When we think of saving the planet and those who inhabit it, our minds may turn to recycling, vegetarian- or veganism, or monthly donations to a charity of some sort. And so we should – these are all great ways of doing our bit to help look after this little planet we call home. However, there is a pressing issue that has slipped under the radar for many of us: the rapid decline in population of the humble bee. The use of insecticides, the effects of climate change and the destruction of the bees’ natural habitats are believed to be the main causes of this declination, with the UK having seen a 45% loss in its honeybee population since 2010. If it continues to fall like this, the effects on our ecosystem could be devastating.
Bees are responsible for the pollination of many of the crops we consider staples of our diets. If you’ve eaten a banana, some chocolate, or drank a coffee in the past week, you can thank the bees for that. On top of this, bees are responsible for the pollination of some 250,000 types of flowers, many of which are used in the production of medicines and clothing. If we didn’t see a total eradication of these goods, we could at the very least expect to see a significant increase in the prices of them, due to the high demand for (what could be) incredibly scarce produce.
However, the effects of the extinction of bees extend far beyond the interests of the human race. Bees play an important role in the food chain for animals, birds and insects, pollinating the flowers, berries and seeds that feed them. If these small animals die out as a result of starvation, this will have a knock on effect and the predators that feed on them will also starve.
So what should we do? If you can afford it, buying organic produce is a good place to start. As students, it’s perhaps unlikely any of us will be avid gardeners, but encouraging the gardeners in our lives to practice organic gardening and to plant bee-friendly flowers and shrubs is another way we can help. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could even look into taking up beekeeping. Or, if you’re looking for a slightly easier way of helping on a day-to-day basis, carrying a little vessel of sugar water to feed sleepy bees who decide to take naps on busy pavements (they’re not dead, just tired!) could help prevent the squishing of more bees who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do, though, is learning more about the importance of our little bee friends, and passing on this information, so we can all start doing our bit to help save the bees. Bees are invaluable to our ecosystem, and if we don’t take action against the harm we’ve done them so far, the effects could be bee-yond repair.
[Hannah Burke – @hannahcburke]