The importance of bees

Ashley McCann, Opinions Editor

Photo courtesy of the British Bee Association.
For most people, encountering a swarm of bees is not a moment of appreciation or admiration; however, humans have much to appreciate and admire when it comes to bees.

Bees are responsible for pollinating a wide variety of the fruits and vegetables that people consume every day, particularly when it comes to specialty crops such as berries, fruits and almonds. Clover, a key crop used to feed livestock, also requires pollination, so even if fruits and vegetables seem like food people could do without, livestock would lose a considerable amount of its food without bees.

While welcoming them to a picnic is not necessary, it is important to recognize that these tiny creatures play a vital role in human existence. Despite their large contribution to their environments, the bee population is decreasing, and this decrease has been occurring for quite some time.

The honey bee population has decreased from 5 million to 2.5 million since the 1940s. “Researchers say there could be many reasons for the decline: everything from parasites and bacteria to environmental stress, like a lack of pollen,” said Ryan Bergeron of CNN. Some of the contributing factors to this problem are difficulties associated with the use of harmful pesticides, habitat loss, parasites and disease.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations also identifies the importance of bees in their document on pollination that states, “Bees also provide food and additional income for rural families, in the form of honey and other by-products – thus, declining pollinator populations’ impact on the sustainable livelihoods of rural families.” The organization also states that “approximately 90 percent of all flowering plant species are specialized for pollination by animals, mostly insects,” so this issue becomes more than an admirable showcase in “The Bee Movie” and more of a real life situation.

While many of these problems may seem out of reach for a lot of people, there are many ways to make a difference. People can get involved without becoming a bee keeper or trying to tackle the issue of habitat loss single-handedly (which are worthwhile option, but maybe not possible for many people).

In his article, Bergeron identifies several different ways for people who cannot keep bees to contribute to their wellbeing. These suggestions include planting flowers in a window planter, backyard or neighborhood green space, being careful when using pesticides, buying fruits, vegetables and honey from local vendors who support beekeepers in the area and donating to the Pollinator Partnership.

Ashley McCann
Ashley McCann is a junior english and secondary education major. This is her second year on The Flyer, but first as opinions editor.

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