different kinds of bee species in the world. These species can be divided into around 4,000 genera, 9 families, and are all within the superfamily of Apoidea. Generally speaking, bees can be divided into common names and major categories that include all species ranging from solitary bees, bumblebees and honeybees¹.
Sadly, bee populations are declining throughout the world at alarming rates. Prior to 2006, beekeepers have seen normal losses in the populations of their hives to be around 5 to 10% a year. After 2006, this number increased to around 30%, sometimes even as high as 36%². Some beekeepers have even lost entire colonies at once. Such an alarming rate of decline has been seen all over Europe, Asia, and the Unites States. Scientists have been trying to identify exactly why bees have been disappearing and have looked at causes like insecticides, parasites, viruses, malnutrition and other environmental factors but have been unsuccessful at identifying the exact cause². Other possible causes of these sudden high losses could be habitat destruction, widespread use of pesticides, or increasing trend of crop monoculture. With the exact reason unknown, many are concerned that bee populations could be unable to recover.
What does the loss of bees actually mean for us?
You might be surprised to know that, although small, bees are oftentimes underestimated for their importance in the world. Bees provide us with a variety of benefits including making wax and securing our food diversity. One of the most important reasons bees are important is due to their efficient work as pollinators. Bees are the most powerful pollinators of the world and this makes them crucial for the quality of our life.
Through pollination of wild flowers diverse ecosystems exist on Earth, and by their activity in agriculture our food is grown³. In fact, it is estimated that nearly one third of food is dependent on pollination and 70 different types of crops are pollinated by bees throughout the world. These crops include fruits like apples, vegetables like broccoli and all kinds of nuts. Just one colony of 50,000 bees can pollinate 4,000 square meters of fruit trees and makes 14 kilograms of honey on average. Additionally, bees also contribute indirectly to other food sources including dairy and meat by pollinating the grass and clover used to feed milk cows and other livestock used as meat sources. Furthermore, not only do they secure food production, they also significantly contribute to the economy. In the United Kingdom alone, honeybees make 6,000 tons of honey valued for 400 million pounds in just one year⁴.
Overall, throughout the world, bee populations are on the decline. However, bees provide us with a free, indispensable service that would be difficult to recover if it was lost. While we still can, we need to make choices to help bee populations worldwide. One way to help is to conserve wild bee habitats. These are locations rich in biodiversity and include a variety of tree blossoms, shrubs and wild flowers that increase immune systems and keep the bees protected from diseases².
Something that everyone can do to help bee populations includes planting bee friendly species in gardens and limiting the use of pesticides and insecticides that kill bees.
You can learn more in our article: 5 Things You Can Do to Help Save Bees