The last few years have seen the publication of worrying claims about the population of honeybees, wild bees, and other insect populations that have many people concerned about the ecological future of the planet. Professionals like Dr. Marla Spivak of the University of Minnesota’s Honey Bee Lab have argued that serious changes are needed to preserve our insect populations. Nevertheless, many misleading news articles and disinformation campaigns have misled large swathes of the public, who are aware that there’s a problem right now but are unsure of what to do about it.
Here’s an exploration of the ongoing bee crisis, and what insect experts have to say about declining insect populations.
Bees are critical pollinators
Why are bees important, anyway? Some people are allergic to bees, and others are simply scared of them, leading to many widespread doubts about their importance to our ecosystems. In truth, bees are critical pollinators who provide an invaluable service to local communities. According to Dr. Marla Spivak, bees are our most important pollinators when it comes to fruits and vegetables, not to mention a host of other crops like Alfalfa. “More than one-third of the world’s crop production is dependent on bee pollination,” according to an interview with Dr. Spivak, illustrating just how vital a role these little buzzers play in our lives.
Bees are often considered to be domesticated livestock because of beekeepers who formally manage their hives. In truth, while many bees are treated in a similar fashion to livestock, wild bee populations are also incredibly important for ecological purposes. Wild bees help increase the stability of crop production across the planet, even when domesticated honey bees are present in the same area.
Some have chocked up the disappearance of bees to an increase in pesticide use, but this isn’t necessarily true, nor the full story. Getting a budget friendly deal on such chemicals is thus not necessarily the worst thing for insect populations. In her interview, Dr. Spivak notes that a pivot to monocultures in American agriculture – or the tendency to grow only one thing – has diminished the vibrancy of bee populations. Dr. Spivak notes that bee population losses are being offset by beekeepers who are hard at work rebuilding these populations to ensure the industry demand for bees can be met, but that this is a precarious situation.
The Sierra Club encourages campaigns that seek to save the bees to represent bee diversity, rather than just focusing on the misleading case of the honey bee. While honey bees are important, wild bees and other insect populations must also be carefully looked after.