Pollinators are in serious danger, and since we rely on pollinators to feed ourselves – so are we. While bee loss is a complex picture and no one, single thing is to blame for falling bee numbers, there are three main threats that stand out. Understanding these threats is the key to solving the problems and protecting our bees.
Pesticides & other Pollutants
The use of harmful pesticides and other pollutants in non-organic farming and gardening is one of the key issues for bees. Pesticides such as neonicotinoids are applied to crops to control and kill the pests that plague them.
These harmful chemicals act on a bees central nervous system – making them confused and unable to feed and eventually killing them. Seeds coated in these substances grow into plants that will continue to poison bees and other pollinators as they grow.
These poisons remain toxic in the environment for a long time – harming wildlife and also contaminating soil, waterways and surroundings nearby. While some of the most harmful substances have now been banned in some parts of the world, sadly, many are still in use.
Changing land use, growing cities, and intensive, mono-crop agriculture are also all significant threats to a range of different bees. Wilderness areas, meadows and hedgerows are being lost and this has had a huge impact on all wildlife – including bees. Habitat loss makes it harder for bees to find food and shelter.
Biodiversity is crucial to a healthy ecosystem – without it, every part of those ecosystems can begin to suffer – not just the bees, but people too.
The Varroa Mite
Honey bees also face another threat: the varroa mite. The Varroa mite attaches itself to a honey bee and sucks its blood. These pests can spread through a hive, bringing with them viruses and disease. Once they get into a hive, varroa mites can kill a whole colony is just a couple of years.
They have been found to be one of the leading causes of colony collapse disorder in North America. Sadly, an infestation can also make honey bees more susceptible to the toxic effects of the pesticides and other pollutants mentioned above.
How Do We Save the Honey Bees?
With a range of threats that are detrimental to their very existence, honey bees could realistically disappear in just a few years. Being aware of the problem’s bees face can help us to determine how best to save them.
It is vital that we are all made aware of these issues and work together to tackle them. To prevent this from happening, there are some steps we all can take.
Start by planting gardens and flower beds with plants that are friendly to honey bees. Sunflowers and hollyhocks are particular favourites.
Then support farmers and producers who provide sustainable and ethically-farmed products.
We must also learn to be bee-friendly. Honey bees tend to sting only when they are provoked. Giving them space to do their work will help all of us.
Bees are an important part of our food chain. We must do everything we can to protect them and what they do for us every day.