Over 700 North American bee species are rapidly declining as habitat loss and pesticide use continue at a dangerously fast pace.
A report from the Centre for Biological Diversity includes an evaluation of more than 1,400 bee species with sufficient data for the assessment (1). More than half of these species (700) are declining and over a quarter are at risk of extinction, according to the report.
“We’re on the verge of losing hundreds of native bee species in the United States if we don’t act to save them,” said study author Kelsey Kopec, a pollinator researcher. “If we don’t act to save these remarkable creatures, our world will be a less colourful and more lonesome place.”
Colony Collapse Disorder
You may have heard of colony collapse disorder, the phenomenon that’s caused million of honey bee deaths all over the world. It doesn’t only affect singular bees, but entire hives, which puts an immense strain on the environment and agriculture.
The alarming die-off rate has been attributed to the use of harmful synthetic pesticides, loss of habitat, climate change, and disease (2). Loss of habitat also results in overly-stressed young bees who need to travel farther and farther to find food. The younger bees are less experienced navigators than the adults, and not physically able to travel long distances.
The Problem with Pesticides
One of the most harmful factors affecting bee colony collapse is the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. Farmers spray these pesticides on their seeds before planting, and on the plants as they grow. The pesticides target and attack the nervous system of any insect that eats, or pollinates the plant, causing paralysis and death. Their long-term health effects on humans are still unknown.
When bees pollinate plants that are sprayed with neonicotinoids, they carry back pollen full of the pesticides, which infects the entire bee hive.
According to the Centre for Food Safety, “Opinions from several independent experts reinforce that neonicotinoids are massively overused in the US, without a corresponding yield benefit, across numerous agricultural contexts. The bottom line is that toxic insecticides are being unnecessarily applied in most cases (3).”
Now think about all that honey or bee pollen you’ve consumed that is potentially full of neonicotinoids. Not only do these pesticides have a negative impact on the health of bees, but they inflict us in many ways, too. In fact, bees, above all other insects, are responsible for the pollination of flowers, and over 90% of flowering plants require pollination to reproduce. Imagine the grocery store produce section with over 80% of your favourite foods no longer available. Bee’s are critical to the planet. We need them, and depend on them.
How To Help The Bees
As bee colonies dwindle, every little bit helps.
Leaving out bee waterers are great to help rehydrate the little guys, but you can help them re-establish their colonies too by building your own honey bee hive. I know it sounds a little odd, and difficult, but making one doesn’t take much time, or effort. Plus, it takes up very little space.
In return, you can attract bees who will pollinate your garden and other green spaces in your area (that means better fruit yield for you!).
Thanks to Honey Bee Suite, they have provided the instructions on how to build your own DIY mason jar honey bee hive!
• 16” x 20” rectangle of thick plywood
• two 2” x 12” x 22” pieces of wood (sides of beehive)
• two 2” x 12” x 18” pieces of wood (front and back of hive)
• two 1” x 1” x 22” pieces of wood (sides of top frame)
• two 1” x 1” x 18” pieces of wood (front and back of top frame)
• bottom beehive kit (you can order one online from different sources – this part is so the bees can enter and exit)
• 12 big mouth quart sized mason jars (for honeycomb)
• 1 box of wood screws (size 1” screws)
• 1 can of wood stain (optional!)
• bees (you can order online – most are available only in March and April, but other websites may be different).
1. Measure and mark 12 evenly-spaced 3.5” holes in the 16”x20” plywood
2. Use a hole saw to drill the holes for best results. Try drilling one hole first, then test the opening with one of the mason jars to make sure it fits snugly. You want the bees to enter and exit through the base of the hive so there’s no mess on the top to attract ants. You may have to insert shims to make sure the jars will remain solidly in place; they’ll get quite heavy when full of bees, combs and honey!
3. Place the plywood piece with holes on top of the bottom beehive kit. Screw together the front, side, and back panels of the hive around the pre-made kit.
4. Stain the wood if you please (make sure the bee stain doesn’t include anything harmful that might harm the bees – personally, I would just skip this part).
5. After the stain is completely dry, sanitize the jars, allow them to dry, and insert upside down into the holes on top of the hive. You may place starter strips or empty combs into the jar(s) to give the bees a head start.
6. Place the hive out of direct sunlight and release the bees into the hive.
7. Watching the bees work is quite fascinating. Watch the video below to see what you can expect for these amazing creatures once you set up the hive.