Coming in all shapes and sizes, and populating all but the most extreme corners of the globe, bees play a crucial role in agriculture everywhere and represent an irreplaceable link in food production.
From apples and blueberries to almonds and cucumbers, bees help produce more than 30 percent of the world’s food. In fact, according to research from Michigan State University, bees are responsible for one out of every three bites of food we eat. The economic value of pollination services by bees is $365 billion annually and affects 50-80 percent of the world’s food supply.
Unfortunately, many industrial agricultural practices may endanger the livelihood of these pollinators. The rise of large-scale monoculture crops—including maize, wheat, and rice—can decrease agricultural biodiversity worldwide, according to the American Institute of Biological Sciences.
Additionally, the use of pesticides and insecticides, specifically neonicotinoids, can kill individual bees and colonies alike by poisoning nectar and pollen, which bees feed to larvae.
Life on Earth without bees would be vastly different, requiring costly and time-intensive manual pollination and leading to skyrocketing prices for a much smaller range of foods, according to Earthjustice.
But countless organizations around the world are offering solutions for saving bees and other pollinators. Food Tank is honored to highlight 13 organizations and initiatives helping to save bees.
Avaaz (“voice” in several languages) is a global web movement calling on U.S. and European Union decisionmakers to save bees and the global food supply by banning harmful neonicotinoid pesticides. Supporters can sign the petition, which has almost 3 million signatures.
In Argentina, Italy, and the U.S. BeesFree, Inc. is focused on improving the health and well-being of honey bees through offering innovative products such as, the Beespenser, an automated honey bee feeding system.
Bee Raw sells products ranging from raw honeys to bee and honey-related gifts sourced from local, sustainable farmers and beekeepers in order to encourage ecological agricultural practices.
In addition to producing lip balms and other honey-infused products, Burt’s Bees collaboration with the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign’s Pollinator Partnership Honey Bee Health Improvement Project supports the United States, Canada, and Mexico’s attempts to assuage the depletion of honeybees in the Western Hemisphere. Burt’s Bees also funds sustainable beekeeping efforts through the Burt’s Bees Greater Good Foundation.
The Center for Honeybee Research in Asheville, North Carolina, conducts research looking at the effects of pests on modern agriculture and promotes educational opportunities on the importance of bees in the environment.
Similarly, the Environmental Justice Foundation advocates for positive apiculture (beekeeping) practices in Great Britain.
Friends of Honeybees promotes local consumer action as a way to support bee-friendly agricultural practices. Through their Buzz for Bees campaign, Friends of Honeybees advocate for financially supporting, locally sourced, and positively farmed products that will aid beekeepers practicing sustainable techniques.
And they have created The New Amber Collection – featuring a glowing drop of honey in a sterling silver necklace – to represent the entire amount of honey produced by one worker bee in her lifetime. The necklaces cost $12.50 and the proceeds support nonprofits.
In India, Navdanya’s Biodiversity Conservation Farm is a sanctuary for over 1,500 seed varieties that attract bees for pollination. And the organization advocates for organic agriculture to eliminate the use of dangerous chemicals that threaten bees.
Run under the auspices of Pennsylvania Apiculture Inc., National Honey Bee Day allows beekeepers, agricultural and culinary organizations, and ordinary gardeners and citizens of all kinds to learn more about bees, promote educational programs, expand the bee industry, and even lobby Congress. This year’s event will take place on August 16, 2014.
In the United States, Save Honey Bees is a collection of local beekeepers in the farming communities of Oklahoma and Arkansas working towards sustainable farming practices through unpaid volunteer work.
In Europe, Greenpeace’s Save the Bees campaign started a petition to protect bees and ban the use of bee-killing pesticides. The campaign’s goal is 1 million actions for bees--supporters can sign the petition, order seeds and beehive instructions, or sign up to volunteer.
Save the Honeybee Foundation works to promote sustainable farming practices and educational opportunities for beekeepers and citizens in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest.
Vanishing of the Bees is a documentary and audiobook set designed to educate about the current peril bees face, with donations aiding honeybee research.
Fortunately, there are many outlets for eaters to support sustainable agricultural practices, the elimination of harmful pesticides and insecticides on farms, and local ecological farming that helps bees thrive. What other projects do you know of that are supporting pollinators?
• This article originally appeared at Food Tank, a think tank focused on feeding the world better. Food Tank researches and highlights environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable ways of alleviating hunger, obesity, and poverty and creates networks of people, organizations, and content to push for food system change.