Where Have All the Bees Gone?

by Shaina Olmanson, Associate Editorial Director for Twenty-First Century Books and Zest Books

We may all be busy bees, but it may be time to take a break and read Rebecca Hirsch’s new book, Where Have All the Bees Gone? Why should we care?

As Hirsch states in her book, “In 2019 the [ICUN] Red List named more than 27,000 species as threatened with extinction, including more than a quarter of North American bumblebees.”

Bees dominate the pollinator world, with tens of thousands of species worldwide. They are on every continent except Antarctica. In the US, bees pollinate 75% of crops. They are also some of the most efficient pollinators, using adaptations like sonication, and their furry bodies to trap and carry pollen.

Hirsch’s book describes many of the types of bees, their anatomy, behavior, life cycles, and adaptations. She also illuminates the mystery of dying bees, how scientists investigate bee populations, and the dangers to colonies around the world. Additionally, Hirsch includes bee-friendly practices and resources.

When asked what she hopes readers will take away from the book, Hirsch responded:

I hope readers come to appreciate how much our food system depends on a diverse assortment of bees. If you like to eat a diverse diet, with lots of fruits and vegetables, you need lots of different kinds of bees pollinating all those different plants. I also hope readers come to understand how they can help. They might visit a farmer’s market to buy their produce (many small farmers practice bee-friendly farming). You might plant native flowers in your yard, or help with a planting at a school or park. You might join in the fun and become a citizen scientist for Bumble Bee Watch or the Great Sunflower Project. There are many ways to help bees!

I was surprised to learn just how many different kinds of bees are out there and how little we know about them. There are around 4,000 species of wild bees in North America, and ten percent haven’t been given a name yet. Most wild bees are just a mystery to us. Where do they live? What flowers do they visit? How are they faring? We just don’t know. But meanwhile, all these bees are out there quietly pollinating our plants, a service we take for granted. They keep our wild areas‚ and in many cases our farms and gardens, going.

Many thanks to editorial intern Jesseca Fusco for her help drafting this post.

More posts by Shaina.

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