You may be thinking “Why should I even bother helping the bees?” Well, bees actually play a huge role in our natural environment through their pollination. We often take for granted the important job bees have. You may not realise it, but bees are the reason the fruit, vegetables, nuts and plants you know and love exist. Without bees, you wouldn’t have the pleasure of enjoying all of these.
In the video, distinguished professor and entomologist Marla Spivak talks about the main multiple and interacting factors that are detrimental to the global bee decline. These are:
- Flowerless Landscape
Bees have been in decline since after WWII when farming practices were changed. Farmers stopped planting cover crops, including plants such as clover and alfalfa, which are highly nutritious food sources for bees. Weeds, whose flowers are another important food source for bees, were also eliminated through the use of herbicides. These practices resulted in a loss in the diversity of flowers bees feed from.
After WWII, farmers have also been systematically limiting the plants bees need for survival by planting larger crop monocultures. These farms became a food desert as they only grew one or two types of plants, such as wheat and soybeans. Monocultures that extend to crops bees like, such as almonds, which are a good source of protein for bees, have also had a great affect on bees. Bees have to be shipped in and shipped out in order to pollinate the almond flowers. We are planting more and more crops than the amount of bees there are, and this isn’t sustainable.
Pesticides are used on a large scale to combat the crop pests that are attracted to crop monocultures. Pesticides are harmful to bees as their residue is found on the pollen and nectar the feed from. Every batch of pollen has at least six detectable pesticides, including insecticides, herbicides and fungicides. One of the worst is the neonicotinoid insecticide. When it is used in high dosages, such as through ground application, it travels throughout the whole plant and gets into both the pollen and nectar. If a bee feeds of a plant with a high concentration of this neurotoxin, it will die. In most agricultural settings, only a smaller concentration is used. If consumed, either nothing happens or the bee may become disorientated and not know how to get back home.
The Varroa destructor mite is one the worst parasites that can harm bees. They are a blood sucking parasite that attaches itself to the back of a bee, compromising its immune system and circulating viruses.
When a bee is affected by the lack of a flowerless landscape and crop monocultures, we are also affected as it impacts our agricultural and natural ecosystems by reducing the amount of foods available to us and limiting the diversity of plants that grow around us. When a bee is affected by pesticides, we are also affected because, as well as reducing the population of bees, we are also consuming plants full of pesticide. When a bee is affected by a parasite, we are affected because it reduces the number of bees we need to pollinate our crops. When a bee is harmed, we are also harmed.
These factors show why it is important that as a global community we start to spread awareness and take action towards the issue of global bee decline. There is hope for the bees, and in two simple ways you can help them. We need to start planting bee friendly flowers to increase plant diversity and avoid pesticide contamination of these plants. These individual efforts may seem small, but they will contribute to a larger grand solution that will help fight the global bee decline.