Take a stroll through your local grocery store and stop in the produce aisle. Bees are the reason why we have so many of the fruits and vegetables that you eat regularly. Our delicate ecosystem relies on bees, who are arguably the hardest working creatures on the planet. We owe so much to these amazing little insects.
Bees play a huge part in the ecosystem. After all, it takes more than soil, water, and sunshine to make the world green and beautiful. Bees are responsible for around 90% of all cross-pollinating plants. Let’s take a look at the reasons why bees are important to the ecosystem.
The Importance of Bees in the Ecosystem
Do you love apples or broccoli? What about cranberries and watermelons? If so, you owe your delight to bees. These plants require the transfer of pollen from the male part of the flower (‘anther’), to the female part of the plant (‘stigma’). This process is called ‘pollination’ and leads to the production of food.
Bees are responsible for pollinating billions of plants each year. Much of what you eat each day comes from bee-pollinated plants.
Beekeepers understand that bees create honey to feed their colonies throughout the cold winter months. However, a beekeeper will harvest some honey for their own use, as humans have for thousands of years, but others enjoy this treat, including birds, insects, and some mammals – such as the appropriately-named honey badger, racoons, and opossums. Honey is a vital food source for animals of all kinds.
Wild Plant Growth
Vegetables and fruits require pollination, but native plants also rely on pollinators. Wild plants depend on pollinators for their survival. Without bees, we would be without a variety of seeds, nuts, berries, and fruits.
We know that bees create hives, but you might not know that they also create habitats for insects and other wild animals. Bees play a role in tropical forests, woodlands, and more. Without bees, thousands of animals would lose their homes.
Bees play a vital role in our ecosystem – supporting the growth of flowers, trees, and animals – but we often forget that they’re there. The ecosystem is interconnected, meaning the loss of one important component can have a tremendous knock-on effect on the whole system.
Why is the Bee Population in Decline?
Perhaps you’ve heard talk about the bee population decline. Bees face a variety of threats, such as climate change, habitat loss, toxic pesticides, and more. Let’s take a look at a few reasons why the bee population is in decline.
The world is always evolving, which means the way we use land changes as well. Urban development and intensive farming are on the rise – both of which contribute to the loss of pollinator-friendly habitats.
Loss of habitat causes a decline in the diversity of food sources, which are necessary for a bee’s diet. Bees need flowers to forage and safe places for nesting in the vegetation and soil. The world is witnessing a decline in wildflower meadows and more!
The use of pesticides, which can have adverse reactions on bees and their breeding success, is on the rise. Pesticides can affect a bee’s ability to navigate, defend themselves against diseases, and reproduce.
Pesticides are meant to kill unwanted pests, but the widespread use of pesticides has led to the decline of all insects. These chemicals are used everywhere, not just in gardens – they are sprayed in parks, streets, roadsides, and more.
Winters seem to be getting warmer and wetter than in previous years. Scientists believe that even small changes in the climate can change bee behaviour and their emergence after winter. Climate change can also alter flowering plants, which are a bee’s food source.
What Would Happen if Bees Became Extinct?
Have you ever wondered what would happen if bees disappeared? Where would the world be without bees – either in nature or being looked after by a beekeeper?
The answer is – we would be in trouble.
If bees became extinct tomorrow, we will lose all of the plants that bees pollinate, which includes around 70 of the most important crop species. You wouldn’t be able to go to the store and purchase apples or pears. How would we feed our global population of over seven billion without the most common crops? It would be a struggle.
Pollination can take place by other insects, but bees play a huge role in the job. Humans can take over the job, but that would decrease the amount of food that can be created, and the food would cost more in order to pay the workers to do the jobs that bees do for free.
On top of food loss, the global economy would take a severe hit. Honeybees do a lot of work for farmers around the world; without them, the extra cost to cover their contribution would lead to higher bills at the grocery store. Steep grocery costs would lead to socioeconomic consequences, in particular for the working poor. Humans would struggle to feed their families good, healthy food.
What Can You Do to Help the Bees?
You could become a beekeeper, but aside from that, there is plenty you can do to help the bee population! Here are a few easy ways you can contribute to their survival:
Have an Organic Garden at Home
Many households use insecticides. Keep your garden organic – free from the use of weed killers and insect repellents. An increase in organic gardeners would help to balance out the ecosystem and decrease the percentage of pesticides used.
Plant Bee-Friendly Plants
Bees aren’t your enemy. Fill your garden with plants that bees love – attracting them to your garden. Not only will your garden look beautiful with a variety of colours, but you’ll love the scents. A few plants to try include:
Purchase More Local Produce
Supporting local organic farmers is an excellent step to take if you can’t grow your produce. Pesticide usage is more common in larger farms. If you can’t find a local organic grower, you can make the switch to purchasing organic food from your usual shop. Where you spend your money speaks volumes about what you value.
Buy Local Honey
Your local beekeepers care about the ecosystem and the health of their bees. Supporting local businesses is always a great idea and eating local honey also helps to decrease your seasonal allergies.
Create Bee Refreshment Stations
Bees get tired just like you do after a hard day of work. You might see bees on the ground, looking dead, but that bee could be taking a break – gathering energy to find food and water. Give your bees a helping hand by creating a watering station.
Giving a helping hand to your local bee population, through your own, hands-on efforts or by purchasing from a beekeeper or organic farmer, supports your local ecosystem and wildlife. Try a few of these tips to help the bees in your area and make sure you share ideas with your friends about the importance of bees.