from ReadyNutrition Website
This is a huge threat to our food supply. One-third of all the food we eat comes from plants that are pollinated by insects, and 80% of those crops are pollinated by bees.
It also has big implications for our meat supply as well:
The largest international survey of insect pollinators found that just 2 percent of wild bee species now account for 80 percent of global crop pollination.
Put bluntly, if all the bees die, humanity will follow.
Worldwide, there are nearly 20,000 known species of bees in seven recognized biological families. Of those, 4,000 calls the United States home. Bees exist on every continent except Antarctica.
Wherever you find insect-pollinated, flowering plants you will find bees.
Native bees come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors, but one thing they all have in common is their important role as pollinators.
Here are just some of the fruits and veggies bumble bees help pollinate:
According to a Cornell University study published in 2012, crops pollinated by honeybees and other insects contributed $29 billion to United States farm income in 2010.
As you can see, bees are a crucial part of our ecosystem. Our food supplies - and essentially, our lives - rely on them...
Unfortunately, last year, a species of bumblebee that was once a common sight across much of the US was declared an endangered species.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in January of 2017.
Endangered species are animals and plants that are in danger of becoming extinct.
Identifying, protecting and recovering endangered species is a primary objective of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's endangered species program, according to the agency's website.
The rusty patched bumble bee was abundant across 28 states from Connecticut to South Dakota and up into Canada just 20 years ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said, but is now,
The FWS explains why saving the rusty-patched bumble bee is so important:
The rusty patched bumble bee has declined by 87 percent in the last 20 years.
The species is likely to be present in only 0.1% of its historical range.
This beautifully made video from bioGraphicMagazine shares the story of the rusty-patched bumble bee and its journey to becoming listed as endangered.
There are many potential reasons for the rusty-patched bumble bee decline including:
Scientists believe the declining health of bees is related to "complex interactions among multiple stressors":
Sarina Jepsen, Director of Endangered Species and Aquatic Conservation at the Xerces Society, added:
Bumblebees are uniquely susceptible to extinction because unlike honeybees, which have large (>10,000 individuals) perennial hives, bumble bees produce smaller annual colonies (50-1,500 individuals).
Their smaller annual population sizes, life cycle, and genetic makeup put them at higher risk.
While the endangerment of the rusty-patched bumble bee is generating a lot of buzz, it isn't the only species that are facing some degree of extinction risk, according to the Xerces Society:
FWS Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius said that the bumblebee, and pollinators like it, play a vital role in the lives of human beings, NBC News reported last year:
Bumblebees are uniquely important pollinators - they are the chief pollinator of many economically important crops, according to FWS:
The good news is that there are things that can be done to help conserve bee populations.
Here's what you can do to help the rusty-patched bumble bee and other pollinators
Provide flowering plants from April through October (early spring through fall).
Plant native wildflowers that bloom throughout the year in containers on your windowsill, porch or deck, or in your garden. Since these flowers attract bumblebees and other pollinators, they will enhance pollination of your fruit and vegetable crops too.
If you'd like to know more about which plants the rusty patch bumble bee really likes, here's a very detailed resource:
Fruit trees typically bloom early in the spring, which is a critical time for foraging bumblebee queens.
Try to ensure that your new plants have not been treated with neonicotinoids or other systemic pesticides. Avoid invasive non-native plants and remove them if they invade your yard.
Because most queens overwinter in small holes on or just below the ground's surface, avoid raking, tilling or mowing your yard until April or May. If you do need to mow, do so with the mower blade set at the highest safe level.
Many native bumblebees build their nests in undisturbed soil, abandoned rodent burrows, or clumps of grass. Preserve un-mown, brushy areas and do not destroy bumblebee nests when you find them. Reduce soil tilling and mowing where bumblebees might nest.
Avoid all pesticide use...
In particular, steer clear of systemic pesticides such as neonicotinoids, which are taken up by the vascular systems of plants. This means bees and other pollinators are exposed to the poison long after a product has been applied when they feed on the plant's nectar and pollen.
When purchasing plants, ask your garden supplier to ensure that they have not been treated with neonicotinoids or other systemic pesticides.
Instead of using pesticides, use a "companion planting" system to discourage pests from making an all-you-can-eat buffet of your garden.
For more on sustainable pest management, please see this guide from Xerces Society.
For more information on companion planting for natural pest control, here's an in-depth guide:
Report the bees you see in your yard or community to Bumble Bee Watch, a citizen-science project sponsored by the Xerces Society and five North American partners.
Build nests for native bees. They are easy to make - instructions can be found here.
For more information on how to manage, restore, or enhance your property for the rusty patched bumble bee, please refer to this guide from FWS.
Create a "bee highway."
If you'd like to learn more about how to create a bee highway in your community, please read First Bee Highway Set Up in Oslo.
Here's how to protect bee habitats during the fall and winter months: Put Down Those Pruners: Pollinators Need Your ‘Garden Garbage'!