It is hard to underestimate the value of the humble bee. It provides us with food and beautifies our gardens. But our bees are being threatened. Colony collapse syndrome alone eliminated one third of honeybees in 2007, and 40% of bee colonies are dying every year due to this disorder. To make matters worse, the natural habitats of bees are being threatened by modern practices, including farming and urbanization.
Bees are herbivores, so they prey on plants to collect nectar, pollen, and honey to give them energy and feed the hive. They have natural predators as well, such as birds, larger insects, amphibians (such as frogs and newts), small mammals, and bears eager to collect their honey.
The role of the bee cannot be understated when it comes to pollination. Pollination is the process where the pollen that is stuck to the bees legs is transferred from the male part of the flower (called the stamen) to the female part (the stigma). Bees tend to focus on one species of plant at any given time, giving pollination a much higher quality. Otherwise different types of plants wouldn’t get the benefit of pollination and not reproduce.
Bees can be thanked for pollinating one sixth of different flowering plant species worldwide, and four hundred different types of agricultural plants. As of 2010, honeybees and various other pollinators were the cause of nineteen billion crops in the United States alone, which is one third of almost everything we eat!
Trees would also be affected. Trees such as the willow and poplar rely on pollination to spread forests. And consider this: crops that are grown as fodder for livestock and cows, as well as birds and other small animals would also be affected, because their main source of food would cease to exist.
The extinction of the bee would also be detrimental to our beautiful gardens, because many flowers evolved because of their partnership with the over 25,000 types of bees. Unfortunately, they are being threatened. Seven types of bees are now on the endangered species list, including the gourd bee, the yellow-faced bee of Hawaii, and the every important bumble bee.
Fortunately things are being done about it. Aside from placing some species of bees on the endangered species list, many people are beginning to create “bee gardens,” giving them a safe place to keep their hives. These, along with the other efforts being made, may save these insects from extinction.
It is sad that these creatures notorious for their busyness are now threatened. However, at least something is being done about it. By protecting the bee, we are protecting nature, the planet, and ourselves. These humble little insects need our awareness of their importance to us. So the next time you see a bee (although you obviously want to avoid it’s sting), let it go off on it’s way to continue the important work it provides us.