SAU Buzz

Fighting Bees need to fight for the bees

by Sydney Klein
Posted on Feb 16, 2017

Students buzzing around St. Ambrose University’s campus are most likely familiar with the school’s mascot—the fighting bee. The fighting bee mascot can be seen throughout campus on student’s clothing, club posters, and even as decals on faculty members’ vehicles. Unfortunately, the global bee population is not thriving as well as the university’s mascot. Since the 1990’s, beekeepers have observed a decline in the global population of bees. Bees dying due to colony collapses affect the survival of the species, the environment, and the economy.  

Bees contribute more to society than just producing honey for human consumption. According to the article “Declining Bee Populations Pose a Threat to Global Agriculture” by the Yale school of Forestry & Environmental Studies, “One of every three bites of food eaten worldwide depends on pollinators, especially bees, for a successful harvest.” If the bee population continues to perish, there will be a decrease in the world’s food supply due to the  limited amount of pollinators.

“One of every three bites of food eaten worldwide depends on pollinators, especially bees, for a successful harvest.”

Beyond not being able to successfully pollinate the world’s food supply, a lack of bees will also affect the number of flowers that get pollinated. Bees pollinate one-sixth of the plant species around the world, which means that the number of flowering flora can be expected to decline as well. Although pollinating flowers may not seem as important as pollinating the food supply, our environmental landscapes will suffer an imbalance due to the lack of native plants growing in their natural areas.

Between 2015 and 2016, beekeepers in the United States who maintained at least 5 or more colonies lost 8% of their honeybee colonies—that's 230,000 bees. Beekeepers also reported a 12% loss of honey production within their colonies. With less honey being produced, the population demand for the product will become greater than the supply, and sales price will be driven higher.  

Beekeepers also reported a 12% loss of honey production within their colonies.

The current phenomena of honeybee colonies collapsing, simply known as colony collapse,  has been puzzling scientists and beekeepers for years. Although there is no clear answer as to what has been causing whole colonies of bees to die, scientists suspect that there are two significant factors causing the damage. The first factor is the overuse of pesticides and fungicides, such as the insecticide neonicotinoid, in areas where bees pollinate or live. The next factor is the invasion of Varroa Mites. Varroa Mites have been a pest to bees in the past, but they have never been recorded infiltrating and overtaking whole colonies as they have been doing in recent years. Hopefully, scientists can figure out which factors have been causing these colonies to collapse, and then create solutions for beekeepers to use to protect their colonies.

Varroa Mites have been a pest to bees in the past, but they have never been recorded to infiltrate and overtake a whole colony as they have been doing in recent years.

“We can all plant, even if you only have a little pot out on your porch,” Professor Blair, a biology professor and plant ecologist at St. Ambrose University said, “Bee friendly plants. There’s nothing cuter than getting to watch a bee pollinate a flower!” Blair has numerous bee friendly plants that she maintains, including hostas and cherry trees. Coneflowers, Bee Balm and Joe Pye Weed are just a few types of plants that Blair recommends planting as food for the bees. She also suggests planting bee friendly flowers that grow at different times throughout the year so that these flowers and plants continuously provide food for the bees.

“There’s nothing cuter than getting to watch a bee pollinate a flower!”

“There are also bee friendly products now,” Blair said. “Cascadian Farms has a little bio on the side of their box that tells you how important bees are. There is also a promo code on the side that allows people to donate to ‘Bee Friendly’ if you log on and enter this code.… There are other products now that will say ‘made in a bee friendly manner’ on the label, which means it’s usually organic.” The “bee friendly” products are made without using pesticides in order to maintain the bee’s environment. Next time students find themselves in the grocery store, they should check the label of the product they are purchasing to see if they are potentially supporting the bees.

The plight of bees is concerning from both an environmental and economical standpoint, but there are numerous ways that students can help prevent this problem from increasing any faster. Planting bee friendly plants and buying products made without pesticides are just a few ways that the fighting bees can help fight for the bees.