This spring, ask: to bee or not to bee?

We all need to invest in bees in order to ensure they can continue to pollinate the plants we rely on.

Alia Jeraj

It seems spring might finally have arrived in Minnesota. I woke up this morning to the sound of birds chirping, and I’ve traded in my boots for sandals. As many of us are emerging from our winter hibernation, so too are the bees. 
However, this summer, we won’t see nearly as many honeybees as we did last year — 2015 saw the collapse of 42 percent of our country’s bee colonies. 
Many of us have at least heard murmurings about the plight of bees. However, too few of us have actually acknowledged the magnitude of this problem.
We can thank honeybees for one out of every three bites in our diet. Without bees, we’d have to say goodbye to a number of fruits, nuts and vegetables, including cocoa. I for one do not want to imagine a world without chocolate.
While these facts sound somewhat grim, they should also serve to motivate us to begin to change our lifestyles in a way that makes us more bee-friendly. 
Our continued use of pesticides is one prominent factor in the demise of our country’s bee population. Neonicotinoids are especially harmful to them. Farmers use these pesticides as seed, soil and turf treatments and foliar sprays in industrial sectors as well as public ones.
Fortunately, as consumers, we have the power to “vote” with our dollars. We can use this power to financially support farmers who don’t use pesticides like neonicotinoids. We can also commit not to use pesticides on any plants that we may grow at home. This might take a little bit of research and more conscious consumption on our part, but with goods like avocados and cashews at risk, I think the extra effort is more than worth it.
Another factor in the bees’ decline is their loss of habitat. With urban growth, bees are finding fewer and fewer flowers from which they can feed. Those of us with garden space can help by growing bee-friendly plants to create pollen buffets for our insect friends.
As college students, it’s easy to feel like we don’t have much power when it comes to protecting the bees. Most of us don’t have a significant income with which we can “vote financially.” And we don’t have much outdoor space to grow pollinator-friendly plants either.
Most of us, however, know people who could do more in both of these areas. We can help make these people aware of the bees’ condition and teach them to understand why we all must care.
Finally, we can help politically. Pollinate Minnesota is an organization that works to advocate for state and federal policy changes that can help save bees. This organization promotes a number of resources and ideas for how we can become involved and help effect change on a larger scale.
It’s time for all of us to recognize that we have a serious stake in the well-being of bees. We need to recognize the power we have and exercise it to do what we can — it’s the only way to ensure bees continue to emerge from their hives every spring.
Alia Jeraj welcomes comments at [email protected].