There are a lot of misconceptions about bees, from the belief that they sting at the slightest provocation to the perception that they are all black and yellow. Don’t Step on a Bee Day, celebrated every year on July 10, hopes to set things straight by highlighting what these insects are really like and how they are connected to us.
“Few people are aware of the critical role bees play in our everyday life,” says James Belli, president of the Illinois State Beekeepers Association.
Bees are essential for the pollination of many plants that are vital not only to our diet but to a number of other animals’ as well. Bears, birds, mice, squirrels and other creatures are dependent on the nuts and seeds that result from pollination, according to Edward Spevak, curator of invertebrates at the St. Louis Zoo.
“They are maintaining ecosystems and our agriculture. One out of every three bites of food we eat depend on pollinators, and those mainly are bees,” says Spevak.
5 Fun Facts About Bees
If you’re surprised to learn how important bees are to our lives, there is probably more you don’t know about these fascinating insects. Here are 5 facts that may surprise you.
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The Disappearing Bee and How You Can Help
Now that you know a little more about bees, imagine how different our world and food supply would be if they disappeared completely. Sadly a number of species are disappearing and there’s no certain answer as to why. Few studies have been done on native bees, but over the last few years a concerted effort has been made to understand these species and why they’re vanishing.
Two factors believed to be contributing to the problem are loss of habitat and heavy use of pesticides. Luckily, you can help bees when it comes to these two areas.
If you use pesticides on your home garden or lawn, make sure to read labels carefully: Many will advise against spraying when flowers are in bloom and bees are active. Some pesticide concentrations in home products can also be higher than those used for agricultural purposes, as people look for quick and easy fixes, says Spevak. Take your time to review products and investigate your options before spraying anything around your garden or lawn.
To help with loss of habitat, you can plant a garden. A garden with plants that will bloom from spring to fall creates a bee habitat — and makes you a conservationist. There are programs nationwide that advise people on how to create a bee-friendly garden and even explain how you can become a citizen scientist by collecting data on your bees.
Learn more about bees and how you can help them by visiting the St. Louis Zoo website.