On September 30, 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officially marked seven bee species in the genus Hylaeus as endangered. In the twentieth century, bees were the most common insect in Hawaii. Today, bees are the scarcest pollinator in that state, mainly due to habitat loss. In fact, between 2007 and 2010, the Hawaiian bee population dropped about 50%.
North America has destroyed much of its natural habitats by the excessive building of highways, houses, strip malls, office complexes, and industrial parks. In heavily populated areas, bee habitats have been demolished. Individual members of the hives become isolated, which inhibits potential mates from reproducing with one another. Additionally, habitat loss compromises the species’ nutritional sources. Limiting their pollen and nectar sources decreases the survival rate of adult bees, which kills off entire species.
On a nationwide level, from April 2015 to April 2016, the United States has lost 44% of its honeybee colonies. For some, this alarming fact is welcome news. Anecdotal reports, for instance, claim that if honeybees continue to pollinate, new diseases could spread. Such claims overlook that bees are vital pollinators of edible fruits and vegetables. Bees pollinate 71 out of the 100 crop species responsible for 90% of the world’s food supply. It is also estimated that bee pollination is priced at a whopping $16 billion, indicating the value of this community. Consequently, not only would the cost of food products increase, but the availability of alfalfa hay for dairy cows would diminish, impacting the meat industry as well.
The addition of the seven bee species to the endangered list should concern us, and it is vital that we take proactive measures to ensure the preservation of these populations. For example, because bees flourish in rural, warm-weather environments in which there are abundant flowers, scholars have proposed planting more diverse kinds of plants and increasing bee-nesting sites. These sorts of conservation methods are integral not only for the survival of bees, but perhaps for the survival of their ecosystem as well.