This piece originally appeared on Fix.com.
The importance of bees to humanity’s long-term survival is impossible to overstate, yet their numbers are plummeting. In the past five years alone, the United States has lost 31 percent of its total bee population.1 Each year – because of climate change, mites, pesticides, colony collapse disorder (CCD), and other reasons that scientists haven’t been able to pinpoint – losses continue to escalate. Last year, beekeepers across the country reported the second highest loss of bee colonies ever.2 Some states, such as Oklahoma, lost up to 63.4 percent of their bees. While the reasons behind the numbers aren’t so straightforward, losing half a colony of honeybees is as devastating as losing half the food we eat.
Ironically, bees are oblivious to the $15 billion service they perform for the United States, and so are a lot of people.3 A worker bee travels anywhere from a few feet to five miles, depending on the weather, to collect nectar and pollen for its hive. While imbibing on a particularly inviting flower, the bee’s feet inadvertently collect bits of pollen sacs from the male part, the anther, and then the bee moves on to a new flower with pollen grains clung to its feet like little boots. While slurping up the sweet nectar, the bee deposits the pollen sac on that flower’s stigma (the female part). And then – as if by magic – germination occurs. In one day, a bee may repeat this process several thousand times, creating a cornucopia of new fruit or seeds.4