Why You Should Care About Homeless Bees

It’s not just a problem for fans of honey.

By Alain StephensMay 20, 2015 8:10 am

When it comes to bees, all is not rosey – over the last couple decades bee populations worldwide have declined dramatically. Fingers have been pointing at a variety of possible reasons from pesticides to disease. But one big reason is that many bees are homeless.

Shalene Jha is biology professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

“When we intensify the landscape in terms of removing nesting opportunities like paving landscape and when we remove food resources, which for honey bees is largely nectar and pollen,” Jha says.  “When we remove these from the landscape that’s when we see huge declines in the numbers of honeybee colonies.”

There are also several bee species native to Texas – that are essential to the pollination of native plants. All have decimated by habitat destruction from woodlands to grasslands. Safeguarding bee habitats is a cornerstone of the  White House plan to protect bees and other pollinating insects. That’s not only good for the bees – it’s good for us. Bees make honey, and they pollinate a variety of other things from commercial fruits and vegetables to cash crops like cotton.

“In Texas we’re one of the leading states in cotton production,” she says. “And this is a fiber that so much of the world depends on – and in Texas we see that greater native pollinator diversity and abundance that we have substantially higher cotton yields.”

Clint Walker is the owner of Walker Honey Farm in Rogers Texas.

“I think we all should care about bees not only because they are vital not only to our economy, but to the way we enjoy receiving our food supply,” Walker says. “Imagine going into a grocery story and a third of the shelf space in that grocery store were to be empty. I think that would be quite a shock to most of us.”

But for the first time in years, there seems to be hope. Besides the administration plan, recent rains across the state may help. – forecasts call for a cooler summer – which some scientists and beekeepers hope could stave off the annual die offs that have plagued wild and domesticated bee colonies statewide.