The Importance of Bees and One Big Thing You Can Do to Help Protect Them
Guest Post by Christy Erickson of savingourbees.org
It’s almost impossible to overstate the important role bees play in our everyday lives. Without these expert pollinators, our world (and your dinner plate) would look vastly different. If you’ve heard that the bees are in some trouble, globally, you heard right. Here’s why bees are so important to the world and one big thing you can do at home to help protect them.
What do bees actually do for us?
If you like apples, avocados, or strawberries – thank a bee. If you like cheeseburgers or yogurt – thank a bee. In fact, if you like about 70 of the world’s top 100 food crops (and livestock dependent on them), then you should thank the bees when you sit down to dinner every night. Bees are one of the most important pollinators in the world, alongside birds, butterflies, and bats. It’s thought that about 90% of the world’s nutrition depends on these pollinators, and bees account for around 30% of this by themselves. It doesn’t take a mathematician to see why bees are so important to crop production, and in turn, what’s on your plate every day.
Bees’ role as pollinators are their most important quality, but far from their only benefit to society. Honey and beeswax – both produced by bees – play a crucial role in dozens upon dozens of foods, beauty products, and other things humans use on a daily basis.
Without bees, the world would be a much different (and much less pollinated) place.
So what’s happening to the bees?
Short answer: they’re in danger. The long answer is more complicated, as scientists believe that there are a variety of factors that are leading to bee colony decline around the world. One major cause is the widespread use of pesticides (more on that here). When farms use pesticides and herbicides on their crops, many of them are harmful to bees. It’s not just the bees that come into contact with the crops that suffer, as bees can take the poisons back to their hives (or nests) and damage their entire colony.
Habitat destruction is also a big problem for the bees. As we urbanize and lay down more roads, bridges, and foundation for houses and buildings, we are “fragmenting” bee populations. As Beependent writes, “fragmentation can also reduce gene flow between populations, thus decreasing genetic diversity for certain bee species.” Bees are having a tougher time mating and finding places to nest.
The one big thing you can do to help
You can help protect bees in your own backyard. By growing a bee-friendly garden, complete with plenty of pollinating plants that attract honeybees and other forms of wild, nesting bees, you can do your part to help battle a global problem.
For the beginning gardener, it might sound daunting. But by just planting a few solid perennials and a handful of annuals that bees love, you can make sure you attract local bees to your neck of the woods. Bees love purple flowers like purple coneflower, russian sage, and forget-me-nots. Sunflowers are also an annual favorite. Check this list for a ton of flowers you can plant in your bee-friendly garden.
When planning your bee-friendly yard, also make sure to leave some areas in the back clear and some areas a bit unkempt (full of wood, twigs, and other debris). This will attract certain types of burrowing and nesting bees to your yard and give them a nice habitat.
Apart from building and maintaining a bee-friendly yard, simply knowing why bees are so important, why they’re in danger, and spreading the message can help. It’s a global problem, but a lot of it must be solved at the local level. Be an advocate for the bees in everything you do and say.
Photo Credit: Pixabay.com
Christy Erickson is an amateur beekeeper and backyard gardener.
Savingourbees is a non-profit site from Dallas, TX.
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