The Buzz About Saving the Bees (and How You Can Help)
You’ve probably heard there’s a movement to “Save the Bees.” But the reason for their dwindling numbers is more complicated than just the use of pesticides. A new phenomenon called “colony collapse disorder” has led to beekeepers losing almost 90 percent of their swarm in the last decade, destroying 10 million beehives. Why are bees dying at such an alarming rate? How would that affect life as we know it? And what can we do to help? Science doesn’t have all the answers yet, but there’s still much we can learn from the information already out there.
Just How Many Bees Are There?
There are nearly 25,000 known species of bees on the planet, found on every continent except for Antarctica. While we typically think of bees living in hives, there are certain species classified as “solitary” – instead of a colony centered around a queen bee, each female is fertile and can start her own nest wherever she pleases. These include leafcutter bees, mason bees, and carpenter bees; the latter being of particular nuisance to homeowners because they like to build their nests by burrowing into untreated wood.
Carpenter bees are typically confused with bumblebees at first glance, but are easy to spot if you know what to look for:
- Carpenter bees have shiny, black abdomens, whereas bumblebee abdomens are hairy
- Males have white or yellow faces, unlike bumblebees
- Carpenter bees have hairy hind legs
- They vibrate their bodies and use their mandibles to bore their way into wood, bamboo, and hard plant material
- Males lack stingers, and while females do have stingers, they are docile and will not sting unless provoked
While solitary species of bees do not produce honey or beeswax, they still play a vital role in our ecosystem through pollination. If you discover a carpenter bee nest, try to leave it alone, as there is a very small threat of you or your family being stung. However, if a nest becomes too big a nuisance, you should contact Anderson Pest Solutions immediately so our pest management specialists can take care of the issue safely.
What’s Happening to the Bees?
Science hasn’t figured out exactly why bee populations are in such stark decline, but it’s obvious things have not been going well for these insects lately. Between 2014 and 2015 alone, 42 percent of honeybee colonies collapsed. The U.S. has fewer managed honey bee colonies now than 70 years ago. And over the last century, a full half of Midwestern bee species have completely disappeared from their native habitats.
The first culprit people point to when discussing the decline in bee populations is, of course, the rampant use of insecticides to protect crops. But there are several other factors that could be at fault as well: Increasingly erratic weather patterns due to climate change, loss of habitat from an increasing human population, and the narrowing of genetic diversity of bees through controlled breeding, leaving them susceptible to parasites and disease.
How Important Are Pollinators?
Ask yourself: Could you live in a world without coffee? Do you enjoy eating a healthy diet of fruits, nuts and vegetables? What about that fancy bottle of extra virgin olive oil in your pantry?
Bees and other pollinating insects factor into a full third of all food production in the world. Even if you’re not a vegetarian, bees also pollinate crops like alfalfa and clover, which feed many of our pasture animals. Still not convinced? Here are a few more facts to consider:
- In Europe alone, the growth of over 4,000 different vegetables depends on pollinators like bees
- Foods that might disappear completely without the help of bees:
- Vegetables, like zucchini
- Fruits, like apricots
- Nuts, like almonds
- Spices, like coriander
- Oils, like olive and canola
- The average American consumes 1.3 pounds of honey each year
- In 2013, U.S. honey production was valued at $317.1 million
There is one alternative to bees – hand-pollination. However, the process is extremely labor-intensive, slow, and expensive. The economic value of bees’ pollination efforts worldwide is estimated at over $280 billion annually. Even from an economic perspective, it just makes sense to protect our yellow-and-black-striped buddies.
Help Save the Bees
While things might seem pretty dire for bees right now, perhaps this is a blessing in disguise. Now, more than ever, people are beginning to grasp just how important pollinators are to our survival, and groups have formed to help their populations rebound before it’s too late. By donating to nonprofit organizations like the Pollinator Partnership – the world’s largest pollinator protection group – and the Honeybee Conservancy, you can help spread knowledge and improve the quality of life for both humans and bees alike.
Here’s a list of some other ways you can help the bees:
- Plant native wildflowers and flowering shrubs in your backyard, community, and workplace. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has more information on how to construct a pollinator garden.
- If you have a lawn, leave a small portion unmowed – you’ll be surprised what native flowers spring up over time. White clover and dandelions are especially accessible to a great diversity of bee species.
- Even if you don’t have a yard, a balcony with a few potted native plants will help bees passing through.
- Support small, local, organic farms. They provide higher biodiversity and better bee health.
- Buy certified organic cotton. Cotton ranks among the highest in pesticide usage on crops, including a mix of pesticides and fungicides known to be dangerous to bees.
- If you love honey, buy from local beekeepers who care about their bees. You can find them online or at farmer’s markets.
Anderson Pest Cares About Healthy Bees
Most people probably have a bad memory of being stung. And while everyone can agree they play a crucial role in our lives, let’s be honest – sometimes, bees can be a real nuisance. But simply treating the problem with store-bought insecticides or by calling some generic pest control company isn’t always the best idea. At Anderson, our licensed pest management professionals have the tools and experience necessary to handle household pests safely and effectively. We care about the environment, which is why our expert technicians are specially trained in how to apply products without harm to the honeybee population.
By working together, we can all do our part to help the pollinator population rebound and thrive for years to come. However, if you do have a bee problem, call Anderson Pest Solutions and speak with one of our experts. We’ll determine the best way to remove the offending insects that’s safe for both you and the bees.