Everything You Need To Know About Bees And Why They Matter
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Everything You Need To Know About Bees And Why They Matter

What has been happening to the bee population and how you can help.

Everything You Need To Know About Bees And Why They Matter

Hello, everyone! Here is a quick disclaimer: I learned a lot about bees through reading books from my local library and a lot through TED talks online. The TED talk that I received a lot of the information used was in an article called “Why Bees Are Disappearing” and was delivered by Marla Spivak.

If you haven’t already heard, you should know that the world’s honeybee population is in deep trouble. They have been dying en masse and are not reproducing enough to make up for the lives that they have lost each day. It has gotten so bad that scientists are predicting that we will no longer have any honeybees left to sustain the earth as soon as the year of 2025. That is only nine years away. Each year, beekeepers who maintain colonies have been seeing a general 30 percent decrease of their honeybee population. Twenty years ago, they were only seeing a 15 percent decrease. This past spring, beekeepers lost 44.1 percent of their colonies’ bees. This disappearance of honeybees is called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

What is CCD?

Colony Collapse Disorder is pretty self-explanatory; it’s where colonies have been disappearing and collapsing and no one is really sure where the honeybees go. During the winter, beekeepers put their bees away to allow them to hibernate. When the spring comes, the beekeeper will go and open them up again to allow them to begin to pollinate and produce for their colony. This is a schedule that has been going on for as long as people have had bees. Through the years, in some extreme cases, beekeepers have gone to open their bees up only to find a dead queen bee and no colony. In less extreme but still very concerning cases, we have seen bees die throughout the summer and have done nothing about it.

What has been killing the bees?

There are many intertwining factors that have caused bees to die over the years, and we are 100 percent the cause for it. It really all began after World War II when we changed our farming practices in order to keep up with mass production. The demand for food has grown, so farmers have switched from cover crops to monoculture crops.

In other words, we stopped having a large diversity of plants and began only producing large amounts of just one type of crop; such as corn, sunflowers, or soybeans. Imagine you need to travel to the store to go get your food and you get there only to find one type of food. It may not even be the food that you can really get a lot of nutrition from. That’s what monoculture crops are. A worker bee can travel up to five miles away from the colony to go get pollen and nectar to bring back to her hive. When she travels and searches for five miles through a 10 mile field of corn, she has wasted her energy and time and has to come back to the hive with close to nothing.

Another factor that has played a key role in the decrease of the bee’s population is how we have managed to control and maintain our crops. Instead of using natural fertilizers such as clover or alfalfa, we have resorted to using synthetic fertilizers that do not provide natural nutrition to bees. Due to the fact that we have monoculture crops, pests and weeds are a huge issue for farmers, so farmers also heavily rely on pesticides or insecticides. When a honeybee comes into contact with a neonicotinoid (a type of insecticide), the honeybee becomes drunk and she gets lost and cannot find her way home once it gets dark outside.

The reason why getting rid of the weeds can be such an issue is because some of the weeds that farmers kill off are flowering plants that honeybees rely on for nutrition. Honeybees work so hard and are even known for working themselves to death. In order to gather enough nectar for one pound of honey, honeybee workers need to go on about ten million trips outside of the hive. The average worker bee makes about 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime (which is about five weeks old). If they are not careful enough, they can be stepped on while they are searching or be swatted. If they can make it back to their hive, sometimes they find that it’s been removed or burned. These are the insects that are responsible for more than 1/3 of our food, and we currently have had a 300 percent increase of crop production that relies solely on bee pollination. On top of the issues that we have created for them, bees already have natural predators and deal with diseases and parasites.

Here is some quick background information on honeybees themselves. A lot of people cannot tell the difference between a honeybee and a wasp, so I’ve provided a photo of one.

Honeybees are small and are kind of a golden color while wasps look like they have ascended from the depths of Hell. Honeybees are not attracted to sugar like wasps and yellow jackets are, so if you see a honeybee coming near you while you are having a picnic, they are probably just passing through to the next flower. Wasps will try to go for a swim in your carbonated drink. If you see a honeybee trapped inside your room or a classroom, it would be the best for them if you tried to find an alternative way to get them outside instead of swatting them. Honeybees will only sting if they feel threatened, so grab a cup if you have one and release them outside. Honeybees are not the only ones that are in trouble right now; there are over 20,000 species of bees and the reason why we do not see them as often as we see honeybees or bumblebees is because they have not developed the social skills that those two have developed.

How can you help?

Go online and research what type of flowering plants are native to your area. Plant those outside and instead of using synthetic fertilizers, compost and make your own and allow clover to grow in your lawn. If you want to mow your lawn, then plant native flowers and clover in pots and put those outside (and don’t use any chemicals or insecticides on them). Buy local and raw honey instead of purchasing mass production honey. When you buy local honey, you automatically help the local beekeepers support bees. If you stir in a spoonful of the local honey into your tea or milk in the morning, you will become more immune to the allergens outside, such as pollen! Another way you can help honeybees is if you come across a hive, please call your local beekeeper and they will remove the bees for you. If you call an exterminator, they will kill the bees and you will become part of the problem.

Please try to become part of the solution—we still have some hope left that we can help the honeybees, so we must utilize this summer and be as helpful to them as possible!

Thank you for your time!

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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