Imagine a dying world. A world without coffee, without chocolate, without honey. A world without food. Bees account for about 16,000 species in the insect world. These bees are some of the most important and sometimes overlooked animals in the world.
Without bees and other pollinators, we have no food. Pollinators are essential for the propagation of plants like fruit trees and all of the myriad species of plant we use for food. Each flowering and fruit-producing plant requires pollen from the same plant of the opposite sex in order to create fruit. In order for this to happen, pollinators carry pollen from one plant to another which allows for this to happen.
Now, pollinators don’t have to be bees. Moths, bats, butterflies, hummingbirds, flies, beetles, lemurs and even geckos all have a role to play in pollinating our planet’s greenery. Indeed, continent and biome dependant, some pollinators only exist in certain countries and only pollinate certain plants.
In North America there are 4,000 native bee species that help pollinate our food, but the advancements in pesticides, which help stop insects like aphids from eating our food sources, are killing them.
Neonicotinoids in pesticides are deadly to the insect pollinator species and have caused a direct decline in the bee population. The neonicotinoids are lethal to bees killing them several days after exposure, even if it has been several days since the plant was sprayed. In addition, they take contaminated pollen back to the hive and the whole hive dies as a result.
In Canada, in 2018, Health Canada put forth a proposal to ban neonicotinoid pesticides. Early in 2018, 240 Canadian scientists signed an open letter to the government calling for the ban of neonicotinoid pesticides in order to save the bees. In August the ban was put forth for a 90-day review period and the final results of the special review are expected at the end of 2019. If the ban goes through Canada will follow in the footsteps of the European Union, which banned neonicotinoid pesticides in 2013.
But the banning of neonicotinoids is only a part of what we can do to increase the declining bee populations. We need to save green spaces and forests, which are home to hundreds of different species of plants that attract pollinators. We can also plant bee-friendly flowers and fruits, both annual and perennial. Aster, crocus, foxglove, dahlia, lavender, and sunflowers are all pollinator attractants that bees love.
Another thing you can do is create a bee bath using a shallow plate and water. Bees need water just like other species but in lower amounts. A large body of water for them to drink from puts them at risk of drowning, just like butterflies.
A joint effort is required to save the bees and save us. Part of the solution is to ban pesticides that kill off pollinators but we can each do our own part by planting bee-friendly native plants, building bee houses, creating bee baths and supporting local hives and beekeepers by buying local honey and beeswax products. You can also plant lavender, a prolific bee-friendly herb that grows to fill the space it is allotted.
In order to save ourselves and our food supply, we first have to save the bees. Without them, there’s no coffee, no chocolate, no honey, indeed no food of any kind. As the world’s largest subset of pollinators, bees are what will keep us, as a population, thriving for years to come.