Bumble bees play a huge role in the environment; they are excellent pollinators that have a direct impact on many of the foods we rely on every day. But bumble bee populations are declining. Have you ever stopped to think about what would happen if bumble bees went extinct? How would such a scenario affect our daily lives? Is there anything we can do to protect bumble bees? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll answer all of these questions.
What You'll Learn Today
Are Bumble Bees in Danger of Extinction?
There are many different kinds of bumble bees in the world. One species, the rusty patched bumble bee of the United States, is on the Endangered Species List; and one in four North American species are being considered for endangerment.
The rusty patched bumble bee has seen a 90 percent decline in 20 years, which is why it is now considered endangered. But this species isn’t the only one in trouble; other bumble bee numbers are also falling.
The reason for bumble bee decline is mostly due to habitat loss. Bumble bees are considered wild bees (honey bees, on the other hand, are often domesticated for their honey production); as such, they rely on their native plant and flower species for survival, as well as on safe, natural places to create their hives.
As more and more open spaces are becoming urbanized, good habitats for bumble bees are becoming harder to find. In some places, certain species of bumble bees have died off altogether.
There are other factors at play in their declining numbers. The use of pesticides can kill bumble bees and lead to colony destruction, and the use of herbicides destroy many of the plants they rely on.
Bumble bees are also subject to various diseases and parasitic mites.
Though it seems unlikely that every bumble bee species will go extinct, it could happen over time if steps are not taken to protect these valuable insects.
What Would Happen if Bumble Bees Went Extinct?
Bees in general are excellent pollinators, but bumble bees in particular are some of the best and most crucial insect pollinators in the world, and therefore play a huge role in worldwide food supply. They pollinate about 70 of the 100 or so primary crops grown for food; in turn, these crops feed up to 90 percent of the world’s population.
So, if bumble bees went extinct, food production would suffer and many other problems would arise.
Think about it. Without bumble bees, there would be fewer fruits and vegetables, and the ones that are available would be much more expensive.
Insects and animals dependent on the plants bees pollinate would die. Without bumble bees, there would be fewer of these plants, and there wouldn’t be enough to feed all the species that rely on them.
In turn, larger insects and animals that eat these smaller ones would also lose their food supply, so they would die off as well. So not only would there be fewer fruits and vegetables, but less meat because there would be fewer animals.
Eventually, this domino effect would reach all the way to us humans.
What little food would be available would be very expensive. Many people in the world would go hungry, and crime rates would likely go up due to people fighting over lack of food.
Eventually, our own populations would decline.
Even if there were not these dire consequences to consider, the loss of bumble bees would result in the loss of many common products–not just foods.
Gummy bears are coated in beeswax to make them shine and keep them from sticking together. Even products like cosmetics and cotton-based clothing would disappear without bees to pollinate the plants used to make them.
As you can see, it’s extremely important to protect bumble bees as much as we can so they don’t go extinct; if they do, it would spell major trouble for us as well.
What Can We Do?
Perhaps you’re wondering if there’s anything you can do to protect bumble bees and slow the decline in their populations.
Glad you asked! Turns out, there are several things you can do, including:
- Plant a flower garden: Fill your yard with native plants and wildflowers. Allow the weeds to grow along with the flowers, as many weeds produce blossoms that bumble bees love.
- Avoid pesticide and insecticide use: As noted above, these harmful chemicals can have devastating effects not only on individual bees but on entire colonies. Avoid using these products in your yard and garden as much as possible.
- Buy organic and fair-trade: Organic foods and fair-trade products are produced in sustainable ways without the use of pesticides and other chemicals. Every time you buy organic or fair-trade, you are supporting the use of sustainable growing practices that help protect bees and other valuable insects.
- Get involved: There are various organizations that offer classes, volunteer opportunities, and other ways to get involved and help protect bumble bees. For example, the New York Bee Sanctuary has a list of ten ways you can make a difference, and the Planet Bee Foundation offers a variety of classes for both students and adults related to beekeeping, planting native flowers, and learning about bees.
Check out this video to learn more about one man’s effort to save endangered bees:
Some bumble bees are endangered, and many others are seeing slow decline in their populations. If these bees were ever to go extinct, it would greatly affect worldwide food production and our overall way of life.
To protect these bees, plant native flower gardens in your yard, avoid using outdoor chemical products like pesticides, buy organic, and find out if there are any local bee organizations you can get involved with. Here is an interesting article on what will happen if your pet eats a bee.