Attention, here’s the buzz: several species of bees have just been listed as endangered animals for the first time by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
Following years of petitions and studies by many conservation activists and the conservation group Xerces Society, the USFWS, on September 30, placed seven once abundant species of yellow-faced bees on the endangered-species list, proclaiming protection for these native Hawaiian bees under the Endangered Species Act. The consequences of the decline in bee population will be found in the growth—or lack thereof— of Hawaii’s indigenous plants, many of which are also endangered themselves. And though these species are by no means major global pollinators, the implications for the ecological future and global human development could be a stingingly terrifying one.
Make no mistake, though, bees are not yet going extinct as a class of insect. But while about four thousand species of bee continue to exist around the world, many honeybees and bumblebees have witnessed a drastic decline in population throughout recent years as a result of pesticides, diseases, habitat loss and climate change. Having declined in population by more than 90 percent in the past 20 years, one species of bumblebee, Bombus affinis, have even been proposed to be included in the endangered animal list.
How severely does such decline in bee population affect humans, though? It turns out Albert Einstein’s prophetical note, “mankind will not survive the honeybees’ disappearance for more than five years,” is not all baloney. According to multiple researches, bumblebees account for the pollination of one-third of crops in the U.S and honeybees are responsible for the pollination of 80 percent of the plant-pollinated crops that make up one-third of the quintessential American diet. Potential bee extinction isn’t just a bee problem— it is, perforce, a human problem.
It is our responsibility, then, to salvage these little pollinators. And there are simple ways you can help sustain them through everyday practice:
Start a flower garden, preferably one that contains native flower species. Every bit counts, whether it be a small window box or a huge garden. Do your part to help create a home for the bees whose initial habitats were destroyed by urban development. Bonus point: plant native flowers; they attract bees that are native to the U.S.
Be kind to bumblebees, don’t kill them. They may look like intimidating balls of fuzz, but they are harmless for the most part. Bumblebees rarely sting, and only do so when they sense that you are posing a danger to their hives. They aren’t out to get you, so don’t be out to get them.
Watch what you’re putting on your plants. Chemical pesticides and herbicides are highly toxic to some honeybees and can make them more susceptible to mites and diseases. These chemicals can even travel with the wind and harm bees from afar. Limiting their use, or finding natural alternatives, will help preserve our buzzy friends!
Keep the bees hydrated. Bees do a lot of work in a day, and so they are inevitably thirsty. Leave a little basin of water by your flowers and plants as a small token of gratitude for your little friends.
Support your local beekeepers. Ditch your factory-manufactured honey for that of your local beekeeper or farmer. This supports their beekeeping businesses and lets them know that you, too, care about the little yellow guys. Try to learn more about bees and beekeeping in the process. Get out there and get talking.
For a list of Wisconsin bee farmers, click the link here.