Why Should We Save Bees ?
Bees sting- that hurts! Yet, we hear a lot of talk about the plight of the honey bee. Do you ever wonder, does it really matter if bees disappear? Why should we save bees when the world is full of other priorities.
The media certainly thinks the bee population is important. We hear this call to action on the news everyday. “If Bees die- we die” etc. The headlines jump from the front of newspapers. Magazine articles portray the plight of the honey bee. Various authorities are constantly urging us to help save the bees.
Honey Bees Are Not Natives
Honey bees are not native to the United States. Why should we care about bees that were brought over from another country? They arrived with the early colonist who valued them for honey & beeswax production.
So would our lives today really change that much if there were no honey bees in the US? Yes -it would.
Honey Bees Are Valuable Pollinators
Okay, honey bees make honey and gather pollen. This is common knowledge that most of us learn in grade school. But we may fail to understand the scope of their agricultural benefits.
Do you enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables? If so, that is one great reason for why we should save bee. Honey bees are super-pollinators for many crops.
Their perennial colonies are easily housed in boxes and transported to the fields. Bees can arrive in the field at just the right time and later move to another crop.
They also practice flower fidelity. Honey bees will forage on one good source of pollen/nectar, as long as it is available. This trait causes pollen movement from flower to flower of the same kind of plant.
The result is pollination and fruit/seed production. According to the USDA, honey bees are the third most important livestock type in the US. (After beef and pork but before chicken !)
Pollinators (including honey bees) play a role in the production of over 150 food crops in the US. Because we enjoy variety in our diet. A lack of pollinators will reduce availability of some of our favorite fruits and vegetables. We need to make a change.
It is never too early to educate kids on the importance of pollination.
Honey Bees Make Honey – who knew?
Yes, I am just teasing but we do value honey. But honey productions is not the major reason to protect honey bees. In the US, North Dakota, South Dakota and Florida vie for the title of largest honey producing state.
The added value of honey is certainly important. And we are glad that bees make honey for us. However, the US consumes much more honey than it produces. Importation of honey from other countries is necessary to meet the demand.
This opens up the opportunity for many problems including purity of the imported honey and chances of contamination. Of course to be on the safe side you could purchase honey from small scale beekeepers. Or, learn how easy it is to have a hive of your own.
Why Saving Honey Bees May Save Others
Our honey bees are under pressure from many sides. The parasitic Varroa mite feeds on adult bees and larva causing devastation. Like a tick on a dog, the mite bites the honey bee and sucks blood (hemolymph) from its body.
This causes the bee to be weak, die at a young age and succumb to viruses and bacteria. The viruses may pass directly from the mite or gain access through the wound left behind. This leaves unhealthy bee colonies that can not work efficiently.
It’s Not Just The Honey Bees!
What may be even worse than the weakening of our honey bees is – they are not the only ones. Birds, bees, bats, moths and other pollinators are facing decline world wide. Why ?
Several possible answers are under consideration. Climate changes result in temperature and rainfall variations. This creates a change in the types of forage available for pollinators.
Modern agriculture practices mono-cultural farming with mega acreage of one type of crop. The pollinators suffer from a lack of a varied diet. Eating one type of nectar/pollen does not provide proper nutrition for most pollinators.
You can help the pollinators by making good planting choices and providing habitat free from chemicals.
Helping All Pollinators
Save the Bees – Save Ourselves?
Recently, for the first time in US history a bee was placed on the endangered list. It was not a honey bee. The yellow-face bee (Hylaeus anthracinus) is a native bee of Hawaii. It has declined due to habitat loss, climate change and invasive species. Though this is not a honey bee, it showcases the challenges facing all pollinators.
Are honey bees the proverbial “canaries in the coal mine” as some seem to believe. Maybe it is time to look at the world in a different light with concern for preserving our pollinators. Not just for the sake of the honey bees but also the other pollinators.
Can we live without them ? Maybe. But life is so much better with them.
Is it too late ?
I hope it is not too late for us to understand the importance of honey bees and all pollinators. Together, we can work to create change and educate others about the necessity to save the bees.
You might ask: what can I do to save bees ? There are many ways you can contribute to the effort to save bees.
Help the honey bees & all pollinators by providing food sources & nesting sites.
Mason Bees are a fun pollinator that many people enjoy having near the garden. A Mason Bee can quickly pollinate more flowers than a honey bee. But they don’t live in large colonies making them less desirable for large farms. Try inviting Mason Bees to your garden. This would be a good project for a family or home school group.
Help Save Bees by Limiting Use of Pesticides
This subject would not be complete without touching on the subject of pesticides. Many pollinator researchers express concern over neonicotinoids. Neonicotinoids are the most commonly used insecticides in the world. They are present in almost all genetically-modified crops.
We know for a fact that neonicotinoids kill honey bees when they are directly exposed to the dust. What we do not know is the long term effects of limited exposure. This debate will continue into the future.
While agriculture interests insist that the pesticides are safe to use, the EPA seems slow to act. This leave beekeepers with sick or dead bee colonies and many questions.
Residual pesticides are showing up everywhere. Sometimes we feel that we must use a pesticide. Perhaps Fire Ant control is needed.
This is the opportunity to use a granular product such as Spectracide Fire Ant Sheild. I always choose a granular product when I need to use any type of ant control.
A granular product is less toxic to pollinators than dust which may be carried by to the hive. It is not only the pollinators who are living in a tainted environment. We breathe the same air and drink the same water.
Education is The Key To Save The Bees
Children are certainly our future. Take every opportunity to educate children on the importance of bees. Even if you are not a mother of young children, you can still help.
Give educational materials to other children that you know. A popular book that I enjoy is “The Hungry Honeybee” available on Amazon. It is great for the kids and even comes with a packet of flowers seeds to plant. Also, I love Dr. Seuss books – Stories About Bees and Trees and Feet and Fur – makes a great fun and educational gift.
Cultivate an appreciation for nature in young people. Provide educational books. Take walks in the wood to see nature in action. Search Pinterest and other sites for fun craft projects that can benefit pollinators. There is so much you can do to get involved and help.
Don’t forget to support small farms. Small scale farmers (like me) struggle to produce vegetables, fruits, meat (and honey) in a competitive world. Your small purchases are appreciated and help make it possible for us to full fill our dreams.
Why should we save bees? There are too many reasons to list but…
Because our very lifestyle is depending on it. Let’s not trash this world, its the only one we have.
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