Why Bees Are Important to Everything, Especially Your Healthy Eating Habits

Spring has sprung and that means one important thing: bees.

Bees! Personally, bees make me nervous. I’m not allergic in the slightest and I’ve been stung many times by all kinds of buzzing bugs (word of warning: don’t try to trim a hedge without first checking for a hornet’s nest). I’ve been known to leap off of my front stoop and onto the bustling Philadelphia sidewalks at the slightest sound of a bee near my ear. Still, despite my irrational nerves, I can’t deny how absolutely necessary bees, and honey bees in particular, are to all life on this planet.

Why Are Bees Important?

Without these busy little insects, the springtime would have a far less appealing landscape. This is because bees are the most abundant pollinators found on the planet (1). Without bees, we wouldn’t see the same bursts of colorful blossoms when the winter’s chill fades. Beyond aesthetics, a loss of bees means staggering problems would rock the planet!

Pollination Keeps the Economy Afloat

Pollination by bees is responsible for everything from the avocados on your brunch plate (2) to the almonds in your milk alternatives to the alfalfa fed to cows to keep the meat industry booming (3). Remove these buzzing little buddies from the equation and available crops would start to plummet in no time. Estimates suggest honey bees contribute more than $17 billion each year to the American economy by way of pollinating major agricultural crops (4). Take them away and the financial structure of the world would start to unravel. Sadly, this is barely the tip of the iceberg for what would happen if bees vanished.

The Sacking of the Animal Kingdom

The extinction of bees would also cause other species to suffer immensely. A large array of herbivores, which rely on plants pollinated by bees, would likely see a fast decline in population as food sources become scarce. This, in turn, will negatively impact carnivorous animals that rely on eating the herbivores. And, of course, these hits to the animal kingdom will cause problems for human beings, who eat both plants and other animals to survive.

Say Goodbye to Your Clothes

It doesn’t stop there. Cotton would not be able to grow in abundance the way it does without the help of pollination (5). No cotton means the clothing industry would not have one of its most efficient materials. This would lead to higher price tags at the store and a huge hit to international economies (6).

No More Coffee?!?

Coffee would be another casualty of a world without bees. Extensive research has shown that bees are absolutely necessary for sustaining the world’s coffee plants. These studies compared bee pollination with hand pollination processes and pollination caused by wind. All these alternative methods yielded drastically smaller numbers of pollinated plants (7).

Why Are Bees Endangered?

The endangered status of the honey bee is not new information. Outlets have been reporting about the decline in population for over a decade, though conservation efforts have seen mixed results. This is because a number of factors impact why bees are dying off and disappearing in the first place.

Pesticides

The largest and most problematic reason for dying bees is pesticides. Large agricultural institutions rely on pesticides to protect their crops. Unfortunately, these chemicals kill far more than the “pests” eating the crops, and bees are seriously suffering because of it. Though many institutions are shifting away from these problematic pesticides, the change is not happening at a fast enough pace to protect the ultra-important honey bee population (8).

Colony Collapse Disorder

Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is another factor in the honey bee’s dwindling numbers, though the scientific community as a whole has been unable to determine what is leading to the increase in CCD. Reports state that more than 10 million hives collapsed between 2007 and 2013, which was twice than the average reports of CCD from years prior (9).

Solutions Moving Forward

You might not be able to control CCD or which pesticides are used by the agricultural industry, but you can do something. As human beings continue overdeveloping the planet, bees are losing their habitats left and right. Planting bee-friendly flowers around your home is a fantastic way to encourage these pollinators to come around and consider your area a viable place for a hive.

Of course, some people may live in areas where they feel like they cannot attract bees easily. Luckily, the New York Times provided some fun information about how bees locate flowers. Since New Yorkers often live in apartments far above ground level, many residents of the metropolis wonder how bees are able to “discover” flowers on balconies and window boxes several stories in the air.

Honey bees have “scouts” who search for areas with ample floral options. To discover these locations, they utilize their complex eyes, which are capable of seeing wavelengths and colors that human beings cannot perceive.  Beyond their exceptional vision, bees also rely on smell, touch, taste, and even dancing to locate flowers and communicate their discoveries to other bees from the hive. Whether you live in a high-rise, in the suburbs, or out on a farm somewhere, planting the right flowers can make a huge difference (10).

It is easy to ignore the obvious, specifically that all life on this planet works together (consciously or not) to keep the world functioning. Remove something significant like bees from the equation, and the show will come to an unfortunate end.

And to end on a less doom-and-gloom note, here’s Donald Glover dressed like a bee. Maybe we should start calling him Childish GamBEEno? Eh? Ehhh? I’ll see myself out…

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