There are around 25,000 different types of bee species worldwide and almost 4,000 of those can be found in the United States. They’re divided into more than 4,000 genera of bees, with only nine families of bees. The Apidae family is the most well known, with members that include the carpenter bee, bumblebee, and honeybee. These species play an important role in our ecosystem and our lives would be much different if they didn’t exist.
Not all bees need to be exterminated. In fact, there are laws in place that restrict honeybee extermination—a professional beekeeper is called in to relocate a nuisance nest. Because of all the attention that has been given to the honeybee population, many people are wondering why exactly honeybees are so important.
Pollination is a transfer of pollen from the male part of the flower, the anther, to the female part of the flower, the stigma. This is an important process because it creates a plant’s seed. Some plants can pollinate themselves or they rely on the wind, but honeybees also assist with their pollination process. Honeybees pollinate flowers have nectar tubes not more than 2 cm long. Bees are attracted to yellow, blue, and white flowers. It’s hard to believe, but honeybees perform about 80 percent of pollination throughout the world, which equates to about one-third of everything we eat. We can thank honeybees that we have apples, broccoli, nuts, blueberries, strawberries, cucumbers, asparagus, and so much more.
The Issues of Honeybee Population
Bees are in danger of disappearing from our environment. There have been many theories about the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), which is the phenomenon that occurs when honeybee workers in the colony disappear and leave a queen behind. Here are some reasons this might be happening to honeybees:
- Pesticide poisoning through exposure to pesticides applied to crops
- Stress bees experience when they’re transported to multiple locations across the country
- Inadequate nutrition
- Increased losses due to varroa mite which is a dangerous pest for honeybees
- Changes to the habitat
How the Issue is Prevalent in Illinois
In the last half decade, 30% of the national bee population has disappeared. The statistics don’t look good and beekeepers are doing everything they can to reduce the numbers of dying bees. In 2014, Illinois beekeepers suffered the death of 62% of their honeybee colonies. With a nationwide average of 42%, the situation is serious here.
What You Can Do to Help Honeybees
The Illinois Department of Agriculture is doing everything they can to reduce honeybee exposure to dangerous pesticides, and they’re intensively working on increasing the communication between the state’s beekeepers and the pesticide user community. You can also help if you have a little land or even a window box. Plant some flowers that honeybees usually pollinate, like coneflower, goldenrod, aster, hardy ageratum, or witch hazel. Bees are extremely important for our entire ecosystem and we need to do everything we can to help them.