Why Do We Need to Save the Bees?
Why do we care about bees?
Bees are responsible for pollinating about one in every three bites of food we eat (see this list). Without this pollination service, a flowering plant would not be able to produce its fruit. And we’re not just talking about delicious fruits like watermelon, blueberries, and apples—we’re also referring to flowering plants that turn into broccoli, almonds, and coffee. Bees also pollinate alfalfa and clover, which are crops that feed our farm animals. If bees didn’t exist, we’d be stuck with a pretty limited diet of grains (wheat, corn, and rice), fish, and sugar.
But it goes beyond food. About 250,000 types of flowering plants depend on bees for pollination—so add things like medicines and cotton clothing to the list of items on which we rely upon bees. Bees provide a tremendous benefit to our economy. Bee pollination is estimated to bring $18 billion worth of pollination services to the U.S. economy every year and about $200 billion worldwide. So, it’s not just about desiring good food; saving the bees is fundamental to our economy and worldwide food security.
Are we talking about honeybees or other bees?
We want to save all types of bees. The United States is home to at least 4,000 different native bee species. Honeybees are only one species—and they are not native to the U.S. But when people think about bees, they usually think about honey. That’s why Project Hive Pet Company’s treats are kissed with organic honey, and our toys resemble the honeybee hive. (Only honeybees and bumblebees live in hives; 70 percent of bees nest in holes in the ground.)
We rely upon the honeybee to not only make honey but also pollinate a wide variety of crops. But honeybees are a managed crop themselves, and much of what they pollinate are also dependent on wild bees. According to a recent scientific study published by Royal Society Publishing, wild bees and honeybees provide “comparable amounts of pollination for most crops,” though it varied by crop type. For example, almonds are 100 percent reliant upon honeybees for pollination, while pumpkin crops depend more on wild bees. An earlier study released by the National Academy of Sciences found that “behavioral interactions between wild and honeybees increase the pollination efficiency of honeybees on hybrid sunflower up to 5-fold.” So, we need to save all of the bees!
Why do bees need saving?
Unfortunately, bee populations worldwide are in decline, and the number of recorded hives in the United States is the lowest it has been in 50 years. Bee diseases and habitat destruction cause this decline. According to The Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund, almost 24 million acres of grassland were converted into cropland over the past decade, eliminating vital habitat. Climate change is exacerbating the problem. Additionally, the widespread use of insecticides (specifically, neonicotinoids) on farms and urban landscapes has been toxic to bees.
For more information, watch Marla Spivak’s TED Talk, Why Bees are Disappearing:
What can Project Hive Pet Company do?
Through our agreement with 1% for the Planet, Project Hive Pet Company donates at least 1% of our gross revenue to The Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund, our nonprofit partner. What will that do? For every $100, The Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund redesigns one acre of land to provide foraging, nutritional, and life cycle needs for bees and butterflies in a lasting, sustainable way. Our goal is to establish 100 million square feet of vital wildflower habitat by 2025. How does this help? Every acre of wildflower land provides healthy habitat for several beehives, which are home to between 20,000-80,000 bees! While we won’t be able to count the bees that we save (nobody can), we can measure the habitat we help restore and know that we are saving countless bees.
What can I do at home?
If you have a yard, take a look at the amount of turfgrass you have. Do you need all of it? Is there any part of it that you can convert into a wildflower garden? If so, the benefits are tremendous:
- Beauty. A wildflower garden brings surprise and color to your once mono-color lawn.
- Less maintenance. You don’t have to mow it! And if you plant native, drought-tolerant plants, you shouldn’t have to irrigate it either.
- Attract pollinators. You’ll quickly notice more birds, bees, and butterflies happily feasting on the flowers’ nectar.
How do I start a garden to support bees?
This article from Seed Savers Exchange has some good tips for garden planning. If you are planting seeds, Johnny's Seeds offers a useful calculator that helps determine how many seeds you will need for your space.
For plant types, check out Heather Holm’s posters that show which bee-supporting native plants work best for clay soil, moist soil, or sandy soil. In a recent webinar about State of the Bees, the University of Minnesota Bee Lab recommended planting colorful bluestar for early spring and asters for the fall. Or, consider converting your lawn into a bee lawn by planting white clover, alfalfa, self-heal, and thyme.
If you purchase a plant from a nursery, make sure the grower did not treat it with insecticides or herbicides. (If it was, look for another nursery.) Once you have the plants, please do not use any pesticides or weed killers! They can be harmful to the pollinators you are trying to help save.
If you do not have your own yard, do you have a balcony? Flowering potted plants are a great addition. Or talk to your property owner/landlord about landscaping ideas that can reduce their maintenance costs! You can also be an advocate for policies that provide incentives to farmers or landowners to support the bees.The Xerces Society boils it down to four steps:
- Plant bee-friendly flowers,
- Provide nest sites,
- Avoid pesticides, and
- Spread the word.
What does this have to do with dogs?
We started Project Hive Pet Company with an idea to bring high-quality, made-in-the-USA dog toys and treats to the market, and we wanted to do it in the most sustainable way possible. When you think about sustainability, it’s not about saving our planet–-our planet will be here. It’s about protecting ourselves, our future, our children, and our pets. What do we need? At the most basic level, we need clean air, clean water, and food. Where do we get that? Our planet. And our planet needs bees to function.
We also started our company to bring people joy. For us, good-tasting food brings us joy—even better if it’s the food we’ve grown in our backyard (and we need bees for that). Dogs also bring us joy, and dogs need to eat too. It’s all connected.
But let’s bring this closer to home. If left to wander, most of our beloved dogs can’t help themselves from getting into a beehive now and then––and usually, it’s a lose-lose. Your pup will likely tear apart the hive and maul a bunch of bees, but he or she won’t get away unscathed.
At Project Hive, we have a different vision for how our pets can interact with bees and other pollinators around them. By purchasing our treats and toys, your dog can gnaw on a Hive worry-free. We invite you and your beloved pets to join us in preserving and restoring healthy wildflower habitats. #BuildTheHive
Scientific Studies and Referenceshttps://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2020.0922