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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.
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Smith: An Antidote for Bee Declines

Although it houses various beehives across campus, the U must increase the prevalence of greenery on campus to properly support its bees.
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Ilona Buhler
(Design by Ilona Buhler | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

 

As bee populations continue to decline in this age of rapid environmental change, it’s clear that protecting our bees is of utmost importance.

Bees are essential for pollinating a vast array of plants, and without bees, we would experience alarming declines in the health of our air, our soil, our ecosystems and our access to food and other resources.

Honeybees alone are responsible for pollinating 80% of all flowering plants, and declines in honey bee populations would put many of these plants at risk of endangerment.

Plants that rely exclusively upon bee pollination are also at risk of complete extinction. This is highly concerning, and we must take action to increase bee health and bee populations.

The U has embraced this responsibility by housing various beehives across campus. The amount of greenery on campus, however, is lacking.

The U must increase the prevalence of greenery on campus to properly support its bees.

A Reciprocal Relationship

Plants certainly need bees, but bees also need plants. 

Plants provide various important treats for bees, including pollens, nectars, resins and oils. Bees use these ingredients to create nutrient-rich mixtures to feed themselves and larval bees. Bees also use the ingredients that plants provide for antimicrobial purposes, hive construction, weatherproofing and protection from pests.

With good access to plants, bees can use plant ingredients to construct physically robust beehives that offer protection from weather, microbes and pests. Proper access to plants also provides bees with their nutritional needs and subsequently gives them the bodily strength to fight off pests, parasites and viruses.

Overall, plants are vitally important because they allow bees to meet their basic survival needs and defend themselves against some of the main causes of bee declines. Protecting bees is of paramount importance, and to protect our bees on campus we must plant more greenery.

The Danger of Declines

Greenery is vital for bee health. However, some believe that protecting bees is a low-priority issue compared to other major issues. But protecting bees is essential, too.

In a Zoom interview with Ava Shervanick, president of the U of U Beekeepers Association, she said bees are a “critically important species” who serve “a really important role as pollinators.” 

While there are approximately 20,000 bee species in the world, it is estimated that one-third of the food we eat is pollinated by honeybees alone.

Shervanick said without bees “we would see a huge reduction in the variety of food we have available to us.” We rely heavily upon bees for the security of our food supply. If bee populations continue to decline, then we are at risk of global malnutrition.

Bees are also incredibly important for ecosystems. Many plants would become endangered or extinct without pollination from bees. All creatures that feed on these plants – and all predators that feed on plant-eating creatures – would be at great risk of endangerment or extinction due to food scarcity.

A world without animal and plant biodiversity is a sad world. We must take action to avoid the impending ecological disaster that is signaled by bee population declines.

Besides pollinating plants, bees also provide us with resources like beeswax and venom which can be used when making medicinal ointments and supplements and when treating various illnesses and infections.

Bee declines threaten the livelihoods of medicinal companies, farmers, candle companies, cosmetic companies, honey farmers and more. They also put consumers at risk of losing access to all bee products.

If bee declines continue, then life on earth will be fundamentally changed for the worse. We must do everything possible to prevent disaster, and planting more greenery is a perfect place to start.

Bees and U

The U Beekeepers Association brought beehives to campus in 2012 and they continue to maintain beehives at the J. Willard Marriott Library, Kahlert Village and the Health Science Education Building. The association deserves recognition for its commitment to maintaining the beehives on campus.

It is undeniable, however, that we must increase the prevalence of greenery on campus to properly support our beehives.

Shervanick said the bees living at the ;library location have access to a variety of nutrient-rich floral plants. She also said, however, that the Kahlert Village hives and HSEB hives are surrounded by “a lot of grass and large trees and shrubs that don’t provide as much [value].” In other words, these hives are placed in locations that lack nearby access to nutrient-rich greenery and diverse varieties of greenery.

If we expect our bees to survive and thrive, then our university must plant more greenery on campus.

In Practicality

We must prioritize planting nutrient-rich and Utah-friendly plants like lavender, fernbush and blue mist spirea to improve the health of our bees on campus. Bees typically forage within a one to two-mile radius. So, in addition to planting nearby beehives, we must plant greenery in various locations across campus.

By fundraising, expanding the number of edible gardens on campus and encouraging collaboration between the Beekeepers Association and other sustainability clubs, we can increase campus greenery.

The result will be that our campus is full of flora and foliage which not only protects one of earth’s most important insects but – as Shervanick put it – “improves the mental health of people on [campus].”

If we continue to allow bee populations to decline, we will reach a point beyond saving. The U must plant more greenery on campus to ensure the prosperity of its bees, and all life more widely.

 

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@emmas_utah_chronicle

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About the Contributors
(she/her) Emma Smith is a creative writer and a passionate Opinion Writer for the Daily Utah Chronicle. She grew up in Michigan and moved to Utah in order to pursue a double major in Philosophy and Economics with a minor in Ecology. She loves hiking, movies, singing, playing guitar and practically any cat in sight.
Ilona Buhler, Designer
Ilona Buhler is a 3rd year at the University of Utah pursuing a degree in Strategic Communication with a minor in Computer Science. Ilona grew up moving across the world from spending the majority of her childhood in England, then moving to San Diego, California. She then completed high school and moved to Salt Lake City for college. In her free time, Ilona loves to ski, climb and paint. She spends the majority of her free time outside even when she is on campus

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