God Save the Queen (Bee)
To Bee or Not to Bee. A contemporary twist to Shakespeare’s Hamlet question: despite their small size, bees play a critical role in maintaining the health of our ecosystems. However, nowadays this animal is facing major challenges that are leading to wide-scale population loss. Such challenges are primarily related to human activity: according to current predictions, without changing our path, some bee species could start to go extinct by 2050. On May 20th International Bee Day was celebrated in order to raise awareness on the importance of bees, on their role in preserving the environment and on the tremendous consequences of “Not to Bee”.
The Vital Role of Bees
Bees are essential and incredibly efficient pollinators, responsible for fertilizing plants by transferring pollen from the male part of the flower to the female part, thus allowing the reproduction of plants. This process is critical for the production of fruits, vegetables, and seeds. As a matter of fact, bees are responsible for pollinating 70 of the top 100 crops that provide 90% of the world’s food. If you have recently eaten a salad with tomatoes and cucumbers, an eggplant parmigiana or snacked on some nuts, this was possible thanks to the work of bees.
Taking in consideration the vital role of bees in our agricultural system, their reduction or extinction could possibly result in a food crisis not only for human beings, but also for other animal species. In fact bees also pollinate plants that provide habitat and food for other wildlife, such as birds or insects and contribute to the biodiversity of ecosystems.
Challenges and Threats
Bees are facing several challenges that threaten their existence and the health of ecosystems. One of the biggest ones is habitat loss, due to urbanization, deforestation, and monoculture farming practices. Because of this, they are forced to travel long distances to find food and shelter, which exposes them to risks of exhaustion and starvation.
Pesticide use is another major threat bees are facing. As a matter of fact, exposure to pesticides can disorient them, making it difficult for them to find their way back to their hives. Pesticides can also interfere with the bees’ ability to navigate, communicate, and forage, making them weaker and more vulnerable to diseases and other environmental stressors.
Moreover, changes in temperature, rainfall patterns, and seasonal cycles are affecting the timing of flowering plants and the availability of food for bees. These animals depend on specific plant species for food, and if such plants do not flower at the right time, bees will not have access to the food they need to survive. Climate change is also contributing to extreme weather events, such as droughts and floods, which can further impact bee populations.
From Hive to Circular
Bees are the original upcyclers in the circular economy. They collect nectar and pollen from flowers and transform it into honey and beeswax, which humans can use for food, cosmetics, and other products.
By mimicking the circular economy of bees, we can reduce waste and promote sustainable practices that support the health of bee populations. For example, reducing the use of pesticides and promoting organic farming practices – such as the use of natural pest control methods – can help protect them from harmful chemicals. Additionally, creating habitats that mimic natural environments – like pollinator-friendly gardens – can provide food and shelter for bees.
Moreover, using recycled materials to create products can reduce the demand for new resources that require the destruction of natural habitats. Additionally, creating closed-loop systems, where waste is reused and repurposed, can reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, reducing pollution and promoting a healthier environment for bees.