With larger animals like grey wolves and manatees dominating the media’s attention about endangered species, the general public often seems to forget about a much smaller animal’s path to extinction – the honey bee.
The honey bee has been dying off at an unprecedented rate, up to 30 percent per year, and yet the average person is much more likely to come across a “Save the Whales” t-shirt than a “Save the Bee.” Not to say that these larger animals don’t need our attention, but with the accelerating rate at which bees are dying, it’s shocking that the general public isn’t well informed of the consequences our planet will face if this decline continues.
Bees, however small, play a huge roll in our ecosystem. The honey bee, which resembles its less helpful cousin, the yellow jacket, is the main pollinators of many fruit and nut crops that we base our nutrition on. Their loss would cause a detrimental drop in global agriculture as we know it.
According to greenpeace.org, honey bees perform about 80 percent of pollination worldwide, with seventy out of the top one hundred human crops pollinated by bees.
No other animal species plays a more significant role in producing the fruits and vegetables that humans consume on a daily basis.
Furthermore, if we were to lose the bees, we would begin to lose the plants they pollinate, and soon after we would lose the animals that feast on those plants.
In the long run, we could potentially lose our source of some pharmaceuticals, like the morphine extracted from opium poppies, as many modern-day medicines are plant-based. Skin care products, make-up and even some clothing materials could be lost due to the lack of pollination some plants will receive if the honey bee goes extinct.
It’s no mystery why honey bees are disappearing; scientists conclude that a combination of climate change, loss of habitat and increased pesticide use are killing our bees quicker than ever before. Note that these three factors are all caused by humans. Since our society has caused the damage to this species, it is our job to fix it.
Fortunately, there is much that can be done to help the honey bee. Even college students can make small changes in their routine that will lead to an impact in honey bee colony growth.
First and foremost, reducing or even eliminating the use of pesticides can benefit the honey bee tremendously. If pesticides are a must, ensure that they are all-natural and free from neonicotinoids, which are highly toxic to honey bees in particular.
Planting nectar plants, like hyacinths or lilacs in the spring, will create a nurturing environment for bees to thrive in and provide them with the food they need to flourish. Whether it be a whole garden or a small container by a window sill, any bit can help! You need only a small plot of land to create an inviting home for bees.
Switching from generic to local honey keeps food-miles down and helps beekeepers cover the costs of beekeeping.
At the very least, students can work to save the honey bee by spreading the word about their plight to many of those who are still uninformed.
Albert Einstein once prophetically said, “Mankind will not survive the honey bees’ disappearance for more than five years.”
If we don’t act quickly, the loss of the honey bee may become so devastating that it will change everyday life as we know it.
So, next time you come across a “Save the Whoever” sign, commend that person for taking up a great cause, and then inform them about the little buzzing bee who does so much for us but is cared about so little!
Tara Delesky is a third-year student majoring in communications studies. She can be reached at TD808597@wcupa.edu.