The importance of bees and why we must protect them
Known for their distinct colouring, their role in pollination, and the ability of some to produce honey, bees are a common sight throughout the UK. However, do you fully appreciate just how important a role they play in maintaining life on our planet?
It is becoming further apparent that bee colonies are significantly declining, and this poses a serious issue for most ecosystems. According to Nature Communications, a third of our wild bee populations are in decline just in the UK alone. The pollination process of bees is vital for ensuring habitats flourish, similarly to trees and coral functioning for the planet by filtering the air in the atmosphere to sustain life.
So why are bees important?
The vast majority of plants we need for food rely on pollination and at least a third of our food directly relies on bees for this process. They are essential in pollinating plants to provide stable, healthy food supplies. This is done through the transferring of pollen between flowering plants and as a result, maintaining an ecological balance with biodiversity.
Without bees and other essential pollinators (like wasps, hoverflies, butterflies, moths, etc.), the world’s functional efficiency would decrease. By feeding on the nectar of plants, bees pick up pollen grains and spread them to other nearby plants, allowing for reproductive success. Over 80% of the world’s flowering plants require an associated pollinator to reproduce (this includes many crops we rely on).
Additionally, bees act as a fantastic gauge for the state of habitats and biomes. The number of bees in an area can indicate when positive or negative changes are occurring in an environment. Through observing the actions and development of bees in an environment, it is possible to analyse any changes to flora and fauna and implement protective measures for the ecosystem.
Why are bees on the decline?
The reason why bees are on the decline is due to the multitude of threats that they face. These range from habitat loss to climate change and many are in line with the same threats that trees face. If these risks are not brought under control, we face a future without bees and a reduction in wildlife. Some animals in the UK are now at risk of extinction but there are ways to support endangered species.
Climate change and extreme weather is another large factor as to why bee colonies are under threat. This is because it disrupts the nesting behaviours of bees as well as altering seasonal timings for flowers to bloom. In January this year, a global study found that since 1990, a quarter of all bee species known to science – totalling around 20,000 – have not been seen, despite improvements and expansions in monitoring efforts.
Although it is likely for life to sustain without bees, we will see a substantial reduction in food supplies with fewer nutrients, leading to a poorer diet. The relationship between bees and the planet underpins ecosystem function, and without it, we will struggle to feed our increasing population.
How can I help protect bees?
Fortunately, by taking action today, we can prevent bees from mass extinction. There are numerous actions you can directly take to help protect these important creatures, with many of them achievable from the comfort of your own home.
- Stopping the use of pesticides
- Working with your town or county governments to make publicly owned spaces more bee-friendly
- Welcoming beneficial insects into your garden
- Planting diverse types of bee-friendly flowers
- Using peat-free compost when gardening to save wildlife habitat
- Growing plants from seed to create a greater habitat
- Helping a bee when you see one in need (such as on its back)
- Consider becoming a beekeeper and starting your bee farm
- Donate to nature conservation groups such as those found through the Toucan app
It is undeniable that bees are a critical part of the maintenance and flourishment of biodiversity on our planet. By minimising the risks that these insects face within their natural habitat, you can play a part in helping to protect and enhance biodiversity across our world to ensure the cycle of life continues to turn.