I am the first to tell you I will squeal and run from a bee. I’ve only been stung once at the age of probably seven. I don’t recall it even hurting that badly. But like spiders, the sight of a bee makes me run for the hills. I will also admit I have uttered the words “I hate bees,” many times. Many many times. Maybe if I was allergic then I wouldn’t feel as guilty about hating them so much, but I’m not. I selfishly saw all bees as pests and evil and mean.
Here come some facts. Honeybees are responsible for $30 billion a year in crops. According to BBC, “What Would Happen if Bees Went Extinct,” bees pollinate 70 of the 100 crop species that feed 90% of the world. We may start losing the plants that bees pollinate, all of the animals that eat those plants and so on up the food chain.
Many reports have disputed a bit on these numbers. Some say if honeybees did disappear for good, humans would probably not go extinct (at least not solely for that reason.) Also, the reports vary in depth on how much the plants really need their pollinators. Many staple foods make up a crop list that do not require help from bees like wheat, rice and corn. Can you imagine a diet of just those ingredients… However, there are plenty of other examples that rely heavily on bees for pollination, which we would lose if all our bees continue to perish. If not completely lost some would drop to a scarcely rare rate. This also means they would spike in price. The scariest of all crops we could lose… COFFEE.
Additionally, Thanksgiving dinner would never be the same. There’d be no cranberries, brussel sprouts, squash, pumpkin or apple pie. Fourth of July BBQ’s without bees would mean no watermelon, berries or cucumbers. If you celebrate Cinco De Mayo, or just love Mexican food like myself, say good-bye to avocados, tomatoes, peppers and some cheeses.
What my research does agree on is we are losing bees at an alarming rate. Reasons include climate change, loss of meadows, mites and the use of pesticides. Although nearly one out of four American honeybee colonies died this past winter, (thanks Huffingtonpost.com) there are some ways we can help at home.
- Plant some sunflowers! First of all they are beautiful and tell me you can’t help but smile when you see them. However, wildflowers such as strawberries, raspberries, carrots, daisies, mint, lavender and sunflowers create habitats for the pollinators. Even if your gardening space is just a flowerpot hanging from your apartment balcony, a single sunflower can help!
- Don’t use nasty pesticides. Just don’t. I know we all think our lawns need them to look healthy and outshine the neighbor’s lawn, but they are a serious bee-killer. Insects in your lawn are a sign of a healthy ecosystem, leave them there!
- Understand that bees aren’t out to get us. Honeybees are vegetarians. Contrary to popular belief, (and my own) bees don’t want to sting us. Bees are busy. If you don’t get in their way, they wont get in yours.
- Bees are thirsty. Put a small basin of fresh water outside your home. This is an easy trick! If you see a lot of bees starting to gather near your garden or flowerpots, invest in a bird bath with some cute little stones in it for the bees to crawl around on. They will appreciate it!
I know I’ve thrown a lot of information your way; below I will link some of the sites I used to gain all this wonderful knowledge. Yet the major piece to this puzzle I hope you will take away is just how vital even a little ole bee can be to our ecosystem.