Bees are an essential part of our ecology, not only are they responsible for the pollination of many of our food crops, some sources say that about a third of the human food crops require honey bee pollination. Although there obviously are more pollinating insects none are as productive or fastidious as the honey bee. But honey bees not only pollinate they also produce honey, propolis, wax and royal jelly.
Throughout the world we see a decline in honey bee populations as well as in the population of wild bees. Beekeepers will visit their hives one day and find some simply empty, a phenomenon termed colony collapse disorder (CCD). Or beekeepers will come to their hives after winter and find up to half the colonies died over the winter, although that can also be attributed to bad management.
The cause of honey bee population decline is a topic for hefty debate and scientific study. There are a number of possible culprits for the global decline of honey bees, like pesticides (specially the neonicotinoid variant); mite infections (mainly the Varroa destructor and to a lesser extent Acarapis); habitat destruction (see below); pathogens. Especially in the US the apicultural practices are also a cause with beekeepers driving their bees around in trucks carrying more than a few hundred hives. It is most likely a combination of these factors as none of these factors on its own seems serious enough to cause such devastation.
The green desert, that is what us beekeepers aptly name most farmland, especially farm land used for animal (mainly cow) farming. There is nothing for the bees or other insects in these meadows. Cattle farmers want to grow grass and only grass. Dandelions mixed in with your grass? Heresy! (bees like dandelions) Habitat destruction seems one cause that can be easily mended by adjusting the agricultural practices. Have borders to agricultural plots with wild flowers which would break up the green desert. This is also the main reason why these days bees tend to prosper in urban areas. Bees can find the things in gardens and public parks they can’t find in rural areas, food.
The question is can “we the people” do something about this? Yes! I guess you could buy a flowering plant seed mix specially designed for bees. Then go looking for some unused plots of land in you neighborhood and sow some of the seeds there. Perhaps a more constructive and longer lasting way would be to petition you local counsel to use any unused land specifically for growing wild flowers useful for bees. I’m sure your local beekeepers as well as any wild (solitary) bees and bumble bees will be very thankful. An other thing you could do, this time not specifically for honey bees, is buy or make a bee hotel. This way you would be supporting the local solitary bees even more. There are over 20000 species of bee most of them solitary, the honey bee (Apis mellifera) is just one species of bee.