Fewer Flowers and Increased Disease for Bees in Drought
Droughts negatively impact nature’s resources, and this creates a lack for all bee species in the affected area. The food supply that bees depend on for their survival shrinks. Plants produce less nectar and pollen, the two foods that bees need. Plants produce less flowers in drought conditions.
According to Nina Sokolov, a Ph.D. student studying bee health at the University of California, Berkeley, research shows that bees demonstrate worse symptoms of infectious diseases when they starve. Lack of quality food needed for bees to survive, and their raised vulnerability to diseases, means their overall survival rates plummet.
This affects all species of bees found in the area that is suffering from drought. Honeybees, bumblebees, carpenter bees, sweat bees, and so many other types of bees. Flowers like lilacs, poppies, sage, and buttercups reduce pollen and nectar production when there is little or no water to nourish them. Bees need quality food so they can grow and perform their daily tasks, and it helps them fight off diseases.
This 2:21-minute video by Twin States News talks about the drought crisis for bees and how it will affect us all:
Pollination is giving and receiving on both sides, as bees pollinate plants while foraging for their own food. The exchange allows both bees and plants to continue to exist. Many other types of animals are also struggling due to the drought in California and other parts of the western United States.
There are over 4,000 species of native bees in the USA. Of all the species involved in this ecosystem, only the honeybee (Apis mellifera) is non-native to North America. These bees were imported by European settlers when they arrived in North America in the 17 century. Over time, they have become vitally important as commercial crop pollinators for such crops as citrus, almonds, blueberries, and apples. Today they are considered livestock.
Can the global honeybee population keep pace with crop pollination demands? During the past 50 years the demand for animal pollinated crops has tripled, despite huge overwintering honeybee losses every year.
There are so many native bees in the USA that not a single native flower requires a honeybee to pollinate it. Without previous population data on many of these native species of bees, it is hard to gauge how well they are doing now. The western bumblebee (Bombus occidentalis) is threatened and shows a sharp decline in its California population.
There are signs that a very dry summer lies ahead that will adversely affect native bees and honeybees. Beekeepers can give sugar water to their honeybees, but native bees will have a rough time, and many may not survive. Beekeepers should be more alert to their bees than usual and may need to start supplementing earlier in the season than they are used to. Sugar water is no substitute for nectar and pollen, so the bees themselves, as well as the honey they produce, will suffer.
Please do what you can this summer to help save the bees, all bees, both honeybees and wild bees. The best thing we can do to help is to plant plenty of nectar and pollen producing flowering forage for pollinators. This is especially useful in city and town public areas as well as private backyards, gardens, and balconies.
This goes for all parts of the USA that are experiencing extremely hot temperatures already in early summer 2021. Scorching weather, no matter which state you live in, means your local bees need flowering plants, fresh water and a helping hand in the form of vigilance and compassion.
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