By: Cami Swafford

One in every three bites of food we eat come from plants that are pollinated by bees. The honey bee’s role in pollinating key fruits and vegetables in our diet contribute approximately fifteen billion dollars to the economy. Yet, last year the overall colony loss rate was at a record high of 44%. Beginning on October 31, the yellow-faced bee species will be added to the federal list of endangered species in Hawaii and will be protected under the Endangered Species Act. The rapidly diminishing bee populations need our help. Thankfully, you don’t need to be a beekeeper in order to make a difference.

So how can we help protect the bees? Well, we can start by planting flowers and herbs that are bee-friendly. Bees are pollinators, meaning they travel to different plants, take pollen from those plants, then spread that pollen and help plants reproduce. There are year round plants that bees and other pollinators rely on to pollinate, such as lilacs, lavender, mint, sage, honeysuckle and more. When doing this, we must be careful not to treat these plants with chemicals because it can harm the bees and possibly kill them. If the pesticides don’t kill them, the bees will bring poisoned pollen to their hives, creating honey filled with toxins that we consume.

We can also think twice before ridding our lawns of weeds. Although they aren’t always visually pleasing, weeds often serve as a haven for bees with wildflowers being one of the most important food sources for native North American honey bees. Most wildflowers are classified as weeds, but letting these flowers bloom before removing them can make a huge difference and allow them to collect the amount of pollen that they need. Due to the amount of work that bees do when pollinating plants, they must stay hydrated. We can help bees stay hydrated by adding a bird bath or small basin of water to our yards.

Recently, there have been numerous reports of honey being chemically contaminated in jars produced in China. When we buy honey from grocery stores that come from foreign countries, such as China, we run the risk of consuming honey mixed with pesticides that can damage our bodies. It is important that we buy local, raw honey that hasn’t been treated with chemicals. It can be hard sometimes to find local honey at grocery stores, so try going to the local farmers market and supporting the beekeepers who are making a difference for the diminishing bee population. This will impact not only the bee population and the environment, but our bodies as well.

The most important way that we can stop the decline of the bee population is to spread awareness. The more that people know about this problem, the more action that will be taken to save the bees. Sharing with your friends and neighbors the different ways that you have helped the bees can persuade other people to take action as well. Petitioning and contacting Congress can speed up the process of convincing the federal government to take the necessary steps in protecting this endangered species.

We have all had the feeling of terror as we hear the buzzing of a bee and see it land on us; the panic we feel as we run away, hoping the bee doesn’t follow. But the truth is, we aren’t the victims in this situation. Bees are peaceful creatures that are just trying to get the necessary pollen to their hives. We have done a lot more damage to them than they have done to us. It’s time we stop acting like bees are the enemy and realize that we rely on them for basic survival. Albert Einstein once stated, “If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live.” So take action. Make a difference.  Save the bees.