When was the last time you saw a bumble bee? These magnificent yellow and black critters are supposed to fly from plant to plant, pollinating them and allowing these flowers to grow into fruitful crops; but, something has happened. The bees are slowly disappearing — and with them the world’s hope of becoming sustainable.
Broccoli, cantaloupes, cucumbers, pumpkins, blueberries, watermelons, almonds, apples, and cherries are few of many fruits and vegetables that rely on bee pollination to grow. When bees drink nectar from a flower, they brush against the stamens (the male reproductive organ of a flower) and pollen sticks to the hairs on the bee’s body. The bee then transfers the pollen to the stigma (female reproductive organ) of the next flower it visits and fertilization occurs, which creates a fruit with seeds.
Unfortunately, bee populations have been decimated due to genetically modified crops and increased amounts of pesticides used on foods. According to Honeylove, an American urban beekeeper’s non-profit, there were over five million bee colonies after WWII. There are less than half that amount today.
There is also a common misconception that the honey industry actually helps the bees, but this is not the case. Instead, large commercial honey brands use corn syrup to feed the bees instead of letting them keep their honey, and it results in sick colonies that have a lower rate of survival. Honey is also an essential food source for bees to survive in the wintertime and replacing this vital resource with a sugar substitute like corn syrup does not provide bees with nutrients and vitamins they need to pollinate properly. Instead, there are rising occurrences of bee colonies dying off entirely from a corn syrup diet because it lacks the enzymes and nutrients found in honey. If society leaves the bees in their current situation, the insect may go extinct and many of our essential foods will die off permanently with them.
So, what can people do about it? First of all, try planting some bee-friendly plants, vegetables, and fruits in your garden. Bee populations vary depending on their region, and the best way to ensure bees flourish is to plant native plants. Bees thrive with open native blooms where they can access the nectar and carry pollen easily from flower to flower.
Second of all, build and hang a bee hotel near the garden. Simply nail together a box with one open side, and fill with blocks of wood or logs that have small holes drilled into them. This provides tunnels for the bees to nest in and wind-protection on the other side. Join a local beekeeper’s group to learn more about bees in your particular region.
Ontario’s ecosystem really does depend on the buzzing creatures — with the world claiming a sustainable future, let’s not forget about these small and easily ignored insects. Not many people enjoy having a buzzing sound in their ear, but without it, the world is so much bleaker.
When was the last time you saw a bee? Let us know in the comments below!