We often overlook the individuals we take for granted but depend on daily to keep us fed, safe, and healthy. The list of essential workers is long, and today I’m adding one more name—pollinators. We’ve all got to eat, and one-third of the food we consume requires pollination.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 75 percent of crops around the world depend, at least in part, on pollinators such as bees, birds, and bats. Pollination affects crop yields, food quality and taste, biodiversity, and the economy, particularly for small scale farmers.
Lose bees—as we’re already doing at species extinction rates 100 to 1,000 times higher than normal—and we risk losing foods like strawberries, blueberries, almonds, cucumbers, tomatoes, avocados, honey, coffee, chocolate, and much more. We may joke that coffee or chocolate is essential to life, but bees truly are.
I don’t want to live in a world without bees or chocolate. So, I was thrilled to hear the ceaseless buzzing emanating from our rhododendrons over the weekend. I had felt satisfactorily productive from my own yardwork and chores, but the work of the bumblebees went on without pause—a continuous dance from flower to flower gathering nectar and pollen along the way. It was impressive and captivating.
Pollinators are in serious trouble from loss of habitat, pesticides, climate change, and colony collapse disorder. But we can help the bees that sustain us by growing a variety of native plants, avoiding pesticides, and supporting local beekeepers and sustainable agriculture. After all, every day pollinators help feed billions of us around the world, for free. And I’d really miss them and chocolate.
Today is World Bee Day. Here’s a photo homage to these essential workers who keep us fed.