Students buzzing to save bees

Kylie Jacobs, Biz & Tech Editor

The University of Minnesota’s Bee Squad director, Bridgit Mendel came to visit the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater as she held a lecture on the importance of pollination and what we as people, businesses and a university can do together to help pollinators.

The Bee Squad helps beekeepers in the community promote the conservation, health and diversity of bee pollinators through research, hands on mentorship and education.

Mendel opened up her lecture by discussing why promoting and protecting pollinators such as bees is important to business owners, local gardeners and day to day people.

“You’ve all probably heard this, but generally one out of three bites of your food were pollinated by bees. They have this enormous economic value. Their relationship between us and them is absolutely fundamental,” Mendel said.

Honey bees are not only needed for their honey. As pollinators, they keep farmers from having to hire other people to hand-pollinate, which could lead to skyrocketing prices of produce. Without bees, about 70 percent of fruits and vegetables wouldn’t exist.

For example, a type of food many people eat that wouldn’t be here without bees would be almonds. Almonds are a huge export crop for the United States in general, and without bees to pollinate them, that’s just more money lost for everyone, especially the agriculture business.

“Beyond what bees can bring for us, beyond fruits and vegetables and nuts, there’s also all of the other life forms that are sustained through pollination and through the food chain,” said Mendel.

Bees in themselves, however, have gotten a lot of attention lately. Recently, seven species of bees, ranging from the yellow-faced bumblebee to the rusty-patched bumblebee were officially listed on the U.S. endangered species list. In total, about one third of the bumblebee species are in that critically endangered zone today. Mendel then addressed things we can do to help prevent this.

Things that students can do is planting bee-friendly flowers, such as clovers, lilacs, or sage, or try to not use chemicals such as pesticides to treat lawns and gardens.

“There is no one main loss to colony losses, but there are solutions that we should prioritize on, not the reason for the losses,” said Marla Spivak, an entomologist at the University of Minnesota.

For beekeepers especially, it’s important to take care of the environment bees live in, as those who don’t have good home environments have to fly further and further out. To make the landscape healthier, it’s important to be as diverse as possible with plants. Mendel described it as a huge responsibility to take care of these creatures.

Supporting efforts from collecting data to planting flowers to becoming a beekeeper yourself are huge steps to helping preserve these pollinators. Because without them, we would lose about 200 billion dollars in agriculture revenue, as about 70 percent of our fruits and vegetables and nuts would not be there for us to consume.

For more information on preserving pollinators and what you can do to help, visit https://www.beelab.umn.edu/.

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