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  • Carol Jin

The Truth Can Sting: Here’s The Buzz About Bees



Introduction

You’ve probably encountered a bee, whether it be a honeybee or a bumblebee or a hairy-footed flower bee, at least once in your lifetime. How did you respond then? Did you get scared that it was going to sting you and run away? Did you stomp on it with your shoe like you would swat a fly? The next time you see a bee, try smiling because it is a key organism for maintaining a healthy environment (unless it’s charging at you maliciously, then run away and shut yourself into a safe space)! This article will inform you of the benefits that bees bring to our environment, the threats that bee populations face, and practical ways that we can foster a bee-friendly environment!


How Bees Benefit Us And The Planet

  • They are Un-bee-lievably Effective Pollinators: All plants must be pollinated in order to bear fruit and successfully produce new seeds/offspring plants. Bees are only one possible pollinator among many others such as flies, wasps, moths, beetles, some birds, and bats, but all of the animals previously listed “only visit flowers enough to feed themselves” [1]. Bees, on the other hand, visit many more flowers because they aim to gather enough pollen and nectar to feed their whole colony and so they are generally the most effective pollinators.


  • Bees Stock Our Shelves: Apples, cranberries, melons, broccoli… you name it, bees pollinate it! Some crops such as blueberries and cherries are 90% reliant on honeybee pollination while almonds are completely dependent on it when it comes to blooming season [2]! Bees even fuel meat and dairy production by pollinating alfalfa, a great crop for cattle diets [3]. We might take this for granted, but they play a huge role in supplying the options we have when strolling through a local supermarket or grocery store, take a look at this:



and there's more…


Phew, it looks like the phrase “busy as bees” has a lot of truth to it! They're doing so much for us in ways that we might not even recognize!


  • They Are As Sweet As The Honey They Make: Honeybees are prized as the only existing insects that produce a food consumed by humans, raw honey. It’s even more amazing to learn that this natural treat provides so many benefits to us ranging from natural antibacterial properties to revitalized skin [5].


Some Threats That Bees Face

Because bees are so crucial in providing a vibrant planet for us, it is extra important that they are preserved and protected! Unfortunately, the reality of our situation is that bee populations are dropping at alarming rates. National Geographic provides the saddening statistic that “in North America, you are nearly 50 percent less likely to see a bumblebee in any given area than you were prior to 1974” [4]. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Colony Collapse Disorder: This is a phenomenon in which the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear from their hive and leave behind their queen bee and nurse bees that care for larvae. Even though the hive initially has large reserves of honey and pollen, the colony eventually collapses without having the worker bees to sustain it. There are a couple of reasons why colony collapse occurs, such as pesticide poisoning bringing stress onto worker bees, changes to the hive’s surroundings, or poor nutrition.


  • Bumblebees Aren’t Built for The Heat: Bumblebees are some of the more-well known bee species among the 20,000 total different bee species in the world—they are commonly identified by their stout and fuzzy bodies. Their soft, brush-like hair may inspire adorable pictures, but this thick coat actually originated as an adaptation to help bumblebees pollinate in cold weather. That is definitely not helpful in our current global state, where our last 5 years have been the hottest ever recorded [4]. The rate of our Earth’s temperature rise is too abrupt for these bees to naturally adapt to, thus endangering their populations and the ecosystems that they pollinate.


"Flower and Bumblebee"by digital cat  is licensed under CC BY 2.0


  • Varroa Mite Infestations: If you used to think or even still think that bees are pests, then let me introduce you to some real pests now. Varroa mites are parasites that feed off of bees’ bodies and suck out their nutrients, making the bees weak and even potentially wiping them out. These mites have eliminated 90% of the feral bee colonies in California within the first two years of their arrival [7] and also pose a global problem.


How We Can Help The Bees

We might not be able to save bees from varroa mite infestations, but we can certainly help them out in other ways! Let’s look at how we can encourage the revival of healthy bee populations in more detail [8]:

  • Make a Bee Garden: Oftentimes, bees fly for endless miles without finding a worthy patch of plants to pollinate. By sprucing up your balcony or backyard and making it more bee-friendly, a bee garden will be like an oasis in the middle of a dry desert for these diligent workers. See this linked website for a list of garden plants that bees are attracted to and this other linked website for some practical tips on starting a bee garden!


  • Garden Organically: For those of you who are already thriving with growing gardens, please be aware that bees are sensitive to synthetic, or man-made, fertilizers and pesticides. Organic alternatives make gardening a healthier experience not just for your plants but also for these bees that pollinate them!


  • Support Local Beekeepers: Buying locally-produced honey or beeswax products is a great way to show support for beekeepers who are trying extra hard to revive our declining bee populations.


WAIT, BEFORE YOU LEAVE: U-Turn The Earth has launched an art gallery for its website! This gallery will serve as a community where we can share the beauty of nature or convey our advocacy for environmental wellness through photography, drawings, and paintings. Additions to our collection are always welcomed, so you can also share YOUR works with us! Further details are in the actual gallery so make sure to check it out!


Thank you for reading! With our help, the world can make a U-Turn for the better.

Note: Bracketed numbers next to certain texts (e.g. [1], [2], etc.) indicate that the aforementioned information in the article is derived from the corresponding source in the References below.



References

[1] Why do we need bees? (2017, July 25). Retrieved August 17, 2020, from https://friendsof theearth.uk/bees/why-do-we-need-bees

[2] Honey Bees Are Pollinators. (n.d.). Retrieved August 17, 2020, from https://www.abfnet.org/page/PollinatorFacts

[3] Owen, R. (2016, June 27). The Decline of Pollinators. Retrieved August 17, 2020, from https://www.beeculture.com/the-decline-of-pollinators/

[4] Main, D. (2020, February 06). Bumblebees are going extinct in a time of 'climate chaos'. Retrieved August 20, 2020, from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2020/02/ bumblebees-going-extinct-climate-change-pesticides/

[5] Benefits of bees to society. (n.d.). Retrieved August 20, 2020, from https://www.nectarsunglasses.com/blogs/news/benefits-of-bees-to-society

[6] Colony Collapse Disorder. (2018, April 26). Retrieved August 20, 2020, from https://www.epa.gov/pollinator-protection/colony-collapse-disorder

[7] Bee-Health. (2019, August 20). What is causing the decline of honey bee populations? Retrieved August 20, 2020, from https://bee-health.extension.org/what-is-causing-the-decline- of-honey-bee-populations/

[8] How to save the bees - easy ways to help the bees today. (2020, April 22). Retrieved August 20, 2020, from https://thehoneybeeconservancy.org/how-to-save-the-bees/








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