Bee numbers around the world are in decline, and this could be a bigger problem than many people realize.
While people can live without honey, bees serve a much more important purpose than providing a sweetener for our tea. In fact, bees are responsible for much of the pollination of plants, including flowers and crops. Without this pollination, many plants, including those we depend on for food, would not survive.
Pesticides have had a large impact on the decline of bees. Bees can be killed as a non-target species when the pesticide is applied, but there is another problem. There is an external parasite called Varroa destructor that kills off many of these bees by sucking their blood. The effects these problems can have on bee colonies is devastating. In some cases, worker bees will leave a colony, leaving the queen and the juveniles by themselves. This is called colony collapse disorder.
It is widely known the declining bee population is a serious concern, however, many are unsure of the cause or what they can do to help stop it.
“I’ve heard that bees aren’t doing very well, that they’re losing habitat, or pesticides are killing them,” said Derrick Lin, a senior at the University of Missouri. “I’m not really sure though, I’ve just heard that bees aren’t doing so hot.”
Lin also said he thinks that something should be done to address the problem, because bees play a large role in the pollination of our food. Organizations are popping up around the world, such as Greenpeace and BeeNative, to help address the problem of falling bee populations. Not only do these organizations raise money and advocate for regulations to be placed on pesticides, but they also help to build more habitats for bees.
A local organization, Sustain Mizzou Beekeeping, is doing their part to help save the bees. Not only do they have hives on campus, but they also take time to make habitats for the bees. They’re partnering with the researchers at MU’s Sanborn Field to clean up the field, and make it more suitable for bee pollination. In addition to cleaning up the field, they’re building bee “houses” out of old pallets.
There is a misperception that honeybees are the only bees that pollinate.
“Honey bees are technically European, but we have 452 species of bees in Missouri,” said Megan Tyminski, project leader for Sustain Mizzou Beekeeping. “They’re all very, very important and some of them are more productive pollinators than honeybees.”
This means it is important to make sure all species of bees have proper habitat to survive. This can be as simple as donating to an organization that helps bees or having a garden in your yard in the summer.
While the decline in bee populations may be overlooked or brushed off, it could have major consequences for the future plant populations.