Bye Bye Bees

By Lucy Kaminsky

A scary number of one of the most instrumental species to many ecosystems has been dying off. It’s not the leopard, rhino, or turtle. It’s the bee.

Bees are the same animal that children (and some adults) run away screaming from. But people probably wouldn’t do that if they understood how bees are extremely important to pollinating plants and feeding the human population. It would cost billions to hire workers to pollinate and do the other work that bees happily do for free, but many still think of them as pests. In an average winter, thirty percent of bees within a hive die off.  A phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD is an attempt at explaining why this is happening, though it’s not clear cut and definite at the moment. There were many theories as to why our yellow and black helpers have been dying off, including malnutrition, pesticides, and lack of genetic diversity, climate change, and environmental toxins. A joint study done by the EPA-USDA found a parasite called the Verroa destructor to be the main cause of CCD while an insecticide called neonicotinoids is also a serious factor. Because of the large- scale loss of bees, it’s likely that many factors are harming colonies.

Besides it saving the agriculture industry money, bees are necessary to producing food. When the bee population declined, the amount of honey California produced decreased by half. The bee crisis is not something the typical American thinks about on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis, but those who do care are encouraging reform to save the bees. There are programs to teach citizens how to be a beekeeper, education programs for urban populations; Greenpeace works to inform citizens on its website, and the USDA is willing to spend three million dollars on the humans’ little buzzing friends.

There are things the average citizen can do to support the repopulation of the bees, like raising awareness, buying local honey, cutting down on the pesticides they use in their lawn, planting bee friendly flowers, or building a “bee hotel” which provides them with bee necessities.

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