It’s not my intention to overwhelm you all with eco-preaching, it just happens to be what’s on my mind this week, and on that topic, I’d like to talk about bees. Black and yellow, fuzzy, flying, buzzy bees, because, as you may have heard, they’re dying, at a dangerous rate. Honey bees, in particular, are very important to most ecosystems on our planet, and without them, we’re in trouble. We all know this, we’ve read it on the news, but how many of us really know why they’re so important? Why are these specific insects so vital to our planet? Well, I’ve been wondering the same thing, so I thought I’d shed a little light on it.
So, why are they so important? Well bees are vital in pollinating our food as well as trees and flowers which provide habitats for other wildlife. They are responsible for pollinating 1/3 of the food we eat and 80% of flowering plants. Most of our vegetables, fruit and crops rely on pollination to be fertilized, and a handful of these rely on bee pollination specifically – broccoli, asparagus, cucumber, apricots, strawberries, apples, tomatoes and almonds – fruits and vegetables that the majority of us eat regularly. Though there are of course other methods of pollination – wind, birds, bats, insects – bees are the most important due to their capabilities of pollinating on a much bigger scale than other methods. If farmers were to manually pollinate their crops in place of bees it would cost an estimated £1.8 billion a year. A hefty amount of money when bees can do the job for free! But if the bees disappear, that’s the future we face, and I don’t know about you, but I think farms might struggle forking out an extra couple of billion pounds a year!
The next question is, why are the bees disappearing? Bees have been around pollinating our plants for millions of years, so why are they dying now? Short answer – global warming. But there really is much more to it than that, and the bees are not yet beyond hope! Firstly, they’re losing their homes at an alarming rate. Bess nest in hollow trees, and as I mentioned the other day, deforestation is at an all time high, destroying the nesting places of bees. Clearing land for livestock has also led to the serious decline of many wildflower meadows as well as other areas abundant in flowering plants – an important food source for bees! So hey, cutting back on your meat intake can also help save our buzzy little friends!
The main threat to bees however, is the use of toxic pesticides on crops. Pesticides are used to kill pests, but are having an adverse effect on other non-dangerous insects due to their intense toxicity. Neonicotinoids, which are active substances used in pesticides, are sprayed onto the crops and then absorbed by them, our bees then come along to pollinate, and they ingest these substances, which cause serious damage to the bees central nervous system. Now I’m not about to start saying pesticides are bad and blah blah blah, pesticides have many benefits, they help farmers produce more with less land, helping keep food affordable and also preserving the environment – producing more crops in smaller areas means farmers require less land therefore less deforestation, less soil erosion and conserving other natural resources. They prevent disease outbreaks by controlling the population of disease carrying rodents and insects. Plus many more benefits, so cutting pesticides in agricultural use, I wouldn’t say is really an option. You can however, stop using them in your own garden, some pests are actually important food for pollinators such as bees, so it could be best to let nature take its course at home!
Other ways we can help our flying friends: you can fill your garden with bee friendly flowers, bees like a large range of flowering plants, that are easy to grow at home. You can also easily provide shelter for bees to nest and hibernate in, there are ready-made bee and insects houses you can buy, or if you’re feeling creative, you can make your own!
I’m sure there are many others way to help as well, I’ve just pinpointed a few. But to summarise, it’s not an exaggeration, we really do need the bees. It’s important to do things to save the planet, like I talked about in my previous post, but there’s little point to it if there’s not enough wildlife left to sustain that planet! So, let’s start with the bees eh?