Environmental conservation involves more than working to protect our water and forests. Up to a third of crops and 90% of the world’s plants need cross-pollination in order to bloom and spread. Honeybees are by far the most effective pollinators and right now they need our conservation efforts.
Challenges Faced by Bee Populations
Regrettably, bee populations are steadily falling around the world. Due to climate change, some flowers are blooming earlier or later than normal. This unpredictable shift in growing cycles results in fewer sources of food for bees when the season begins.
They also experience a loss of habitat when meadows, grasslands and even farmland is lost due to encroaching development; encroachment that has led to a sharp decline in bee-friendly flowers. Some colonies fail due to seeds and plants being attacked by harmful parasites or treated with deadly pesticides. Some species of bumblebees are even facing extinction due to these factors.
Why Bees Are Valuable to The Environment
Bees promote green living in the following ways:
5. Prolific Pollinators
If you enjoy summer crops such as cranberries, apples and broccoli, you have bees to thank. These busy, fuzzy insects play a huge role in ensuring plants germinate. They do so by transferring pollen from the anther (male part of a flower) to the stigma (female part).
While looking for nectar, they move from one flower to another. In the process, they drop grains of pollen on the plant’s sticky surfaces, which enables them to bloom and make food. Bees do this for millions of food crops and billions of plants annually, which earns them their status as busy workers.
It’s estimated that pollination is responsible for a third of the food we eat. Without bees, most of the plants we depend on for nutrition would be extinct.
4. They Help Wild Plants Too
Other than agricultural crops, many wild plants also rely on pollination for survival. Bees help in producing many fruits, seeds, berries, and nuts. These act as an important source of food for wild animals.
3. Vital Food Source
Honey is a vital food source for bee colonies, especially during cold seasons. Although humans have known the sweet taste of honey and harvested it for millennia, they’re not alone. Raccoons, foxes, hedgehogs, skunks, bears, opossums, and a variety of birds and insects are known to love honey.
Bees and their larvae are also considered food by various birds, insects and rodents. Bird predators include the blackbird, mockingbird, kingbird, and woodpecker. Spiders and insects such as dragonflies and the praying mantis are also known to feed on bees.
2. Build Wildlife Habitats
Other than building their own intricate hives, bees also help with habitats for millions of animals and other insects. By pollinating plants, they help the growth and expansion of forests, savannah woodlands, and other ecosystems. Most tree species wouldn’t survive without honeybees and other pollinators.
Your garden also plays host to various creatures, including birds, rabbits, snails, ladybug beetles, squirrels, and countless tiny insects. If bees became extinct, these creatures that depend on pollination for survival would also vanish.
There’s no doubt about their value to our food supply. Without bees, our gardens would be plain and our plates empty. In addition to ensuring healthy plants, bees guarantee the survival of entire ecosystems. By virtue of being pollinators, bees have an important role in every part of the ecosystem. They help the growth and survival of flowers, trees and diverse plant species. These provide shelter and food for countless creatures.
Bees, therefore, sustain complex, interdependent ecosystems. Their contribution to green living enables a large number of diverse animal and plant species to coexist. As you consider their importance to your immediate surroundings, remember the entire planet also depends on them.
What Can We Do To Help Them?
Fortunately, there are actions we can take to slow the bees’ decline. As a gardener, you can help increase bee populations by having bee-friendly plants in your garden. You can choose native plants and naturalize parts (or all) of your lawn and garden. You can ensure that your garden includes a range of plants that flower early in the season and well into the fall. You can even incorporate bee habitats or spaces that would make attractive nesting sites into your garden.
Consider making bees a priority in your garden planning and help conserve, and maybe even grow, their numbers.