Posted by: buzzybeegirl | October 20, 2008

So what if bees are declining

I mentioned in an earlier post that I would be occasionally be blogging about themes. This weeks theme is communicating science to the public. And I think of all of my readers as part of the public…unless anyone out there objects. So here’s the lowdown. I am going to let you all know what my project is about, but more importantly why it matters to you. At the end you can all decide whether you would support my research or not. Virtual research donations will be accepted.

You all know that I study native bees (non honeybees), and that I am following what may happen to their populations as urbanization increases and decreases their habitat. I have mentioned this in other posts. Bees are important for agriculture and ecosystem function. In agriculture, bees are used to pollinate about 35% of the global crops. It’s not just honeybees that are used either. Bumblebees are used to pollinate tomatoes and peppers, alkali bees are used for alfalfa pollination, and mason bees are used in orchards. This is a lot of work that could not be done by hand.

Ruben Alarcon)

Almond orchard (photo by: Ruben Alarcon)

In ecosystems, bees are regarded as keystone organisms. This means if they are removed, then the system becomes unstable. Think about it…most flowers need pollination to make seeds for the next generation of plants. No pollination equals no plants. No plants also equals no food for herbivores (plant eaters) and no fruit for animals like birds. As Elbert Einstein put it, “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”

Squash bee inside a blossom

Squash bee inside a blossom

Now you know. Bees are VERY important.

My project is definitely showing a shift in the ecosystems. It isn’t pretty either. In the small plots the bees don’t have enough homes. The sticks I put out provide more homes, but there are other bees that will take them over and other wasps that will attack the baby bees. It’s just not a happy place for the bees. They need more homes. Lots more homes. When the sticks are attacked and the baby bees killed, that means the next generation will be small. Continue this cycle and they will disappear.

To help slow this cycle, I have been encouraging people to plant more flowering plants in their yards so the bees have food. I have also posted a build your own bee nest post. Building these and placing them in your yard will increase nesting sites.


  1. i have decided to support your research.
    let me begin by offering beers to you and your amazing husband at my house tuesday night around 7 or 8 ish.

    anything i can do to help…

  2. Food and alcohol are always accepted. See you tomorrow goodbear!

  3. I watched a programme on PBS some months ago regarding the decline in bee populations. One place they showed was in China where thanks to toxic pesticides the bee population had been wiped out as well.

    The area actually uses people to pollinate the local crops (don’t recall what they were). It’s incredibly time consuming and far less productive than were the bees. It was rather frightening actually.

  4. The hill behind our house is awash in bees every spring when the telegraph weed blooms. I hope to see a lot of them next year …

  5. I saw that same program forkboy. I think they were pears that had to be pollinated by hand. It looked like hard work and even the people there regretted using such harsh pesticides. Can you imagine that happening on a global scale? SCARY!

  6. Just don’t try to eat the bees Dennis. My dogs try snapping at them at times. Lets just say Hoju learned his lesson.

  7. BBeeGirl,
    thanks for the new post. If I followed correctly, you are indicating that bees (in the urban environment, right?) are sorely lacking in homesites. Do you see a contrast in less urbanized areas?

  8. Leif,
    For my system (Tucson Metro area), it seems that it is homesites that are lacking. I have read that in other areas it is food resources that are lacking. So, to be on the safe side it is better to put out both food and homesites to help increase the bee populations.
    The larger areas I worked in (which were still within the Tucson city limits) did have a contrasting effect. Other studies have shown similar results.

  9. hey there. i’m stuck at my desk working today…so i’m listening to insectapodcast on itunes!

    …nerdy, huh?

  10. We have been finding dead bees almost daily in the early morning directly under our porch lights. We use the florescent light (w/mercury). Is there a connection????

  11. Thanks for visiting C. Are the dead bees you are finding honeybees? If they are, they are more likely near your porch light because they are attracted to the light. If bees are out of the hive when it gets dark they cannot navigate and find their way home. They need sunlight to do this. They will then be attracted to your porch light. They will spend the rest of the night flying around it and unfortunately many do not survive the night. It may be that it is too cold for them and they just freeze to death, but I don’t think the mercury in the light is what is killing them. How cold does it get at night at your place?

  12. Häagen-Dazs Launches Bee-Friendly Garden Design Competition at UC Davis; Deadline Jan. 30, 2009

  13. There are bees dying on my porch also CFL light is being used also. I woke up this morning and there were like 15-20 dead bees on my patio some of them caught in webs others dead on the wall like they were trying to sting my house. You can actually see the stinger from them on to my house just sitting there dead.

    Their hive is in my neighbors external wall right next to my parking spot. They have never really bothered me so I don’t bother them but, I would like to know what I could do to help these late comers not get lost in the night and make it home. Don’t they use smell at all?

    Why would so many bees be coming in late? Don’t they know they need the sun to get home why would they just stay out past bedtime and commit suicide basically? The bee clocks getting messed up? I hope not.

    • Hi Allen. Thanks for visiting my blog and asking questions. Many times, honeybees stay out late trying to forage (gather food). Some stay out too late that the sun goes down on them and they lose their ability to navigate correctly back to teh hive. Since your porch light is on, they will be attracted to the light and they will stay there. Some bees can make it through the night, but if it’s cold or if there are animals that can eat them, they die. I don’t think they mean to stay out late, but they are workers and that is what they do best. So some may stay at a patch gathering as much food as possible not knowing how long it may take to get home. They do use smell, but they cannot navigate their way back to the hive on smell alone. They will definitely be attracted to light though. There is really nothing you can do unless you are willing to rig together a porch light for the hive.

  14. I so totally would rig them up a light if they were in my wall.

    I guess I’ll just leave my light off. Win win smaller bill no lost moths and bees.

    Thanks for the insight and quick response, best wishes.

  15. You still working on this?

    • Yup Allen. I am still working on this.

  16. Im finding lots of bees on my porch in the morning too….So am I to understand that by keeping my porch light off (and my blinds closed so they are not attracted to the lamps inside) Less of the poor lost bees will die? There seem to be sooo many of them 😦 I dont know what kind of bees they are…but I was googling to see if there was a solution to my “bee problem”. They get into my home, and some of them seem to attach them selves to my screen door and just sit there at night, some of them go after the light and end up dying. Unfortunatly Im deathly afraid of them (stung by a swarm on my head, neck, and face over 30 times when their tree fell on my car and the hive was disturbed on a very windy day) but im compassionate and don’t want them dying. 😦

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