In the beginning, when I read the news about bees decreasing in numbers it did not matter that much because I was ignorant of the huge role bees play in the food chain. Why did it take me so long to understand what was going on?
I would say that in part I used to trust conventional media and they did not inform that the bee depopulation as a big threat but just something passing by. The level of attention this news gets is still on the level of: “By the way, the bee population is decreasing, and now let’s go back to sports!”.
When I stopped reading news and decided to inform myself via following local people and alternative news channels, I realized that what it was indeed a delicate situation that jeopardized not only bees but our survival as species!
Why are pollinators so important?
Bees and wild pollinators such as pollen wasps (Masarinae), ants, flies including bee flies, hoverflies and mosquitoes, lepidopterans, both butterflies and moths, and flower beetles; are more important than what you think. They basically are the facilitators between the plant world and us. Without these fantastic creatures, pollination will not be possible.
“Pollinators are animals that moves pollen from the male anther of a flower to the female stigma of a flower. This helps to bring about fertilization of the ovules in the flower by the male gametes from the pollen grains.”
This process allows fruits and vegetables to thrive and grow. Which kind of fruits needs pollination? a heck of a lot! Try to imagine a world where these fruits and veggies are not available or too expensive to afford and then you will start realizing how the decrease in pollinator population is a direct threat to all:
- Kiwi Fruit
- Rose Hips
- Black and Red Currants
- Prickly Pear
- Passion Fruit
- Lima Beans
- Kidney Beans
- Adzuki Beans
- Green Beans
- Orchid Plants
- Custard Apples
- Macadamia Nuts
- Sunflower Oil
- Goa beans
- Palm Oil
- Star Apples
- Brazil Nuts
- Mustard Seed
- Brussels Sprouts
- Bok Choy (Chinese Cabbage)
- Congo Beans
- Sword beans
- Chili peppers, red peppers, bell peppers, green peppers
- Black Eyed Peas
- AND THE LIST GOES ON AND ON…
What’s causing the decrease in bees and pollinators?
The problem is pretty straight forward. Bees and wild pollinators are decreasing in numbers. The two biggest contributors to this pollinator decline are:
- Industrial agriculture unsustainable practices: The current chemical-intensive agriculture model which has been scientifically proven to be using neonicotinoids and other pesticides and decrease bee and wild pollinator population.”A study by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has labeled one pesticide, called clothianidin, as completely unacceptable for use, and banned it from use entirely. Meanwhile, the U.S. uses the same pesticide on more than a third of its crops – nearly 143 million acres. Two more pesticides linked to bee death are imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. These are also used extensively in the US, while elsewhere, they have been taken out of circulation.” Source
- Global warming: Global warming is not only threatening pollinators but a wide range of species on the planet. Unsustainable Factory farming and Industrial agriculture are accelerating this massive extinction.According to WWF 10.000 species are going extinct every year and it is true that many of them extinct naturally whilst other species are facing extinction caused directly because of unsustainable farming and agricultural practices. Y. Le Conte (1) & M. Navajas in their study affirm that “Although it is unknown the potential environmental changes on honey bees as a result of climate change, there is a large body of data at our disposal indicating that environmental changes have a direct influence on honey bee development”.
According to Greenpeace´s report:
“Bees and other pollinating insects play an essential role in ecosystems. A third of all our food depends on their pollination. A world without pollinators would be devastating for food production.
Who would pollinate all the crops? Hand-pollination is extremely labour-intensive, slow and expensive. The economic value of bees’ pollination work has been estimated around € 265 billion annually, worldwide. So, also from a purely economic point of view, it pays to protect the bees”.
How can we help to save the bees?
Perhaps many of you are in the same situation I am. I love nature, but I do not own a lawn or even a balcony where bees can come and pollinate flowers. I would love to help, but what can I do? It might seem that people who live in the like me cannot really contribute much to this problem but I actually think we might be able to do more than what we think.
5 practical things you can do to help save the bees and pollinators
- Support organic, local produce."There is an urgent need to stop chemical-intensive industrial agriculture and to shift towards ecological farming. Ecological farming ensures healthy farming and healthy food for today and tomorrow by protecting soil, water and climate, and promotes biodiversity. It does not contaminate the environment with chemical inputs like synthetic chemical pesticides, fertilizers nor genetically engineered organisms". GreenpeaceBy supporting organic local farming you are making sure that clean agricultural initiatives are supported and thrive. The availability of organic produce is directly linked to your support. If you cannot afford buying everything organic you can try with a few products from your food list and increase once you have the chance of affording more.
- Cook at home.It takes time, it takes effort and you need to be creative. Is it worth it? I honestly think so! You still might be thinking: How can cooking at home can help the pollinators? When you decide to buy processed food from the supermarket or your favorite fast-food chain you are endorsing the production and intensification of unsustainable agriculture. Which is directly responsible for the "fragmentation of valuable natural to semi-natural perennial habitats for pollinators, such as agroforestry systems, grasslands, old fields, shrublands, forests, and hedgerows.""This is thought to be the major cause of wild pollinator declines, although with smaller effects on managed honeybees (Brown and Paxton, 2009; Winfree et al, 2009)."SourceYour choice really matters! When you decide to eat that hamburger or that microwave food I encourage you to think: Where are the material for this meal coming from? How do they harvest and protect the crops they are using to make my food? Are they using organic crops and sustainable ways for pest control? If the answer is not, probably is not good for you, for the environment or even for your pocket. No matter how easy and convenient it feels now.
- Spread awareness.The biggest threat to our survival as species is our amnesia and the lack of real meaningful information out there. We are constantly bombarded with distracting information that makes us lose north of the things we really should care about. Reclaiming that curiosity towards nature and the things that guarantee our survival can make a big difference. Follow your local food producers, farmers and crafters. In that way, you will receive first-hand information about what is going on.Knowledge is power. You can also engage in online activism by spreading awareness on the current situation and sign Greenpeace petition here
- Support your local beekeepers.By supporting your local beekeepers and producers who take advantage of migratory pollinators you are contributing to the creation of safe environments for pollinators to thrive. Make sure that your local beekeepers are not large-scale beekeeping operations that can harm or kill bees.
- Avoid using pesticides.Get acquainted with sustainable ways to take care of your plants and flowers. Here's an example of "Companion planting". From a pest-control lens, it’s ideal to plant plants that naturally repel specific pests of your crop. For example, if you plant tomatoes with cabbage, the tomatoes naturally repel diamond-backed moth larvae that eat cabbage. Or, basil with tomato can fend off flies and mosquitoes.
Do you have other tips that could contribute to saving pollinators? Share them in the comments below! I would love to hear your opinion.