World Bee Day is often a time to celebrate the hard work of bees to pollinate our plants and keep our ecosystems healthy – but this year, experts say, it’s also a time to ring the bell. alarm about the dangers they face, especially after more than two years of COVID-19.
“I don’t really know how the pandemic has helped native bees, but it certainly hasn’t helped honey bees at all,” said Amro Zayed, professor of biology and director of the Bee Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Center in York. in Toronto. University.
These vital insects play a central role in agriculture. In fact, more than a third of the food we eat depends on pollination by bees, directly or indirectly. But according to experts like Zayed, not only do they face an array of challenges, including pesticides, climate change and habitat loss, but the pandemic has also harmed bee populations.
He says public health measures intended to slow the spread of the new coronavirus have also limited the import of honey bees and the hiring of migrant workers, on whom the farms depend. He says an increase in construction projects during the pandemic has washed away more bee habitat.
Zayed also says that around 50-90% of honey bee colonies have been lost this year alone due to a harsh winter.
Despite this, he says he is optimistic about the future as awareness of the problem is more widespread than ever.
“I think the next step is to kind of galvanize that support and create better habitats in Ontario, and support legislation that kind of protects bees from pesticides and other stressors.”
How to save the bees
The Center for Bee Ecology, Evolution and Conservation, launched in 2020, does research as well as education, public awareness and policy development.
Some projects include research on bee colonies to find out how insects respond to problems such as viruses and poor nutrition, how to breed at-risk bees to maintain populations, and a program called Bourdon watchwhich is a compilation and analysis of photos of bumblebees submitted by citizens – aimed at helping researchers track and conserve bee populations.
To help save bees, Zayed says people can do things like plant native plants and flowers or “pollinator gardens” on the land they occupy, participate in programs like Bumble Bee Watch, and try to support legislation that promotes biodiversity, environmental protection, and more transparency about chemicals used on public lands.
Carolyn Davies, the center’s coordinator, says all of these projects are exciting to watch and participate in, even if the end goal of saving bees can sometimes seem daunting.
“We’ve become this source of knowledge, this source of connection about bees and the importance of bees, how we study bees and all the different ways we do it, and it’s really inspiring.”