There is no question that access to fruits and vegetables is vital to our health and the health of our communities. As human beings, we have to eat between five and ten servings of fruits and vegetables a day to maintain good health. This is because produce contains many essential vitamins and minerals that we are unable to make ourselves. These vitamins and minerals assist our body with nearly every process necessary for our survival. What is more, the Earth’s population is rising with a growth rate of 1.05%; and the total population is nearing almost 8 billion people (1). A growing community means more and more mouths to feed. However, due to issues related to the Earth’s climate crisis, the number of fruits and vegetables left to feed them could decline significantly in years to come.
We owe much of our fruit and vegetable production on this planet to bees. They pollinate roughly 80% of the crops that go to human consumption (2). Additionally, they are also responsible for the growth of other crops that we have become entirely dependent on, such as cotton and hemp (3). There are nearly 30 million dollars in crops produced every year that bees are responsible for – and those are only the crops that are sold. There are many personal gardeners, farmers, and just plain people that depend on bees to keep their plants alive.
The pollinating process of the bee has been fine-tuned throughout its existence for nearly 30 million years. Have you ever heard the term “busy bee,” It’s a saying because bees are really one of the busiest creatures known to man! Bees leave their hives to visit flowering plants. They do so to collect the pollen that the flowers give off. They have microscopic hairs on their legs that attract these particles of pollen via electromagnetic force. They spread pollen more effectively than any other species on Earth! A single bee can visit up to 5,000 different flowers in a single day (4). The pollen they work so hard to collect acts as an essential protein source that feeds the growing bee population in their hives. This means that bees rely on the flowering plants equally as much as the plants depend on them – they have a mutualistic relationship.
This fragile relationship between bees and plants that they pollinate, the same plants that we depend on for survival, is at stake. The decline of the bee population has been a known fact for a few years now; however, even with an increase in the awareness of this issue – the population still continues to decline. In 2018, nearly 40% of bee colonies in the US had died (5), and other recent reports show that we are losing global insect populations at a rate of about 2.5% each year (6).
Many scientists have sought to understand why their population is declining. However, there is no one singular cause that they have been able to find. Experts believe that it is a combination of various factors, including habitat loss, climate change, poor nutrition, etc. One of the largest contributors is pesticide use. Many pesticides are used to grow crops that cause health issues and death for most bee populations (7). In fact, a kind of pesticide called neonicotinoids causes permanent memory damage to bees that come into contact with it (8). This makes it impossible for the bees to find their way back to the hive. This kills the bees that cannot find their way home, and it also kills the growing bee population within the hive since they no longer have pollen to sustain them.
With issues like this, we often feel helpless, but there is always something that we can do! Supporting bee populations is vital to maintaining our ecosystems and pollinating the very foods we depend on to survive. Thats why we did a little digging and found a few ways that you can support bee populations, so keep scrolling and save the bees.
Habitat loss is one of the leading causes of the decline in bees. Land development often takes away vital food and water sources that bees rely on to survive. By keeping native flowering plants outside of your home, you provide food for bees that live in your area. It is best to research which plants are best based on your location because each region has different plants that help the bees best! Here is a resource to find which plants are for you.
There are still ways to protect your home-grown garden from invaders – all without harming bee populations! There is a wide range of bee-friendly products that can be purchased from your local garden store. You can also make your own insecticide at home using all-natural ingredients, like this one. Fun fact – garlic is an active natural ingredient you can use to repel pests!
Like we mentioned before, bees can visit up to 5,000 flowers in a single day. They are always on the move, and all that work can dehydrate them. Developed areas often lack natural sources of water to support bee populations. You can provide bees with fresh water in the form of a pond, fountain, or pool; however, even a simple bowl of water left outside your home can do the trick too!
Beekeepers work to maintain bee colonies by providing them with hives to live in, plants to pollinate, and even medication. The honey that beekeepers produce is made with local plant life. Purchasing honey from your local beekeepers can help support your local bee populations, and it also supports local farmers and plants that rely on the bees for pollination. You can even pay to sponsor a hive from a beekeeper near you!
Here at FAVES, we believe in the power of fruits in vegetables. We live in a world that is overfed and malnourished – and the only way to solve that is to increase the amount of fruit and veg people have access to. With a declining bee population, this goal becomes only that much harder, if not impossible. We encourage you to take action, however big or small, to help protect this unique species of insect!