It’s Not All About You, Honey

Why the decrease in bee numbers will affect more than just a shortage of what you spread on your toast every morning…

You may have heard people talking about the decline in the bee population recently. Then again, you might not have. With all the issues bombarding us on a daily basis, it’s difficult to keep track of what we’re supposed to be worrying about. Well, I hate to be the one to add yet another concern to our ever-growing Bee picpile of problems, but we really ought to be paying more attention to our fuzzy little friends.

As everybody knows, bees are responsible for pollinating plants. There are approximately 267[1] species of bee in the UK alone, which may seem like a lot, but their numbers are falling. Between 1985 and 2005[2], the number of managed honeybee colonies dropped by more than half – a major problem, considering that there is only one native species of honeybee in the UK, and they are feared to be nearly extinct in the wild[3].

How exactly would a decline in bees affect us?

I might as well start with pointing out the factor that will sway most people (or at least those with the power to do something about this) – Bees are valuable to our economy. Pollinating insects are worth up to £690million in the UK alone, and £120billion worldwide[4]. They are a sustainable resource that we benefit from! With the amount of free labour they do for us, I’m surprised nobody’s tried to train them up to clean the dishes or fold the laundry.

An estimated one third[5] of the food we eat on a daily basis depends on pollinating animals to reproduce. Apples, in particular, rely heavily on a variety of bees and insect pollinators in order to produce crop, and those pollinated by natural means have actually been proven to have a better quality yield than ones pollinated by hand[6]. So no matter how many times you get irritated by a bee hovering around your picnic, just remember that they’re probably responsible for the existence of a good portion of it.

Up to 90%[7] of wild plants depend on pollinators. Here’s the thing about plants: they’re not just there to make your garden look fancy in the summer – they’re far more important than that. Plants sustain wildlife, produce oxygen and are used in medicine.

Essentially, without bees, we’d also be without a whole lot of what’s mentioned above.

What’s causing the bee decline?

  • Global warming, which causes flowers to bloom at irregular times. This can interfere with the bees’ ability to feed. Moreover, climate change has been linked to the depletion of bee numbers[8], because the insects rely on precise temperatures to breed.
  • Pesticides, which can kill or cause harm to bees. Even if the pesticide is not fatally toxic to a bee, it can still inhibit its abilities to perform basic tasks, which will make it less capable of reproducing[9].
  • Habitat loss, which can be anything from large-scale developments, to gardens that don’t have any bee-friendly flora in them.

So what can we do to help?

First and foremostly, do not kill bees. They will not harm you unless provoked, so just let them ‘bee’, as it were. If you see one struggling along the ground in your garden, don’t ignore it or go out of your way to hurt it – give it a little sugar water and it’ll soon be back off its feet. In fact, leaving a small tray to collect rainwater outside of your house will also help bees, as they do get thirsty!

If you are able to, plant some bee-friendly flowers in your garden[10]. There are even some fruits and vegetables you could grow as well. Of course, when you’re growing them, take care not to use any pesticides or harmful substances.

Be conscious about the food you buy. Is it environmentally friendly? Has it come from a reliable source? Sometimes this might be the more expensive option, but if you can afford it, it’s worth spending those few extra pennies on. Supporting pesticide-free crops means supporting bees.

You could also support charities and bee-keepers when possible. Even if you are personally not in a position to grow any plants (or even keep your own bee colony!), you can still help by aiding those who are. Simply talking to people about this and raising awareness is better than nothing.

If you want any more details on how you can assist with the conservation of our bees, do visit the sources cited below!

[1] http://www.foe.co.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/beesreport.pdf (p.6)

[2] http://www.foe.co.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/beesreport.pdf (p.6)

[3] http://www.foe.co.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/beesreport.pdf (p.6)

[4]https://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/foodsecurity/CFS_Case_Studies__Sustainable_Pollination_Services.pdf (p.1)

[5] http://www.sustainweb.org/foodfacts/bees_are_important/

[6]https://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/foodsecurity/CFS_Case_Studies__Sustainable_Pollination_Services.pdf (p.2)

[7] https://www.nrdc.org/wildlife/animals/files/bees.pdf (p.1)

[8] http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/Bees/bees3.php

[9] https://beyondpesticides.org/pollinators/pollinators.pdf

[10] http://bumblebeeconservation.org/get-involved/gardening-for-bees

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s