Bees Are Endangered – And Our Entire Food Chain Could Be Doomed

Bees are important as hell. These winged critters help produce and pollinate over a third of the food we and our wildlife eat – from fruits and vegetables to tea, nuts and coffee.

But these guardians of the food chain face threats from warming climates and foreign predators, and as a result, an alarming and increasing number of bees are dying.

In fact, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has placed seven species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees on the endangered species list – the first time any bee has received such a classification.

Bee (Photograph: USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab via Flickr CC)

Bee (Photo: USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab /Flickr CC)

These 6-millimeter-long bees are native to Hawaii and are considered the primary pollinator for the state's most iconic beach shrub, naupaka.

Hawaiian yellow-faced bee populations have been falling for a number of years due to the destruction of their habitats and intrusion from non-native animals and plants.

The bees are, however, integral to the Hawaiian ecosystem and are "critical for maintaining the health of plants and other animals across the islands," according to FWS's Gregory Koob.

As with other species placed on the endangered species list, the yellow-faced bee will now receive additional protection from the federal government.

Conservationists have also stepped up their efforts to protect the bees from human harassment.

Hawaiian entomologist Jason Graham has even developed artificial nests that house the last of these rare bees while keeping out ants and other predators.

He hopes the wooden nests with bee-sized holes can be used to re-establish bee populations.

The boxes "may bring these bees back from the verge of extinction," he tells National Geographic.

Honey bees (Photograph: Col Ford and Natasha de Vere via Flickr CC)

Honey bees (Photo: Col Ford and Natasha de Vere /Flickr CC)

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Writer and photographer from South London, UK. If you want to get in touch please email me at: matthew.kirby@konbini.com