You may have heard that bees around the world are struggling for their survival as a result of threats from agricultural expansion, loss of habitat, disease, pollution, and climate change. In fact, more than 40 percent of native bees are facing extinction. That’s hundreds of different types of bee species! Also, over the last three years, more than one in three honeybee colonies has died in the United States.
Without bees pollinating throughout our ecosystem, many wild plants and crops would be unable to thrive. Although bees are the world’s main pollinators and we all depend on them for survival, they continue to be largely ignored and under-protected.
We can bring awareness about bees to our children and community by celebrating National Honey Bee Awareness Day. Held this year on Saturday, August 17, the event began in 2009 by a group of beekeepers who petitioned for a formal proclamation by the United States Department of Agriculture to honor honey bees and beekeeping.
This special day brings together beekeepers, bee associations, and other interested groups to build community awareness of the bee industry through education and promotion. It is an opportunity to celebrate honey bees and recognize their importance to our everyday lives and the global environment. National Honey Bee Awareness Day continues to be recognized each year on the third Saturday of August.
Why Are Bees Important?
Bees may sometimes seem like a nuisance, but they are actually a cornerstone of our natural environment because of their ability to pollinate. They travel from one plant to another carrying pollen on their bodies to transfer genetic material necessary for most flowering plants to reproduce. Without flower pollination by bees, our agricultural system, food supply, and landscapes would disappear.
Here are some facts about bees:
- The honey bee is the only insect that produces food eaten by humans.
- Honey is the only food that does not spoil.
- Responsible for more than one-third of the food we eat.
- Pollinate 80 percent of the world’s plants including 90 different food crops.
- Help produce $15 billion in U.S. agricultural crops each year and $217 billion globally.
- There are more than 20,000 bee species around the world.
- Support healthy ecosystems that clean the air, stabilize soils, protect from severe weather, and support other wildlife.
What You Can Do To Save The Bees
Now that you know that bees are in trouble, what can you do to help? Check out these service projects and charity ideas to get your entire family involved:
- Support farmers and beekeepers by buying local honey and locally grown organic foods. Your children will love sampling all the delicious varieties of local honey.
- Plant an organic garden that does not use pesticides. Grow lots of pollinator-friendly native plants. Check out these plant ideas from Honey Love.
- Provide a water source in your yard since honey bees need clean water to drink.
- Rescue bees instead of exterminating them. If you see an active beehive, call a live-bee removal and re-homing service in your area. Honeybees can be safely removed and taken to beekeepers or community bee yards.
- Teach your children about bees. Read books about bees and pollination such as The Bee Book by Charlotte Milner The Beeman by Laurie Krebs, The Magic School Bus Inside a Beehive by Joanna Cole, The Buzz on Bees: Why Are They Disappearing? by Shelley Rotner, and Five Bizzy Honeybees By Lance Douglas. Also, be sure to watch Bee Movie, written by and starring Jerry Seinfeld, which shows what happens when we no longer have bees pollinating vegetation.
- Support organizations that are working hard to research and solve the bee crisis. Consider sending a donation to any of these organizations: HoneyLove, Pollinator Partnership, Honeybee Conservancy, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Green Peace.
- Spread the word about the importance of pollinators to your family and friends.
Both volunteer work and spending time in nature have been scientifically proven to increase happiness and improve mood, so participating in service projects that help prevent bee decline is an amazing way for your family to get involved and feel better about doing something meaningful to help our environment. Let’s keep the buzz about bees going all year long!
How will your family help reduce bee decline?