Without the bees, how are the plants going to be pollinated?
If the plants aren’t pollinated, no fruits and vegetables will sprout.
And then we starve.
Maybe it’s not that dramatic, and it certainly wouldn’t happen that quickly… but it is worrying the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and food growers across the world.
“Listing the bee as endangered will help us mobilize partners and focus resources on finding ways right now to stop the decline,” said Wildlife Service Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius.
The population of bumblebees has declined as much as 87 percent since the late 1990s, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The main reason: habitat loss. Nearly 40 percent of all land is used for agriculture. The second- and third-most deadly threats to bumblebees? Climate change and overkill with chemicals.
The particular bees that made the list are called rusty patched bumblebees, and they’re native to Wisconsin and a handful of other states, as well as Ontario, Canada.
Bumblebees aren’t the only pollinators in trouble, either. The monarch butterfly population is also rapidly dwindling.
Without them, it’s tough to pollinate plants. They pollinate about 35 percent of the world’s food, including many of our daily staples.
“Why is this important? Pollinators are small but mighty parts of the natural mechanism that sustains us and our world. Without them ... our crops require laborious, costly pollination by hand,” says Melius.
But listing them as endangered species — the first bees in the world to make the list, actually — may help the bees by mobilizing activists and getting them the protections they need.
If you see one, don’t kill it. Let it go on its way, because it has a pretty important job to do. They only live about a year anyway (except the queen, who can hibernate and live to reproduce for several years). The Fish and Wildlife Service says you can help by:
- Adding a flowering tree or shrub to your yard or patio
- Use native plants in your yard
- Leave some areas of your property unmowed; leave brushy areas alone if you can
- Don’t disturb bees’ nests if you see them
- Limit the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers whenever possible
What Do You Think?
Are you going to plant a bee-friendly tree, shrub, or veggie this spring? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the declining bee population, so please, share them on my Facebook page or on Twitter.