Wild bees, such as bumblebees, don't get as much love as honeybees, but they should. They play just as crucial a role in pollinating many fruits, vegetables and wildflowers, and compared to managed colonies of honeybees, they're in much greater jeopardy.
The most widely grown and appreciated garden favorites, of course, are those with attractive flowers. And there is a common assumption that those plants which delight human eyes will also be the most attractive for bees and other flower-visiting insects. Research at the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects at the University of Sussex can give a more empirical take.
A controversial pesticide can potentially wipe out common bumblebee populations by preventing the formation of new colonies, research has shown. The neonicotinoid chemical thiamethoxam dramatically reduces egg-laying by queen bumblebees, say scientists. Predictions based on a mathematical model suggest this could result in the total collapse of local populations of the wild bees.
There are better ways of dealing with pests – especially biological controls. Modern pesticides are extremely powerful and many are long-lasting and very toxic to bees and other insects. Removing all unnecessary pesticides from the environment is probably the single most important thing we can do to save the bees.
The lead author of a major study which found that neonicotinoid pesticides harm honey bees has hit back against criticism from the chemical companies that part-funded the work.
Honeybees are among the most fruitful and amazing creatures. Though their brains are fairly small, they engage in a complicated geometric “waggle dance” to communicate the location of food sources to members of their hive. As pollinators, they play an indispensable role in sustaining crop production and the food chain.
Conservationists have been warning about the negative impact pesticides are having on bees for years and have urged people to help them and other pollinators out by not using them in their gardens. Unfortunately, in our effort to help, we’ve actually been unwittingly contributing to the problem by buying flowering plants and trees that are pre-treated with them.