Green Corner: Buzz over bees: Protect an environmental asset

They buzz across campus, flying into our hair or our lunch. They terrorize students and faculty alike, inciting screaming or cursing when they get close. We all know them. We all fear them. They’re the bees. And this semester, it seems like they’re taking over our campus.

But that might not really be a bad thing.

I completely understand the fear of bees. People don’t want to get stung. I can agree with that sentiment. However, before we yell at Rider to kill all the bees, it’s important to realize a few facts about these little insects that are sharing this campus with us.

What many people don’t know is that bees are essential to our environment and food supply. The Guardian reports that 84 percent of crops that are grown for us to eat in the United States, which includes over 400 types of plants, rely on bees to pollinate them. Bees also pollinate 30 percent of the world’s crops. Some of these crops include tea, cocoa beans and coffee. For many of us, we want to imagine a world without bees, but we can’t even imagine a semester without coffee. But their relationship to each other is symbiotic.

However, the contributions of bees do not just directly affect our food supply. Bees also assist in pollinating plants that contain the fruits, berries and seeds eaten by birds or smaller mammals. And if anyone believes that this is not serious, they’re sadly confused. If bees were to die out, we would not be the only creatures on the planet that would feel the effects. Entire food chains would collapse and ecosystems would suffer. The environmental impact would be catastrophic.

Unfortunately, bees are already suffering high rates of death and decolonization. The Washington Post reports that bees are rapidly dying as a result of neonicotinoids, a type of insecticide, being sprayed too heavily in an attempt to keep insects away from crops. In addition, CNN stated that almost 3 million bees in South Carolina died not even a month ago after Naled, a mosquito-killing spray, was used to fight the Zika virus. These insecticides are not only dangerous to our health and our food, but now, they’re killing millions of bees. They’re slowly killing our environment.

It is imperative that we do our part in trying to protect the bees. Before trying to kill a bee with your textbook as you walk to class, please remember that bees are just as afraid of you as you are of them. If you are worried, just keep moving and don’t act too startled. The bee will fly away.

People are often afraid of what they believe to be aggressive bees, when they’re actually reacting to a wasp. Although it can be tricky, it’s important to recognize the differences between them.

Orkin, a pest control company, states that honeybees are about 2.5 centimeters long, and are hairy. They can be all black or brown, but can also have yellow or orange stripes. Carpenter bees may also be found on campus, and they are thick and brown. They don’t have stingers, but they can bite. Wasps, however, are thinner, with four wings and brighter black-and-yellow colorations. Both wasps and honeybees sting, and both stings can be painful. However, honeybees can only sting once before dying. Wasps, however, can attack as much as they like.

When you see the bees buzzing around on campus, don’t be disgusted and don’t be afraid. The beauty of the nature on this campus, as well as the food we consume, are all thanks to those bees. It should be our job to look after them and to therefore protect the environment. So before you call on anyone to kill all the bees, realize that we already are.

—Samantha Sawh

Lawrenceville Eco Rep

 

Printed in the 09/28/16 issue.

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