Here’s the good news: we currently have what seems to be an endless supply and variety of deliciously pollinated foods to enjoy. Here’s the bad news: our suppliers of those foods are dying…true stuff, according to Greenpeace, honeybee colonies have reduced by 61% since 1947, and they continue to reduce by 30% each year (VanEngelsdorop, et al., 2010). Last year, honeybees were officially placed on the endangered species list in the U.S. This is bad news, really bad news. If the bees go extinct, humans might not bee too far behind them… Here’s 10 reasons why that statement should not only shock you, but push you to action.
1. Bees give our diets a bee-utiful color.
“There’s a widely stated phrase in agriculture that you can thank a pollinator for one out of every three bites of food you eat,” says UC Berkley Professor Claire Kreman (Yang, 2006). In other words, our diets are majorly reliant on pollinators, specifically bees. Out of some 100-crop species, which provide 90% of food worldwide, 71 of these are bee-pollinated (Tirado, Reyes, and Gergely, 2013). For example, almonds are 100% dependent on bee pollination. And foods like avocados, apples, cherries, blueberries, strawberries, coffee, grapes, etc. are mostly dependent on bees (Jorgensen, 2015). What foods don’t need to bee pollinated? Grains, rice, corn, and meat, which means our diets would bee pretty bland and ugly (Palmer, 2015). So sure, humans could survive if the bees went extinct. Just like how we could survive without sunlight or sleep…slightly possible, but that would not by any means bee desirable.
2. Bees can bee efficient little creatures.
Single bee colonies can pollinate 300 million flowers each day (Leonard, 2015). That kind of efficiency is mind blowing. If humans attempted to pollinate by hand rather, in the unfortunate case that bees went extinct, we wouldn’t bee able to reach even a quarter of that kind of efficiency, or even produce the same quality crop. Pollination done by hand is a labor intensive and financially draining task, costing upwards of $136 billion worldwide (Jorgenson, 2015).
3. If bees are full of pesticides, we could bee too.
In 2008, Penn State conducted a survey in which they found unsettling results about the direct effect pesticides were having on pollinators. “What we have found in terms of pesticides is really unprecedented. We have found high levels of pesticides in the wax, in the pollen, and in the bees themselves—beyond the level that was expected when the chemicals were introduced and approved for use. In a total of 108 pollen samples analyzed, 46 different pesticides were identified. We’ve found as many as seventeen different pesticides in one pollen sample from one colony. We’ve identified as many as twenty‐four pesticides in one sample of bees. And then there’s the issue of the interactions of these chemicals—things the manufacturers are not required to test,” said Dr. Maryann Frazer. (Spivak, 2015). If a pesticide is sprayed directly on a plant, the levels of the poison can bee lethal, killing bees instantly as they extract pollen. But if the pesticide is genetically engineered into the seed, the pesticide doesn’t spread so thickly though the crop, intoxicating the bee to the level of loosing its orientation of how to get back to the hive (Greene, 2016). Considering the effects that pesticides are having on bees, and that about 96% of our food is grown conventionally, humans are consuming pesticides as well. So how much will it take before pesticides start to affect us as well?
4. Free flowers are provided (that is if you bee Canadian).
General Mills in Canada has started an increasingly popular campaign to help save the bees. Buzz, the Honey Nut Cheerios Mascot has been taken off the box and been replaced by a white outline, and an advertisement encouraging consumers to check out their #bringbackthebees campaign. And if you’re a Canadian and sign their petition, they’ll send you a free packet of flowers to plant (#bringbackthebees, 2016)
5. If you can bee-lieve it, bees are mathematical wizards.
In 36 B.C. a Roman philosopher named Marcus Terentius proposed a hypothesis concerning bee honeycombs. Particularly, why honeycombs are always hexagons, and even more particularly, why these hexagons are perfect, as in all the sides are of equal length. He called his hypothesis “The Honeycomb Conjecture” and proposed that there may bee a deep reason for this phenomenal bee behavior (Kurlwich, 2013). He guessed that the hexagon is the best way to divide a surface into regions of equal area with the least total perimeter, beeing the most compact and efficient structure. According to University of Pittsburgh professor Thomas C. Hales, “a honeycomb is essentially a jigsaw puzzle. All the parts fit”. So all of this makes sense, but the amazing part? None of it can bee mathematically proven (Sanotoso, 2013).
