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National Honey Bee Day: Why Honey Bees Aren’t the Bees We Need to Worry About

August 13, 2018
National Honey Bee Day

National Honey Bee Day is August 19th, and it’s certainly a good idea to pause and be thankful for the way that honey bees provide the sweet stuff we love to spread on our toast, put into oatmeal and use for flavoring our tea and coffee. Honey bees are undoubtedly important to our eco-system.

However, when people urge others to “save the bees” — a statement which has recently intensified — it’s likely only honey bees that are on their minds. There are more than 25,000 species of bees besides the Western honey bee that many individuals know best. Honey bees produce honey, and they’re pollinators, but there are tens of thousands of other bees getting ignored.

Analysts say it’s even difficult to precisely say how many species of bees exist because relatively few have hives. Since they don’t return to dedicated places and instead roam freely, counting them becomes impossible.

Seven Kinds of Bees Added to the Endangered List in 2016

When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made a 2016 update to the endangered species list, there were seven kinds of yellow-faced bees on it, yet no honey bees. It’s also notable that all the listed bees are native to Hawaii. Although these Hawaiian bees have little impact on human agricultural yields in the state or elsewhere, they’re still crucial pollinators for Hawaii’s plant and floral growth.

Map Reveals 139 Counties With At-Risk Wild Bee Population

In early 2017, news coverage revealed that a team of researchers created a map detailing the extensiveness of the danger to wild bees across the United States. The scientists presented it at an annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

It was the first time that people had taken a look at the threat to wild bees on a national scale. The visual representation revealed that there were 139 counties in agriculturally rich areas of the U.S. that showed a declining wild bee population as the demand for crop pollination rose.

That research indicates — as we celebrate National Honey Bee Day this year — that it’s essential to remember that although honey bees play an indispensable role in the environment, so do other species of bees.

National Honey Bee Day

Leamsii / Pixabay

Wild Bees Pollinate Differently Than Honey Bees

Scientists know wild bees take part in something called “buzz pollination.” It involves shaking flowers at a certain frequency to release pollen more quickly and stimulate faster pollination. Honey bees pollinate too, but they can’t do it through buzz pollination.

Bumblebees are especially good buzz pollinators. Farmers have started keeping them commercially because they depend on the bumblebees so much to help their crop yields. However, some types of bumblebees that were more widely spread throughout the United States are only in limited areas.

Take the rusted patch bumblebee for example. It was once inhabiting the Eastern United States and Southeastern Canada. Now, it’s only in a few small Midwest populations.

More About Bees and Our Food Supply

As you celebrate National Honey Bee Day this year, remember that there are numerous reasons to be grateful. Among them is the fact that bees pollinate one-third of the food supply. Most of our vegetables and fruits depend on the essential duty that bees perform. Plus, so does alfalfa, which is part of a cow’s diet, and as such, affects beef availability.

Evidence suggests that as farmers depend on commercially raised bees for better crop yields, wild, local bees suffer the consequences. Commercial bees are often depended upon to help crops of valuable fruits. Specifically, honey bees and bumblebees are the kinds that most often get used commercially.

Commercialization Promotes Disease Spread

So how do commercial bees adversely affect the wild, local bee population? If commercial bees get stricken with diseases, the resultant health hazards can sometimes affect local, wild bees in nearby communities.

Commercial bee use has gone up over the last several decades. Along with that popularity boost, there’s been an increase in disease spread. So, as honey output and pollination productivity go up in some species of bees, others might get infected by diseases introduced by commercial bee populations.

The major problem is that commercial honey bees and bumblebees frequently get moved across borders. During that movement, parasites and other contaminants come with them. Also, even when wild bees don’t get infected with new diseases, they’re often more likely to get infected by those that already exist in their populations.

Introducing massive numbers of commercial bees into an area also causes additional competition for the existing food supply and increases the stress experienced by local bees. In turn, both of those factors can make wild bees more likely to get sick and die from diseases that might not have otherwise affected them.

Show All-Encompassing Concern for the Bee Population

As you recognize National Honey Bee Day this year, it’s certainly worthwhile to show your gratefulness for those specific pollinators. However, don’t forget that there are thousands of other bee species to care about too — and many of them are in just as much or even more danger as honey bees.

The next time someone encourages you to join in a “Save the Honey Bees” chant, try broadening their perspective. Honey bees are important, but all bees are worth saving.

Wildlife

How Overpopulation Leads to Animal Extinction

July 19, 2018
animal extinction

Many scientists believe we’re entering the Earth’s sixth mass-extinction event, which could result in the loss of three-quarters of the planet’s species in the next few centuries. A recent study found that around one-third of land-based vertebrate species are experiencing reduced populations and territorial ranges.

Humans are one of the species that has experienced population growth in recent years. In fact, so many people are on the planet today that we’re driving the population reduction of other species, as well as a host of other environmental problems.

If this trend of destruction continues, it might result in the eventual downfall of not only many of the earth’s animal species but the human race as well.

