When we think of bees, the first thing that often comes to mind is the Western honey bee (apis mellifera), one of the most common pollinators in America. But recent studies have shown that honey bee populations across the US have been decreasing.
One of the biggest reasons for the honey bee decline is a lack of food sources. In recent years, more acres of pasture have been converted to corn fields. Unlike pasture, corn fields don’t provide food sources for bees. From 2003 to 2010, the state of Wisconsin increased its amount of corn acres by over 930,000. As a result, honey bee colonies could not thrive as well as before. When corn production increased, so did pesticide use. Many pesticides, especially neonicotinoids and fungicides, are known to be harmful and even deadly to bees (www.uwsp.edu/cnr-ap/clue/Documents/Ag/Honeybeefactsheet.pdf). Such pesticides have been banned in many European countries due to evidence showing that they may make bees more susceptible to parasites as well as cause weakness, deformities, and a host of health problems for bees (www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2015/06/what_is_killing_the_honeybees.html).
Many people are wondering what can be done to keep honeybee populations from dropping any lower. There is a lot that can be done, such as beekeeping, planting more flowers, and refraining from using pesticides. Beekeeping takes a lot of knowledge and responsibility, but it’s a great way to help manage honeybee populations. If you don’t want to be a beekeeper, there are plenty of other ways in which you can help the bees. You can start by planting flowers in your yard, which will give the bees more food sources. If you have a garden or farmland, be sure to avoid using pesticides. Instead of pesticides, surround your garden or crops with plants that naturally repel certain pests. Also, if you see spiders, ladybugs, or other carnivorous bugs in your garden, let them stay there; don’t get rid of them.
Even though honeybee populations have decreased dramatically across the US, it’s definitely not too late to start doing more to save the bees. However, if things continue the way they’re currently going, some species of bees may become endangered or even extinct in the next few decades. Start by making a small change that can benefit the bees. Even the small positive changes will add up and help ensure that the bees thrive.
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- Markham, Lynn. “What Is Happening to Honey Bees in Wisconsin?” University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, 2013, www.uwsp.edu/cnr-ap/clue/Documents/Ag/Honeybeefactsheet.pdf.
- McCarty, James F. “What Is Killing the Honeybees?” Cleveland, 26 June 2015, www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2015/06/what_is_killing_the_honeybees.html.
- Sidder, Aaron. “New Map Highlights Bee Population Declines Across the U.S.” Smithsonian, Smithsonian Institution, 23 Feb. 2017, www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/new-map-highlights-bee-population-declines-across-us-180962268/.