6. Bees can bee-come younger.
Scientists at Arizona State University have discovered that honeybee colonies can affectively reverse the brain aging of older honeybees. Essentially, the younger worker bees trick the older bees into doing social tasks inside the nest changing the molecular structure of their brains, which literally alters the protein in their brain that is responsible for aging. While current research on age-related dementia in humans’ focuses on potential new drug treatments, these findings on the bees suggest that social interventions may bee used to slow or treat age-related dementia (Leander, 2013).
7. The world is more bee-utiful when nature is natural.
Bees don’t just hang out around flowers because flowers are pretty. Bees depend on flowers for food -- nectar provides carbohydrates, while pollen is their source of protein. When there are large landscapes with no flowers, like mowed lawns with no weeds, cities, and monocultures, bees cannot find proper nutrition, compromising their immune system (Smitley, 2016). But when nature is natural, and there is an abundance of flowers and plants thriving together in a landscape, bees will be able to find a proper supply of nutrition, and our environment will bee able to reap the benefits from the nutritious bees (Shacker, 2008).
8. Bees create a very bee-nificial medicine.
How is it that bees can survive in such a compact, closed perimeter without contracting infectious disease? Well, bees are able to create an amazingly complex wax-like resinous material called propolis that they use as a seal to protect their hive against bacterial, viral, and fungal invaders. Propolis is actually so complex, in fact, that it is impossible to be recreated by humans. What we do know is that propolis’ antibiotic properties come from a substance called galangin, which increase phagocyte activity (Goldschmidt, 2016). Because of the increased activity, the human body is able to offer further defense against germs, which has made propolis an aid in everything from toothpaste and minor burns to carcinogens and tuberculosis (Group, 2014). So if you haven’t been able to thank the bees yet, you can thank them now.
9. Bees teach us how NOT to bee stressed.
Saint John Chrysostom- archbishop of Constantinople, once said, “the bee is more honored than other animals, not because she labors, but because she labors for others”. A single beehive will visit approximately 500,000,000 flowers in the course of a year, and because of their hard work, flowering plants are able to grow strong, produce oxygen, and decrease soil erosion, and all the animals on the planet, including us, can eat food. Additionally, this hard work creates about 84 pounds of honey per hive per year; and just a teaspoon of this honey represents over 30,000 flower visits (The Labor of Honey Bees, 2014). With this kind of exhaustive workload, one would assume a bee colony to bee rather stressed and tense. Yet, the opposite is true. As much as bees labor, they also spend a lot of their lives in rest in order to do more efficient work when needed. This can offer a window into our own working society, and how we can best function individually and collectively in our human organizations and societies (Winson, 2014). Maybe if we rested as much as we worked like the bees do, we wouldn’t hate each other so much.
10. The dying bees are part of a much bee-gger problem.
The bees are definitely dying, and their disappearance is quite the phenomenon; there is an awful lot of science behind why they’re disappearing. However, the problem runs deeper than science. There has been a 300% increase in crop production requiring bee pollination worldwide, and bee colonies are reducing by 30% each year (Kluser, et all., 2010). As the bees are disappearing, we are planting more of the crops that need them, expecting nature to always supply our uncontrolled desires. See, there is such an inconsistency in expecting bees to perform efficiently in an increasingly hostile world. Now, if there are 9 reasons above about how incredible of creatures bees are, there should be a desire to care at point number 10. We can decide for ourselves, but whatever we decide we won’t be able to complain if one day we’re surviving off grass and water
Now let's go plant some flowers, and you're welcome for getting bee puns stuck in your head for the rest of eternity.