To Bee or Not to Bee
The honey bee, one of the biggest producers of food, is slowly becoming endangered. Recently, seven species of yellow-faced bee in Hawaii were pronounced “endangered” and were put on the endangered species list (NPR.com). The Xerces Society declared that these species are “the first bees in the country to be protected under the Endangered Species Act.” Obviously, this is not every species of the small pollinating insect, but this could be a sign that we need to change something.
As most people and even some children know, bees take nectar from flowers, and in turn, pollen gets stuck to their bodies and gets on other flowers as bees travel between them. This helps the process of plant reproduction and helps plants to grow and mature. Naturally, the pollen from flowers or other plants travels through the wind to get other plants, but the plant reproduction process is facilitated with the help of bees. Most foods that humans eat are either plants, plant-based, or include some form of plants. According to NPR.com, “‘about 75% of the world’s food crops… depend at least partly on pollination.’” While bees are not autotrophs, organisms that take in sunlight and create usable energy from it, they do act as a sort of autotroph because they help pollination in plants. And not only do bees help produce food for other plants, they do make honey, which is also used in a lot of food products today.
By now, you might be wondering what causes bee endangerment or even how we can help protect bees and other pollinators. According to NPR.com, some of the biggest influences are “habitat destruction because of urbanization or nonnative animals, the introduction of nonnative plant species, wildfires, nonnative predators and natural events such as hurricanes, tsunamis and drought.” Society often prioritizes human needs over needs of wildlife, which obviously is detrimental in the long run. Some events like hurricanes and droughts cannot be prevented, but causes like habitat destruction or introduction of new species can be prevented or altered. CNN.com says that putting these species on the list allows funds to come in to provide species with protection and to create programs for species’ recovery. Some things that you can do are plant a flower garden with flowers native to your area, use pesticides sparingly, or just be respectful of bees (popsci.com).
While bees are not entirely gone yet, they are slowly disappearing, and the world could seriously suffer from their disappearance. So, next time you swat at a bee or run away from one, remember that bees help provide you with food and their lives are probably more endangered than yours is. We absolutely need bees to help produce food for us, so I would say that the answer to the age-old question in the title of this blog is “To Bee.”