Bees close up on a flower

Bees and the environment

With a greater focus on the environment and the health and biodiversity of our biomes. Bees, although small, play a very important and fundamental role in the regulation of services that nature provides to humans but also to other species. With this in mind, how important are Bees?

The perfect pollinator

Bees are highly adapted to carry out their jobs and are one of the key pollinating insects. One important adaptation is the small hairs that cover their legs allowing pollen to be captured and transported. Without Bees, our landscapes would potentially look drastically different and definitely less colourful as many wildflower species are reliant on Bees to help them reproduce by carrying their genetic material. It then follows that although without Bees humans would likely survive, without such a prolific pollinator much of the food that we are provided by nature including fruits but may extend to vegetables, herbs etc., will be much sparser leaving our diets bland. Research has also suggested Bees show little flower preference so usually cover a wide range of different habitats, further emphasising their ability to influence a large portion of our biomes, however, it appears that whilst cropland continues to expand Bees species are declining leaving many areas unpollinated and lacking biodiversity.

Indicators of environmental pollution

Along with their natural abilities to influence the environment, researchers have also unearthed Bees as being useful in indicating the extent of environmental pollution in an area. The Bee has been shown to determine pollution levels either by a high mortality rate (indicating poor air quality) or the presence of harmful substances within the pollen it produces. This highlights how sensitive Bees can be to environmental change, but also highlights how Bees serve as an important tool for predicting trends in pollination activity, crop yield and the pollution levels of a region.

Ecosystem services

Ecosystem services are the services that nature provides to humans and are crucial to our survival as a species, Bees are important to a range of these services but one of the more obvious ones is food (provisioning service). Around 33% of all the food we grow from crops are pollinated mainly by Bees, in the US around 80% of their farmed produce is reliant on pollination from Bees. This food is also a source of nourishment to other animals, not just humans, highlighting just how dependant on pollinators the biodiversity of our biomes actually is.

Although the environment is not entirely reliant on the functioning of Bees, they do play a large role for such a small insect. Hopefully, this encourages more thought and care towards Bees as there is really much more to them than their stinging reputation gives them credit!

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