The Impact of Pollinators: Native Bees Are Vital

Did you know that the majority of fruits and vegetables we find in our grocery stores depend on pollination from bees and other pollinators? Without pollinators like bees, a lot of our favorite foods would become obsolete and with the increasing decline in the bee population, it could easily lead to significant changes in our crops and other agricultural needs. Even food products that seem as simple as putting honey on a store shelf could soon be non-existent. How can this be that the production of our favorite foods are in jeopardy?

In a great article written by Greenpeace, they report that “bees and other pollinators, both natural and managed, seem to be declining globally, particularly in North America and Europe. In the U.S. the loss of 30-40% of commercial honeybee colonies was linked to ‘colony collapse disorder,’ a syndrome characterized by disappearing worker bees. Since 2004, losses of honeybee colonies have left North America with fewer managed pollinators than at any times in the last 50 years.”  Now, when talking about native bees, we are actually not talking about honey bees.  It is estimated that there are about 4,000 species of native bees and they were here in America long before honey bees.

Native bees are crucial to food production because they specifically pollinate about “80 percent of flowering plants around the world. According to the USDA, bees of all sorts pollinate approximately 75 percent of the fruits, nuts, and vegetables grown in the United States, and one out of every four bites of food people take is courtesy of bee pollination. In sum, bee pollination is responsible for more than $15 billion in increased crop value each year.” So now, just imagine if bee populations were wiped out! In no time at all, many of our favorite fruits and vegetables, even things like coffee, would have to have a back-up plan for production.

Again, the report conducted by Greenpeace International listed the main factors causing the decline in bee population to include industrial agriculture, which sees the excessive use of chemicals and fertilizers on crops to help them grow and produce faster, and the problem of parasites and pathogens. There has also been a loss of biodiversity among colonies because bee habitats are being destroyed due to the use of pesticides on plants. Pesticides can cause a wide range of developmental problems within the bee population before eventually causing death. However, perhaps the biggest impact of all that threatens bee colonies is climate change.

It’s no secret that climate change has had negative effects on the planet. For bees in particular, the increasing temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns, and more erratic or extreme weather conditions, will greatly impact the pollinator populations. Even some of these characteristics could affect pollinators individually or as a community, which can lead to higher extinction rates for species.

Nevertheless, we can put a stop to declining bee populations and start replenishing these colonies. According to the article published by the U.S. Geological Services (USGS), some things we can do around the house just to jumpstart native bees would be to “plant a diversity of pollen and nectar sources native to your area that bloom at various times during the year, avoid use of pesticides, and provide a source of pesticide-free water, and mud, which is used as a nesting material by some bee species.” For those interested, you could consider taking some beekeeping classes offered in your local area, or you could even learn how to build a bee house for pollinators in your back yard. Overall, educating yourself about the importance of pollinators is vital to their survival. The more you know and learn, the more you are able to make sure that your favorite foods and bees don’t end up disappearing altogether.

We invite you to click on the links provided within this article to learn more about these amazing pollinators.

-Photo Credit: Amaya Perez

-Written by: Alexandra D. & Ashley L.