While bees and other pollinators are under threat worldwide, their preservation needs to be addressed at local and community levels. Zoo Atlanta is dedicated to establishing and preserving safe habitats for bees and pollinators in the Atlanta community and focuses efforts on educating the public, a crucial first step in saving the bees.
What are they?
Most animal pollination is carried out by insects, the majority of which are bees. There are roughly 20,000 different species of bees on the planet with more than 4,300 species native to North America and Hawaii. Each species helps fill some ecological niche that may have taken millennia to master. Still, despite their ecological and economic importance, bees are in trouble.
Why do they need your help?
There is no denying that we are seeing fewer and fewer bees. In fact, half of the 4,300+ native bee species in North America and Hawaii are estimated to be in decline, and an alarming one in four are suspected of approaching extinction. In 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service even added the rusty patched bumble bee to the Endangered Species List – the first time any bee species in the continental United States has been added to the list.
Bees today face a wide array of problems ranging from changes in the environment to pests and pathogens. Many of the most pressing problems stem from ever intensifying agriculture practices, which include widespread pesticide use, the destruction of natural habitats and the creation of massive crop monocultures.
How is Zoo Atlanta helping?
In early 2017, the Zoo began working with the Mayor’s Office of Resilience to establish the City of Atlanta as a Bee City USA affiliate. As part of the Bee City USA program, we want to work toward making Atlanta a more pollinator-friendly city by creating smarter city guidelines for pesticide use, greenspace design and educating the public about the issues that bees face today.
Zoo Atlanta is also proud to house and help care for two research hives on the roof of our Conservation Action Resource Center (ARC) through a partnership with the Georgia Tech Urban Honeybee Project. In addition to the pollination services they provide to our flowering plants at the Zoo and in our neighborhood, these hives are also used to help study the effects of urbanization on bees and offer undergraduate students the chance to explore their own questions through scientific research and discovery.
What can you do to help?
It’s not too late to help the bees! In fact, the solution is in our own backyards (literally)! If you have a garden, yard or lawn, you can help by simple adjusting your lawn care practices at home to help save the bees.
- Avoid the use of sprays and pesticides in your yard. While these may eliminate mosquitos and other pests, they also can have deadly consequences for bees. Instead, try natural repellents like citronella oil to keep unwanted pests away.
- Plant a wide variety of native flowering plant species. Bees come in all shapes and sizes, so they need flowers that do as well in order to thrive. Native plants favor pollinators that are endemic to your region.
- Do your research before you buy! Some stores may sell plants that are already treated with systemic pesticides, such as neonicotinoids. These pesticides get absorbed through the entire plant system, poisoning the nectar that pollinators rely on, and can last for months or even years.
If you want to learn more about what you can do to safeguard these amazing insects, be sure to follow Zoo Atlanta on social media for the latest updates, or consider getting involved with your local beekeeper organization to help make an impact in your community!
Animal Immersion Programs Supervisor
Chris joined Zoo Atlanta in 2013 as a member of the Education Department. In addition to being an educator, Chris cares for all invertebrates under the department’s care, including the two Georgia Tech research hives on Zoo grounds. Over the last year, Chris has represented Zoo Atlanta on the Atlanta Bee City USA Planning Team and currently serves on the Bee City Atlanta Steering Committee.
Learn more about Zoo Atlanta’s commitment to saving species.
The global decline of species and their habitats makes it clear that we need a multifaceted approach to conservation. Zoos are a critical component of this approach, with a responsibility to be a force that drives action.View the Report