Animal Report: Native bees are in danger

By Elizabeth Biernacki, Staff Reporter

In southern Illinois alone, there are over 200 species of bees that can be found, however, due to irresponsible insecticide use and loss of habitat, native bee populations are declining fast.

Honey bees are not in danger of going extinct, however, the 2,000 native bees that can be found in the United States are.

The biggest factor to the decline in bee populations is the loss of habitat and the decline of floral resources.

Advertisement

“We need to remember that there isn’t one bee population; each species of bees has a population,” Sedonia Sipes, a professor in biological sciences at SIU, said.

Sipes said there are over 200 species of bees just in southern Illinois that have been discovered in three years of collecting, and she believes that there are more to be discovered.

“Bees are the most important group of pollinators in most ecosystems,” Sipes said.

Gerardo Camilo, a professor in Biology at St. Louis University, recently visited SIU and found that bee diversity in the St. Louis area differed dependent upon the landscape.

Affluent neighborhoods where people have turfgrass, neatly trimmed lawns, marigolds, petunias and other non-native plants were biodiversity deserts.

However, lower income communities where the lawns weren’t so strictly kept were better suited to supporting bees and other pollinators due to the fact that their native plants were available.

“Just planting your flower bed with native plants, plants that are native to southern Illinois for example, around here can be very beneficial to help support pollinators,” Sipes said.

While honey bees are not in danger of extinction, the food industry is struggling to keep managed honey bee populations productive enough to produce the amounts of food since we are agriculturally dependent upon the bees, Sipes said.

“If those struggles continue, it will result in lower food production and higher food prices,” Sipes said.

The other problem is that food crops are also pollinated by native pollinators and native species so losing those is eventually going to affect food production, Sipes said.

While all bees are sensitive to insecticides, Sipes said without them it’d be impossible to mass produce food the way we do. Instead of getting rid of them entirely, we should be using them responsibly.

“Trying to minimize [insecticide] use, trying to not use them until pest levels have reached a sufficient level of damaging a food crop, trying to apply them at times where you’ll minimize the exposure to pollinators,” Sipes said.

Plants usually flower in spring and summer, so limiting insecticide use during these peak times will make it less likely for pollinators to be killed by the crops.

The bottom line: we need to be more responsible with our insecticide use, as well as start planting more native species, not petunias, which are native to South America.

Staff reporter Elizabeth Biernacki can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @EBiernacki_619.

To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

Advertisement