Bumble Bee, © Foster Lea

Species Spotlight–Bees

Far from a bumbler, the bee is a productive pollinator with a reputation for diligence. That’s fortunate for us because close to 75 percent of flowering plants rely on insects to help them produce fruit and seeds.

And none does it better than a bee. That’s because most have fuzzy, feathery body hairs that carry an electrostatic charge to snag pollen. It’s not intentional. As bees feed, court or gather nectar, pollen sticks to their bodies and rubs off accidentally as they buzz from flower to flower, pollinating on the fly.

We rely on pollinators like the humble bumble bee for a full third of our food supply. Wildlife—from songbirds to grizzly bears—rely on them even more. Without them, we’d have no apples, blueberries, chocolate, coffee or orange juice, to name a few delicacies we’d have to forgo.

Given the importance of bees, their dramatic decline in recent decades is particularly alarming. Native bees from California to Maine have been disappearing because of habitat loss or degradation, pesticides and the spread of diseases and parasites. Massive honey bee die-offs—coined “colony collapse disorder” after it was first noticed in 2006—still have scientists puzzled and searching for a solution.

To keep the world abuzz and blooming, we must protect these vital pollinators.

Here’s what you can do to help bees:

  • Provide nesting sites in your yard (untilled, unmulched, partially bare ground with leaf pieces or mud for nesting materials).
  • Avoid pesticides.
  • Advocate for bees with neighbors and local policymakers.

Read more in the summer issue of Defenders.