Bees constitute the single largest group of pollinators. With over 20,000 discovered species, and perhaps some still not studied yet, bees are responsible for pollinating most of our crops, fruits and vegetables, and ornamentals. Our lives as we know them simply would not be possible without bees. Next to air, water, sunlight, and nourishment, bees might just be the fifth most important. Imagine a world without apples, tomatoes, almonds, cashews, lemons and limes, onions, cherries, pears, maple trees and maple syrup, thyme, cilantro, black peppers, chamomile, lavender, ginger, turmeric, cloves, mustard, basil, chives, kale, broccoli, oranges, strawberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries, dill, fennel, and mustard. Imagine a world without pumpkins, zucchinis, cucumbers, melons, avocados, mangoes, carrots, kiwi, celery, beets, watermelons, papayas, coconut, buckwheat, alfalfa, and coffee just to name a few of the foods we would have to learn to do without. We might still find green in nature but most other colors would vanish. Imagine a life without honey and beeswax candles. Imagine no more propolis for medical applications.
Ever since the end of the Second World War, and especially since the 1970s, there has been a steady decline in the populations of pollinators. After WWII, large companies that had manufactured chemical weapons found themselves with a lot of deadly chemicals and equipment that was no longer needed for weapons. After some experimentation, they were able to turn the the chemicals into fertilizers, insecticides, and pesticides. Some, such as DDT, have since been banned in most parts of the world. However, for the bees, banning a few of the worst offenders has not been enough. That is because chemical fertilizers made mono crop culture possible, where thousands of acres are dedicated to a single crop, which is then treated heavily with fertilizers, insecticides, and pesticides. Mono crop culture has led to disasters like the Green Revolution in India that caused devastating losses to farmers, farmland and the ecosystem after an initial temporary increase in yield. And for the tiny, but powerful, bee it has created a toxic overload. Some bees get disoriented after being in contact with these chemicals and lose their ability to navigate back home. Others experience weakened immune systems after repeated exposure to the chemicals on plants and fall prey to diseases that were not previously a threat to them. In conjunction with GMO developers chemical companies have also developed toxins that kill every plant except the GMO seeds engineered to resist the toxicity. All these toxins in the form of chemical fertilizers, insecticides, pesticides, herbicides, and weedicides have steadily weakened and killed pollinators, including bees and honeybees, in ever increasing numbers.
Keeping honey bees using ethical and organic beekeeping practices can strengthen honey bee numbers as they try to cope with an ever-toxic world that kills more than a third of their entire population every year.
If you cannot keep bees, but still want to help, you can plant native flowers in your yards or on your balconies and start an organic garden. Most importantly, avoid using any pesticides.