Why don’t we see bees like another nuisance insect that stings like a vulgar scolopendra or worse, a mosquito? Somewhere deep down, humans have computed that these originally coloured flying darts are more than “just” insects.
Bees are one of the most well spread out species families in the kingdom of life. Where there are pollen plants, there is a strand of bees. Bees are from the mountain and from the sea, from the forest and the plains. Some bees are so resilient they have been able to maintain their presence in desert oases, without any external support from other colonies.
There are more than 20,000 species of bees divided among three large families. These include honeybees, wasps, bumblebees, European black bees, Sonoran bees and many, many more. Not all are yellow and black. Some are blue and white. No, this is not a reference to the dress colour internet debate.
Bees are an example of one of nature’s finest concepts: coevolution. Indeed, flowers have developed more eye-grabbing colours and floral rewards like nectar, whilst bees grew longer trumps and pollen baskets to attain that delicious treasure.
Without bees, only a fraction of natural pollination would happen. In total, about 80% of flower pollination is biotic. This means that these flowers need an animal to transport pollen to another flower’s reproductive organ. Without these helpers that scientists call pollinators, these plants could not reproduce with the only help of the wind or random access.
These guys have been often imitated, never duplicated. Scientists, and most recently Wal-mart, have tried to develop robot bees, and other alternatives to nature’s biggest workaholics. Why? Because bees have been falling like flies. It’s estimated that more than half of American and European bees have disappeared in the last 10 years(!). We understand our pesticides damage their nervous system so badly they cannot direct themselves back to their hives. We also know air pollution and an invasive species of mite coming from Asia is taking a huge toll on beehives too. But we don’t get why their downfall is so steep.
So we’re pretty scared because we love the dudettes. And we know how important they are to the general balance of life. If we don’t wrap our head around the problem fast and offer working solutions now, well we are facing one of the most life-threatening, eye-opening, nerve-racking proof that wildlife is as important as other indicators of the health of our planet. No bees, no dessert. For anybody.
But we are confident. Let us tell you why.
Bees, like cats and other species, have been a part of the human tradition for as long as anyone can remember. Ancient Egyptians, Mayan and Chinese are known to have used extensively apiculture techniques. In many animist cultures, bees are regarded as sacred, often representing fertility, spring and abundance.
Bees, like trees, act as an interface for so many species that they have become part of the ecosystem’s basis. Keystone species, as they are called, have such a paramount role in their settings that their downfall would cause the crumbling of the entire edifice.
And it’s not just wild ecosystems that are concerned. Wild bees work the field as much, if not more than regular old humans. It’s estimated that about a third of the world’s domesticated crops rely on bees to cross-pollinate and actually give crop to harvest.
It’s therefore in our interest to find solutions fast, to a large complicated problem. Plan A has partnered up with Stadtbienen, a German organisation promoting the introduction of wild bees into the cities. Transforming urban centres into pesticide and predator-free havens has proven efficient. Bee populations in cities are growing fast, and not just domestic honeybees. Wild bees are also able to retreat into those unexpected, yet efficient, ecosystems. Stadtbienen is building a mobile bee centre to travel across Europe and throughout their 17 centres and more than 800 members.
We need to provide funds for solutions like Stadtbienen. Time is short and the race is on. Get in touch to know how you can contribute, time, money, even puns are helpful. Be the keystone, help a keystone.