According to the Earthwatch Institute, bees are the most important living being on the planet. The bad news, as you may know, is that the bee population is declining rapidly, and bees are at risk of going into extinction. There are seven species of honey bee within the genus Apis. The most well-known being the Western honey bee. Mason bees are also efficient pollinators native to North America.
All species of bees are unique but they all provide essential ecosystem services with far-reaching effects on their habitats and environments. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that bees feed 80 percent of the crops that we eat including broccoli, apples, asparagus, blueberries and coffee.
Worldwide, bees are disappearing at an alarming rate. While the reasons vary depending on the region, the principal causes include deforestation, lack of safe places for nests, lack of flowers and use of uncontrolled pesticides, to name just a few.
Here are a few simple ways to save the bees:
1. Keep an untouched plot of land for native bees in your garden
Most bees are solitary creatures, living either underground or in holes in trees or hollow stems -- with the notable exception of honey bees which live in hive communities. Solitary and bumble bees prefer to build their nests in undisturbed natural spaces. Build or buy and install a bee condo in your yard to encourage the bees to live there.
2. Plant more flowers and trees.
Bees love colorful perennials! However, bees actually get most of their nectar from trees. When a tree blooms, it provides hundreds or even thousands of blossoms for bees to feed from.
Trees are essential to a bee’s habitat. Their leaves and resin provide nest material, and their trunks and branches make for great shelters. Plant trees in your neighborhood and community to counteract the negative effects of deforestation and urban development.
3. Avoid harmful pesticides.
Contact with synthetic pesticides, fertilizers or herbicides endangers the lives of bees. Instead, introduce beneficial insects such as praying mantises and ladybugs into your garden.
If necessary to use pesticides, do the research and try natural, bee-friendly alternatives. Choose organic pesticides; use as sparingly as possible; and spray at nighttime, as pollinators are less active then.
4. Learn more and spread the word.
By dedicating more time and resources to studying bees, spreading awareness and coexisting in greater harmony with bees, we can help.
A 2009 study by Brown and Paxton assessed the major threats to bee diversity and presented a list of action items, including:
minimization of habitat loss and degradation
adding bee-friendly features to agricultural areas
increasing studies on bees to answer more questions about their decline
promoting public education
Saving the bees must involve wild bee habitat restoration efforts, as well as improving domestic beekeeping methods, reducing the use of harmful pesticides and spreading knowledge about the importance of bees to human ecosystems and lives.