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Wildlife

Reasons Why Endangered Species Stay Endangered

July 2, 2018
endangered species stay endangered

Republican President Richard Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act, which had broad bipartisan support, into law in 1973. The law lists certain species as endangered and threatened and aims to protect these at-risk animals. The ESA is believed to have saved 99 percent of the species it has listed.

Since then, the ESA has endured attacks from lawmakers and special interests. On the recent Endangered Species Act day on March 28, 1,452 scientists and experts sent a letter to Congress urging members not to approve several bills they said would undermine the Act’s scientific foundations.

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Wildlife

Why Are Elephants So Heavily Poached?

June 18, 2018
elephants so heavily poached

Elephants are massive creatures, known for their nubile trunks and astonishing ivory tusks. Most species of elephant are also endangered, thanks in no small part to the actions of hunters and poachers. Surprisingly, it’s not the tusks that these poachers are after anymore. Why, then, are elephants still being so heavily poached, and what can we do to protect these majestic giants?

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Wildlife

How Big Business Affects Wildlife

June 7, 2018
big business affects wildlife

Progress is almost inevitable as the human population grows, but it comes with a hefty price tag — damage to the environment. Businesses either positively or negatively impact the environment around them. Once you’re aware of the many ways business affects wildlife in your area, you realize small changes make a big difference.

Humans play a role in the extinction of plants and animals around the world. One study found that without human interference, many additional species would roam the earth today. Big business and industrial growth impact wildlife in different ways. Fortunately, there are solutions to each problem.

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Wildlife

What New Species Have We Discovered in 2018?

May 21, 2018
new species 2018

Scientists discover new species of plants and animals every year.

The diversity and amount of life on Earth are astounding. Ecologists now estimate there are 8.7 million different species on the planet — and those are the ones we know about — but we discover more each year. Despite the large number of species we are aware of, we are just beginning to discover the extent of life on Earth, and there is so much more to uncover. However, as we enter new species into the record books, we lose others forever because of the destruction of habitats, climate change and illegal hunting.

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Wildlife

What’s Being Done to Save Government Red List Species?

May 7, 2018
government red list

Protecting the planet’s wildlife is up to us.

The variety and amount of animals that occurs on this planet haven’t been fully documented. Science discovers thousands of new species each year, including plants, animals and insects. However, with the discovery of new species, other species are lost to habitat destruction, hunting, poaching and climate change.

Humans are fully aware of their destructive nature and have tried to implement procedures and policies to slow the destruction of the natural environment. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was enacted in 1973 to decrease, prevent and recoup the loss of plant and animal species from extinction.

Since the ESA has been in place, several species have been brought back from the brink of extinction, including the bald eagle, whooping crane, American alligator, grizzly bears, the California condor and the American gray wolf, among others. However, there is still work that needs to be done and several species on the government red list that need to be saved.

Technology, science and environmentally conscious groups and individuals are all playing a role in protecting endangered species. Below are some ways in which government red list species are being cared for.

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Wildlife

Private Reserves vs. National Parks: Do Both Aid Conservation?

April 26, 2018
private reserves vs national parks

The United States pioneered the national park approach to conservation, a method that has become common around the world.

It involves closing off certain areas to all private development. The government owns and manages these lands to protect them for future generations. All land outside of these protected areas is open to private development.

There’s a space in between these two extremes though: privately owned reserves. Private individuals or organizations own these areas and choose to protect the natural landscapes within them.

Do national parks and private reserves both contribute to conservation efforts? Is one better than the other? Let’s explore these questions.

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Wildlife

How Likely Is Northern White Rhino Extinction?

April 12, 2018
northern white rhino extinction

Science may be able to reverse extinction as time goes by, but questions arise about whether or not it should.

We live on an amazing planet with diverse and unique animal life. It’s estimated 8.7 million different species live in this world, and we discover, on average, thousands of new species each year. Learning about the different plants and animals that inhabit this planet helps us understand our world and ourselves.

Despite the fact millions of different species live on this planet, we lose dozens of creatures to extinction every day. Even though extinction is a natural phenomenon, almost 99 percent of extinctions that occur are caused by humans. As our population continues to grow, we encroach upon new habitats to develop places to live and to grow food, which pushes animals into new territories or kills them. We’ve also introduced new species that compete for food and space, and we’ve contributed to pollution and global warming.

For some species, including rhinos, their numbers have dwindled because of illegal hunting and poaching for their ivory. That has been the case for the Northern White Rhino, which faces the distinct possibility of extinction — especially now since there are only two of this subspecies of rhino left. Northern White Rhino extinction seems inevitable.

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Wildlife

What Will the World Do If Honeybees Become Extinct?

March 19, 2018
Honeybees become extinct

The statistics are there — honeybee populations are on the decline. In 2016, more than one-third of the bee colonies in America died out, with many years prior following much of the same news. Is it soon time to say goodbye?

If honeybees become extinct, the entire world — not just America — will suffer. There are some short-term solutions that will allow people to get by for a bit. But because honeybees are such a contributor to food products and the ecosystem, people will not sustain themselves for very long if honeybees become extinct.

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