We are always hearing about the bees, and how they are dying, and how we’re going to die too if we don’t do something about it. I don’t know if that’s entirely true. It may be a bit of an exaggeration. But it is definitely true that growing most of our food would become difficult or impossible without the help of pollinators.
Florida’s Bee Population
In Florida, trees and plants were once pollinated without the help of honey bees. The European honey bee (Apis mellifera) was brought to North America by early colonists. Prior to colonial times, our native plants were pollinated by native bees, which do not produce much honey. These include bumble bees, and some interesting and colorful “sweat bees” from the family halictidae (pictured below).
There has been renewed interest in these native species, as we learn how beneficial they can be for pollination. You can even buy little houses and tubes for them to live in, and you probably should.
The Bee Crisis Around the World and What it Means for Us
Bees world-wide are in crisis. Some of these problems are caused by natural phenomenon like the nasty Varroa mite, which lives on the bees and kills them. Other diseases and predators move in after the colony is weakened. But, we – and I mean humans – are our own worst enemy when it comes to destroying our own food supply and natural habitat.
A major cause of colony collapse for bees in Florida, is the widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides. Originally intended to be less toxic to wildlife, the substance leaves the bees alive long enough to carry it back to their hives where it eventually kills the whole hive.
Good job, humans! Apparently, neo-nics are being improved to reduce their impact on bees but the damage has been swift and painful.
All in all, it is important to teach people about bees and other pollinators, and how important they are to our food system. Without pollination, most plants will not produce the food we need to survive, and most societies – ours included – are just one famine away from total collapse.
It can happen here, folks. And it will if we don’t get smarter fast. Now, go drizzle some honey on something delicious while you think about that.