What’s the Buzz?: The push to save the bees from extinction

What’s the Buzz?: The push to save the bees from extinction. 

By: Sarah Ortkiese

            The heat is sweltering as you sit outside waiting for the sun sink in the horizon and the temperature to start to cool down. While you’re waiting, you reach over for an ice-cold soda, only to hear an angry buzz emitting from the soda can right before you are to take a drink. Peaking inside you see a bee trapped. Frustrated, you simply set the can aside and wait for the trapped bee to find its way out.

            This was a familiar situation for me growing up in Kentucky. Whether it was the exact scenario described above or simply some uninvited bar-b-q guests in the form of a swarm of bees in the summer time; bees were ever present in my day to day life. Today, we might encounter them walking to class, work, or at lunch and probably even wished they disappear at times. But what would happen if the bees disappeared? Would we simply be able to work in the garden without running the risk of getting stung? Or would we even have a garden to work in? These are the questions we are now facing.  

            The threat of the disappearing bees even inspired thriller screen writer M. Night Shyamalan. In 2008, he wrote a movie called The Happening.[1] This movie opening innocently enough with a science teacher lecturing his class, but turns sinister as a mysterious disease breaks out.[2] What was at the crux of the storyline? The bees disappearing. In the opening minutes of the movie, you discover that the bees have mysteriously disappeared from the planet, and from that disappearance starts a downward spiral for the human race.[3]While the movie is simply a work of fiction, and a dramatization seemingly based on the disappearance of the bees, the question remains, what will happen to the human race if the bees disappear? To figure out that answer, which is currently being debated, we have to look at what it is exactly that the bee does for our communities.

 

The importance of the bee extends past the pollinating of flowers in personal gardens that is most commonly attributed to the bee. In the United States alone, the honey bee accounts for the pollination of one-third of the diet.[4] Monetarily that means that the honey bee accounts for $17 billion of pollination in the agricultural market.[5] Outside of the food industry, bees support the local ecosystem of their habitat through pollination of the native plant species, which in turn helps with erosion and water control in the area.[6]

 

The decline in the bee population over the past two and a half decades has been described as a “severe decline. . .with no evident prospect of a natural reversal.”[7] The drastic nature of the decline prompted the President in 2014 to create a task force whose purpose was to assess the situation of native bees and why their numbers have started to decline in such a rapid state.[8] The reasons behind the disappearance were listed by the White House Task Force as:

 

-       “habitat loss…;

-       poor nutrition…;

-       pests and disease;

-       pesticides and other environmental toxins; and

-       migratory stress from long distance transport.”[9]

 

An additional study conducted by the Center for Biological Diversity, looked at the native bee populations of North America and Hawaii.[10] The Center for Biological Diversity discovered that 52% of the native bee populations are declining and even more are at the risk of being destroyed.[11] In 2016, seven species of bees were named to the endangered species list by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.[12] These were the first ever bees named to the endangered species list and are not the last.[13] In March of 2017, the rusty pathed bumblebee was added to the endangered species list.[14]

 

The Endangered Species Act allows for the protection of animals and their habitats in an effort to rehabilitate their numbers.[15] To be classified as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, a species must be “in danger of extinction throughout all or a specific portion of its range.”[16]The species, once added to the Endangered Species List, is automatically protected from “harassment, harm, pursuit, hunting, shooting, wounding, killing, trapping capture, or collecting,” and any agency action is scrutinized to make sure that it will not negatively impact the habitat of the endangered species nor the actual species itself.[17] The goal for placing the seven species of bees of the Endangered Species List is to allow for their current habitats to be preserved from any further harm in hopes that it will allow for their numbers to being to stabilize and hopefully rise.[18]

 

The next time I decided to sit and enjoy a coffee or lunch outside in between classes and a bee decides to fly around my table, I will appreciate all that the bee does for the agricultural market and my local ecosystem. Even though I may decide to move inside to enjoy my lunch.

 

[1] The Happening (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation 2008).

[2] The Happening (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation 2008).

[3] The Happening (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation 2008).

[4] U.S. Gov’t Accountability Off., GAO-16-220, Bee Health (2016).

[5] U.S. Gov’t Accountability Off., GAO-16-220, Bee Health (2016).

[6] U.S. Gov’t Accountability Off., GAO-16-220, Bee Health (2016).

[7] Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief, Natural Resources Defense Council v. U.S. Dep’t of the Interior, et. all. (2017), NRDC, www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/suit-filed0by-nrdc-to-protect-rusty-patched-bumblebee-20170214.pdf

[8] U.S. Gov’t Accountability Off., GAO-16-220, Bee Health (2016).

[9] U.S. Gov’t Accountability Off., GAO-16-220, Bee Health (2016).

[10] Pollinators in Peril, Biological Diversity, http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/native_pollinators/pdfs/Pollinators_in_Peril.pdf (last visited Sept. 26, 2017)

[11] Pollinators in Peril, Biological Diversity, http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/native_pollinators/pdfs/Pollinators_in_Peril.pdf (last visited Sept. 26, 2017)

[12] Christine Dell’Amore, For the First Time, Bees Declared Endangered in the U.S., National Geographic, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/10/bees-endangered-species-hawaii-yellow-faced0/ (Last visited Sept. 26, 2017)

[13]Michael Greshko, First Bumblebee Officially Listed As Endangered, National Geographic, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/bumblebees-endangered-extinction-united-states/ (last visited Sept. 26, 2017); Christine Dell’Amore, For the First Time, Bees Declared Endangered in the U.S., National Geographic, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/10/bees-endangered-species-hawaii-yellow-faced0/ (Last visited Sept. 26, 2017)

[14] Michael Greshko, First Bumblebee Officially Listed As Endangered, National Geographic, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/bumblebees-endangered-extinction-united-states/ (last visited Sept. 26, 2017)

[15] Endangered Species Act (ESA), NOAA, http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/laws/esa/ (last visited Sept. 26, 2017)

[16] Endangered Species Act (ESA), NOAA, http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/laws/esa/ (last visited Sept. 26, 2017)

[17] Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief, Natural Resources Defense Council v. U.S. Dep’t of the Interior, et. all. (2017), NRDC, www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/suit-filed0by-nrdc-to-protect-rusty-patched-bumblebee-20170214.pdf (pg. 16-17)

[18] See,  Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief, Natural Resources Defense Council v. U.S. Dep’t of the Interior, et. all. (2017), NRDC, www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/suit-filed0by-nrdc-to-protect-rusty-patched-bumblebee-20170214.pdf ; U.S. Gov’t Accountability Off., GAO-16-220, Bee Health (2016).