We are often reminded of the important role honeybees play in our lives, but did you know that they are actually immigrants to the North American terrain? As nature photographer Clay Bolt explains in the short film featured above, honeybees were brought over to this part of the globe by early European settlers, but they weren’t the first bee populations to live and thrive here. Rather, they joined the close to 4,000 species of wild native bees that already existed in North America.
Wild native bee species are just as busy pollinating as their honeybee cousins, and they contribute to the production of an even wider array of vegetables, fruits, and flowers. In fact, Nature Communications found that just two percent of wild bee species is responsible for a whopping 80 percent of crop pollination worldwide.
In addition to pollinating much our own food and the many flowers and plants that wildlife feast upon, wild native bees serve as important environmental indicators – and what they’re telling us is that life as we know it is in jeopardy.
The rusty-patched bumble bee is one such native species which pollinates blueberry bushes for us. This species has experienced serious decline, with an 87 percent population loss in just the past 15 years. Fortunately, the rusty-patched bumblebee was recently granted endangered species protections, but it still faces grave consequences if we don’t make changes to support these little heroes right away.
Moreover, it is not alone. In fact, all of our native bee species, almost none of which are currently protected, are suffering greatly due to climate change, habitat loss, and most critically, the rampant use of toxic pesticides that are lethal to bees and cause colony collapse disorder.
We must act quickly to save these myriad bee species, and you can help by urging your representatives to grant endangered species protections for additional bee species and outlaw bee-killing pesticides, filling your property with bee-friendly plants, supporting organic farming, and spreading this message so that more people understand what’s at stake if wild native bees are lost for good.
Image source: Clay Bolt Nature Photography