COLUMBIA, Mo.- Bees pollinate about 75% of all fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in the U.S., as well as 80% of flowering plants in the world. As the challenges facing bee populations around the world have become more well-known, the insects have become increasingly visible in media and popular culture. Though this level of attention is not unprecedented – many still remember the ‘killer bee’ scares of past decades, and just this week came word of “murder hornets” – the influx of positive attention bees are receiving from the public has researchers pondering how to harness this attention to help protect bees from issues such as pesticides and land-uses that remove native vegetation
Now, researchers from the University of Missouri have conducted a review of research covering how insect pollinators are perceived in society, studying how those perceptions impact research and conservation. Their findings suggest that the recent development of more positive perceptions of bees, as well as the strong ties between bee health and human welfare, offer encouraging opportunities to advance pollinator protection and education efforts – opportunities that may not exist for less human-centric environmental issues.
“Unfortunately, insects are mostly invisible to the public. They are vital to our survival in so many ways, but they are often taken for granted until a crisis makes them impossible to ignore,” said Damon Hall, an assistant professor in MU’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. “With bees, we are seeing a call to action in the media and in the research community. People recognize that if bees fail, then our food and agriculture becomes much harder to sustain.”