Endangered animals

Are Bees Endangered? - What We Can Do to Help

 
Nick A. Romero
By Nick A. Romero, Biologist and environmental educator. Updated: February 28, 2024
Are Bees Endangered? - What We Can Do to Help

Pollination is an essential process for the reproduction of plants, on which depends not only the life of different plant species, but also biodiversity in general, including humans. Thanks to this process, it is possible to produce a considerable amount of food on our planet. However, the loss of vital pollinators, due in part to temperature extremes and fluctuations, could have serious consequences for ecosystems and agriculture.

The following AnimalWised article discusses the threat bees face and what we can do in order to save them.

You may also be interested in: Why Are Giraffes Endangered?
Contents
  1. Why are bees threatened with extinction?
  2. What happens if the bees become extinct?
  3. The most endangered bees species
  4. How to help the bees threatened with extinction?

Why are bees threatened with extinction?

Bees are threatened with extinction and have experienced a significant decline due to a combination of factors:

Diseases

The health of bees has been compromised by the indiscriminate use of toxins, making them more susceptible and vulnerable.

There are also a number of parasites and fungi that affect bees worldwide. For example, the invasive mite of the species Varroa destructor is the parasite with probably the greatest economic impact on the beekeeping industry. This mite causes significant damage to honey bees by weakening their immune systems and making them more susceptible to viruses. Significant mite infestation results in the death of a honey bee colony, usually in late fall to early spring.

Poor nutrition

There has been a change in the nutritional status of bees recently, likely linked to the excessive use of chemicals in the plants they feed on, which ultimately impacts the quality of the food they eat.

Industrial agriculture

Another danger to which bees are exposed is industrial agriculture. In this case, we are dealing with a multiple cause, because industrial agriculture is linked to the endangerment of bees in several ways. Essentially, this is the destruction of natural habitats in which the different species of bees develop, in order to transform them into cultivated ecosystems that are heavily interfered with, which has great harmful effects on these insects.

On the other hand, the control of the plant diversity that grows in these areas often leads to monocultures, so that the different plant species for a healthy and adequate development of bees are significantly limited.

Finally, the habitat changes described above are increasingly limiting nesting opportunities for these insects, significantly affecting their reproduction and development.

Use of insecticides and herbicides

The use of chemicals such as insecticides and herbicides is undoubtedly one of the main causes of mass mortality not only of bees, but of natural pollinators around the world in general. Chemical compounds of this type have been developed that not only remain outside plants, but also penetrate their tissues and remain over time in the cycles of plant development and production, including pollen and nectar, which are the food sources of bees, ultimately impacting the health of insects.

Pollution

Increasing air pollution makes it difficult for bees to find the plants they feed on and eventually pollinate, because these chemical compounds mask the smell of flowers and bees can no longer detect them as they used to.

Climate change

Finally, we can mention that the effects of climate change also have a negative impact on bee populations due to the change in temperatures, rainfall, and the increasing development of extreme weather events. The use of pesticides on crops poses an incredible threat to our future.

What happens if the bees become extinct?

Bees provide entomophilous pollination, an important task these animals perform in both natural ecosystems and agroecosystems of global human interest. If bees were to become extinct, on the one hand, the production of crops such as fruit trees and vegetables, in which these insects are involved, would decrease drastically.

On the other hand, bees also pollinate various wild plants that are essential to ecosystem food webs and on which other species depend. So if there is no longer pollination of these plants, plant diversity would decrease significantly.

The disappearance of bees would be a serious problem for our food supply as well as for the stability of various natural habitats in which animal and plant species develop in a complex network of interdependent relationships.

Plants of social interest pollinated by bees

Some of the plants that bees, among other insects, pollinate and that are part of our diet and life are:

  • Kiwi
  • Potato
  • Onion
  • Celery
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Beans
  • Peppers
  • Papaya
  • Chestnuts
  • Orange
  • Watermelon
  • Mandarin
  • Cantaloupe
  • Peach
  • Lemon
  • Pumpkin
  • Strawberry
  • Cotton
  • Apple

If you want to learn more about bees and their diet, continue reading this other article, where we explain what honeybees eat.

The most endangered bees species

Wild bee species have attracted the most attention because, although the species that produce honey in certain regions are threatened with extinction, there are still significant populations on a global scale. However, this does not mean that they may not face extinction in the future.

The bee species that are threatened with extinction include:

  • Western honey bee (Apis melifera)
  • Red mason bee (Osmia bicornis)
  • Red-shanked carder bee (Bombus ruderarius)
  • Shrill carder bee (Bombus sylvarum)
  • Great yellow bumblebee (Bombus distinndus)
  • All bees of the genus Hylaeus

If you want to know more about the different types of bees, read on in this other article where we discuss all the different types of honey bees, including the different species, pictures and their characteristics.

Are Bees Endangered? - What We Can Do to Help - The most endangered bees species

How to help the bees threatened with extinction?

Among the measures we can take to prevent the extinction of bees:

  • Transform current systems of industrial agriculture to organic agriculture.

  • Significantly limit the use of agrochemicals.

  • Minimize the use of insecticides in domestic and industrial settings.

  • Replace monoculture with diversely farmed land.

  • Stop the destruction of natural areas where bees nest.

  • Controlled reforestation of areas where bees have naturally evolved.

  • Strengthen research and education projects in favor of the development and conservation of bees.

The importance of bees to the ecosystem goes far beyond what many imagine. If you want to know more, read this other article about the importance of bees.

If you want to read similar articles to Are Bees Endangered? - What We Can Do to Help, we recommend you visit our Endangered animals category.

Bibliography
  • ABC Biodiversity (2016). Seven species of Hawaiian bees are on the US Endangered Species List . Available at: https://www.abc.es/natural/biodiversidad/abci-siete-especies-abejas-hawai-entran-lista-estadounidense-especies-peligro-201610031115_noticia.html
  • Eurek Alert (2008). The fragrance of flowers is diminished by air pollution, indicates a study from the University of Virginia . Available at: https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/672624
  • Greenpeace (2013). Dangers to Europe's Pollinators and Agriculture . Available at: https://archivo-es.greenpeace.org/espana/Global/espana/report/Agricultura-ecologica/el_declive_de_las_abejas.pdf
  • I reversed, S. (2017). The decline of bees is a reality . Available at: https://www.uab.cat/web/sala-de-prensa/detalle-noticia/el-declive-de-las-abejas-es-una-realidad-1345667994339.html?noticiaid=1345732103500
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Are Bees Endangered? - What We Can Do to Help