Bees are so important for our planet. These little insects pollinate flowers, food crops, the alfalfa and clover we feed our livestock and, of course, they make honey! Unfortunately, bees are facing some serious threats.
Habitat Loss and Fragmentation
Bees need certain qualities in their habitat to keep them happy and healthy. They need for big spaces with lots of flowers for food, as well as safe and undisturbed areas for their nests. In the winter, they need places that are protected from the wind and cold. Unfortunately, development of wild spaces is causing problems for bees. When wildflowers disappear, bees that are active in early spring have a hard time getting enough food to eat, and it can make it difficult for the queen to start her colony.
Disease and Pests
Just like you, bees can get sick. Diseases and parasites can do a lot of damage to bees. Bees can become too weak to fly or be unable to reproduce. In some cases, becoming infected can even lead to death.
Parasitic tracheal mites are a big problem for bees. These mites are so small that they can invade a bee’s respiratory system. As the mites grow bigger and bigger, they cut off the bee’s air supply and make it impossible to breathe.
The Varroa destructor is another mite that hurts bees. They live on the outside of a honey bee’s body, feeding on the bee’s hemolymph (a bee’s version of blood). These mites can cause Colony Collapse Disorder, which makes bees sick, disoriented and unable to find their way back home.
Invasive Plant Species
Pests and mites aren’t the only species that are a threat to bees. Invasive plant species are also making a big impact. These plants take over the land and other resources that native wildflowers need to survive, and when the native wildflowers that the bees feed on start to disappear, it becomes harder for bees to find food.
It isn’t easy being a farmer, especially when the crops they are trying to grow keep getting eaten by pests. That’s why some farmers use chemicals called pesticides to protect their crops. However, in certain circumstances, these chemicals can cause some serious health problems to insects like bees, including nervous system failure, muscle spasms or even death.
Scientists believe that climate change is also impacting bees. Climate change is bringing on extreme weather events which can affect the timing of when flowers start to bloom. Fewer flowers available in the early spring mean less food for bees.