Bees are endangered – what can we do?

Bees developing the first stage of making honey comb - photo by: Kelley Jaskinia
Bees in the process of planning a honey comb matrix. – photo by: Kelley Jaskinia

By Amanda Forbes

Seven species of bees located in the United States were placed on the endangered species list this month.

According to the Washington Post, all seven species belong to the Hylaeus genus of bees. They are commonly referred to as “yellow-faced” bees due to their distinct yellow-to-white facial markings.

They marked the first species of bees in the U.S. to be officially declared as endangered. The bees are native to Hawaii and are responsible for pollinating the state’s indigenous plant species.

The American Beekeeping Federation said the majority of our produce is pollinated by bees. Some crops, including blueberries and cherries, are 90 percent dependent upon honey bee pollination. Other crops, such as almonds, depend purely on bees for reproduction.

The loss of such important pollinators could cause severe food shortages for Hawaii. The impact of the loss of these species for the continental U.S. is still unknown.

While this is the first time bees have been placed on the endangered species list in the U.S., it is not the first bee scare. In fact, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recently suggested listing the rusting patched bumble bee, native to the continental U.S., as endangered.

Bee numbers across the nation have begun to dwindle as a result of natural processes and, increasingly, human activities.

The phenomenon referred to as Colony Collapse Disorder occurs when worker bees abandon their hive and the queen residing within it. However, no dead bees are ever found in or around the hive.

The Environmental Protection Agency said CCD could occur because of pests, disease, stress, change of habitat due to habitat destruction, and pesticides. However, not all bee deaths are related to CCD.

Bee death cases involving pesticides have been on the rise. In September CNN reported the death of millions of bees and hundreds of hives as a result of insecticide aerial sprays meant to kill Zika-carrying mosquitoes.

With bee numbers on the decrease, many people have turned to one solution: beekeeping. People across the nation have begun to regulate beehives on their own property and time.

Texas State University runs its own beekeeping organization called Bobcat Buzz. Senior and agriculture major Darron Gaus said that Bobcat Buzz helps bees by giving them a home.

“We have our own two hives on campus,” Gaus said. “We try to learn with those hives. We collect honey and wax and try to sell those in the local farmer’s market.”

People can use the bees for food, which can boost one’s health, as well as to pollinate crops. Gaus said local beekeepers in Texas run their hives not only for their own benefit, but to help maintain bee populations.

“It’s beneficial to the bees just because we’re increasing their numbers as much as possible,” Gaus said.

If bees were to be lost, major food sources would be gone as well. Gaus said that people would have to turn to other sources of nutrition.

“They always say that two-thirds of the outer edge of the grocery store would be lost,” Gaus said. “Most of your produce is pollinated by bees, so we would lose all of that.”

Bee losses would affect many plants and animals aside from humans. Gaus said it would disrupt the flow of life.

“I mean there’s just a harmony to life, so any time that something is effected that largely, it’s going to affect the harmony of the entire ecosystem,” Gaus said.

While beekeeping can require some work, Gaus said bees are able to maintain themselves without much human help.

“For the past two years they’ve been doing their own thing and they’ve been doing it well,” Gaus said.

Cities and towns often have locally run beekeeping organizations that help people get started. For San Marcos, the Bee Wranglers and Bobcat Buzz are good resources.

Video by: Diana Gonzalez

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