News flash: bees are dying at an alarming rate, and without them, humans are pretty much toast. A world without bees is a frightening thought, considering how much they do for us.

Bees play a critical role in our food system, pollinating a majority of the foods we eat every day. Unfortunately, the pesticides used on many of crops are killing them. Neonicotinoid pesticides, the most commonly used pesticides, are believed to be one of the main drivers of this population loss, damaging the immune systems of bees, and rendering them unusually susceptible to disease. They are so effective because they target insect’s nervous systems. Unfortunately, they harm bees just as readily as they do “pests” that hinder crop yields. It is widely believed that these chemicals are responsible for Colony Collapse Disorder, or mass bee deaths. Not only do they cause death, but also a slew of other damaging effects; for example, bees often lose their ability to discern their surroundings and experience memory loss.

We already knew that global bee population rates were plummeting, but a new study reveals that it might be even worse than we thought. The Bee Informed Partnership, who conducted the study, reported that beekeepers lost 44.1% of their colonies between April 2015 to March 20156. In the sixth year the partnership has performed surveys on national bee populations, this is the highest annual loss rate to date.

Bee Informed Partnership

We should really be taking note of this. Why? Well, for one, we rely on bees to pollinate an estimated 80 percent of food found in grocery stores. They pollinate apples, asparagus, avocados, blueberries, broccoli, celery, cherries, citrus crops, cranberries, cucumber, kiwis, and melons … to name a few. Bees might be small, but they play a very large role in our global food system.

If it hasn’t become clear already, we ought to start paying attention to how we’re treating these industrious insects, lest we lose them – and our food supply – forever. We can all help reduce the strain being put on bees by choosing organic foods, free from pesticides, whenever possible. To learn more about how you can help this struggling species, check out these articles:

All Image Source: Wikimedia Commons