safe space.
*Native bees are equally as important as honeybees. They receive a lot less attention because they do not look like the traditional bumble bee. There is a focus on ‘saving the bees’ and native bees need to be included in this process as they are vitally important to the continuation of bees as a species*
(1) “Plants, the ‘Core Basis for Life on Earth’, under INCREASING Threat, Warns UN Food Agency | | UN NEWS.” United Nations, United Nations, news.un.org/en/story/2019/12/1052591.