“SAVE THE BEES” is a seemingly simple phrase to promote environmental awareness among a species that seems to forget we’re not the only ones who inhabit this Earth.
We already know what all the buzz is about — the bee population is declining at rapidly higher rates than what’s considered sustainable, says a Yale School of the Environment article.
For the last decade, beekeepers in Europe have reported annual hive losses of at least 30 percent. Meanwhile, beekeepers in the United States have reported annual hive loses of at least 40 to 50 percent.
“Many factors are influencing the decline of bees, including habitat fragmentation, increased use of neonicotinoid pesticides, colony collapse disorder, and climate change,” says the Earth Day Organization.
In other words, the bees are dying and it’s primarily our fault. Great job, humans.
Aside from making more sustainable lifestyle choices — recycling, supporting eco-friendly brands, voting for environmentally-conscious politicians, etc… — what else can we do to increase the honeybee population? How can we encourage bee repopulation? What makes bees want to get busy?
As the queen bee buzzes through the air in search of a mate, a drone bee — who’s only purpose is to fornicate with the queen once — latches on to her back and inserts his endophallus into the queen’s reproductive tract.
“He immediately ejaculates with such explosive force that the tip of his endophallus is left behind inside the queen and his abdomen ruptures,” says a Thought Co. article. “The drone falls to the ground, where he dies soon after. The next drone removes the previous drone’s endophallus and inserts his, mates, and then dies as well.”
If the drone does manage to survive the explosive force of his ejaculation, he’s removed from the colony because he no longer serves the hive any purpose. Man, if that doesn’t just sting.
While their biological father may be gone, baby bees still have plenty of father-figures around to tend to them. According to a Current Biology Journal study, worker bees will give up sleep just to “care for offspring that are not their own.”
How Humans Affect Bee Reproduction
Human activity isn’t simply killing the bees. It’s also affecting their ability to reproduce.
In a Proceedings of the Royal Society B study, researchers found neonicotinoid pesticides may indirectly act as a bee contraceptive. In their study, drone bees exposed to neonicotinoid pesticides produced 39 percent less living sperm.
Neonicotinoid pesticides are a newer class of insecticides that are chemically similar to nicotine, says the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. They attach to certain receptors in the nerve synapse of insects to kill them off.
Other factors increase the rates of infertility among honeybees, too. For example, a lack of flowers in the area leads to malnourished drone bees. In turn, they’re more likely to contract a disease or simply be too weak to act on their fatal attraction to the queen.
How to Help Bees Get Buzz-y
Don’t Use Neonicotinoid Pesticides
Research shows there are highly-effective alternatives to neonicotinoid pesticides. In fact, there are ways to keep bees out of your bees-ness without using chemicals at all.
Instead of planting flowers right next to your patio or porch, plant them a few feet away. If there are bright flowers ripe with pollen calling their name elsewhere, the bees have no real reason to invade your space.
That doesn’t mean you have to leave your porch or patio bare, either. Just green up the space with shrubs and other foliage while your flowers shine on elsewhere.
Natural Bee Repellent
You could also grow certain plants that repel bees, although there aren’t too many plants that deter them, as bees are attracted to anything that flowers.
But certain herbs are a turn off for bees, according to Gardening Know How. These include:
Feed the Bees
A hive that’s been poisoned by pesticide can recover, you just need to show it a little TLC. The University of Georgia recommends feeding bee colonies pollen, sugar syrup, and water to help them regain their strength.