Bees are an integral part of life on Earth. Without bees, simply put, we would cease to exist. It’s hard to believe that a cute little bee is so important to our environment, but it is true. The problem is that not enough people know how important bees are, and don’t realize the detrimental side effects that the declining bee population will have on Earth.
Bees help pollinate flowers and crops and are responsible for pollinating 30% of the world’s crops and 90% of the world’s wild plants. They pollinate important foods like apples, cucumbers, berries, and almonds. In fact, bees are responsible for pollinating $15 billion dollars worth of crops in the United States alone each year. (source) However, it’s not just the fact that we’d lose our favorite foods, or that farmers, like coffee farmers in Costa Rica, would lose upwards of $60,000 a year (source)- we’d lose wildlife, too. Without pollination, crop plants and wildflowers would not grow at the rate in which they currently do. If plants aren’t growing as fast as they are dying, plants will become extinct. Animals that eat plants that bees pollinate, like berries and nuts, will begin to starve. Birds, for example, that have a diet that primarily consists of wild berries, would starve and die off. Animals that eat birds would suffer too. It’s a chain reaction, and it’s bad.
How does pollution play into this? Well, this decline in populations has much to do with global warming, pesticides, and habitat loss. Global temperatures rising, flowers and crops bloom earlier in spring than they normally would. As a result, bees that hibernate or spend much of their time in their hives to keep warm won’t be awake or out in time to feed off of, and pollinate other flowers and crops. Much of the flowers and crops will die before the bees even come out of their hives. This is referred to as a seasonal mismatch. (source.) Pesticides used to kill other bugs like mosquitos are helpful, because mosquitos pose serious risks to people’s health in countries around the world. However, these pesticides kill any and all bugs that are exposed by simply inhaling it or stepping on an area that has been sprayed will die- including bees. Much of the pesticides are sprayed around without much care or consideration for the bees and, as a result, the bees die. These pesticides pollute the air as well and pose health risks on humans. Habitat loss also plays a huge role. When trees are cut down by corporations to make room for industrialization, the bees are left with nowhere to build their nests. They are exposed to natural elements (like weather) and predators, and die.
Bees are such an important piece of our ecosystem. It’s almost a guarantee that most of the fruit you eat has been pollinated by bees. To help in your own way, try planting some flowers in your yard. If you don’t have a yard, buy a small window planter and hang it out of your window. You’ll be surprised at how many bees you start to see every day when you bring flowers into your home. Leave water with some sugar in it on a plate outdoors for bees to drink from when they get weak so that they don’t die. Also try to refrain from using pesticides unless you have a genuine reason why. Very simple ways that we can help our local bees!