First, the positive: After 50 years of conservation efforts to save endangered animals, hundreds of species, including the bald eagle and the gray wolf, have been spared from extinction. Now, the rest: More species are currently endangered than ever before. In fact, in just the past 20 years, the number of animals under threat has doubled.
So, this year’s Endangered Species Day on May 19 — the third Friday of May — represents a chance to celebrate those success stories while continuing to recognize the plight many animal populations still face. In the U.S., the Endangered Species Act of 1973 has been credited with rescuing various species, including the California condor, which now has a population of more than 400 — from only 22 birds in the 1980s. Despite such progress, the country still lists more than 1,600 species as endangered or threatened.
And while many governments, organizations, and environmental activists worldwide have moved to protect them, the decline of species continues to threaten biodiversity, which could lead to the collapse of ecosystems worldwide. One such critical species are bees, who, despite playing a vital role in pollinating flowers, fruits, and vegetables, are facing alarming population declines due to various threats, including habitat loss, pesticides, climate change, and disease.
One day after Endangered Species Day on May 20, World Bee Day aims to raise awareness of the importance of pollinators and their struggle to survive. (The timing is coincidental: May 20 honors the birthday of Anton Jansa, who helped pioneer beekeeping in the 1700s.)
Ahead of both these days, here's what you need to know about bees and other endangered species — and how you can make a difference.
Why are bees endangered?
Bees are essential to the survival of everything (including humanity). However, bees face numerous challenges that endanger their survival and could send them reeling toward extinction.
One of the primary threats to bees is habitat loss. Due to urbanization and intensive agriculture, bees are losing the meadows, forests, and wildflowers that provide them with food and shelter. Pesticides, particularly neonicotinoids, are also a significant factor. These chemicals, widely used in agriculture, have been linked to bee declines by impairing their nervous systems, navigation abilities, and immune systems. Climate change also affects bee populations by altering their natural habitats, blooming patterns, and nesting behaviors.
Why are bees so important?
Everything has its place and purpose on our planet, including insects like spiders, cockroaches, and, most importantly, bees. No one thing is here without a reason, and we all rely on one another to keep our planet going. The same goes for bees. Bees are critical for our ecosystems and food production. They pollinate around 75% of global food crops, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and oilseeds. Think of bees — including honeybees, bumblebees, and other native bee species — as ecosystem service providers who help sustain our planet. Their decline could severely affect food security, global ecosystems, and human health.
How to help bees
The good news is that we can all take action to make a difference and help protect bees and other endangered species this May and beyond. Here are some steps you can take:
Create bee-friendly habitats
Provide food and shelter for bees by planting a diverse range of flowers in your garden or community spaces. Choose native flowers that provide nectar and pollen throughout the growing season and avoid using pesticides or herbicides that can harm bees and other species.
Support organic and sustainable farming
Choosing organic and sustainably grown food products to support safer farming practices is a simple, effective way to help protect bees and pollinators. Encourage local farmers to adopt pollinator-friendly practices and reduce the use of pesticides.
Beekeepers create healthy and safe environments for bees to thrive, providing them with food and shelter, monitoring their health, and preventing the use of harmful chemicals in their hives. By engaging in responsible and sustainable beekeeping practices, beekeepers can help ensure their survival for future generations. So, if it’s a project that potentially interests you, there’s never been a better time than now.
How to help other endangered species
More broadly, there are many ways we can all help contribute to the survival of animals considered endangered and under threat — from making minor lifestyle changes to becoming involved in grassroots environmental efforts.
Support conservation organizations
Donate to or volunteer with conservation organizations that work towards protecting endangered species and their habitats. These organizations are crucial in research, advocacy, and conservation efforts. Project Apis m, established in 2006, addresses the concerns over honeybee health and today is one of the top organizations for honeybee research and crop pollination initiatives in the U.S. Other organizations like the National Wildlife Federation, Pollinator Partnership, and the Bee Conservancy are all doing their part to help the bees and our planet. Many organizations include volunteer initiatives that allow individuals to participate in projects such as habitat restoration or wildlife monitoring. Advocating for policies that protect endangered species can help ensure that these animals receive the legal protections they need. You can contact elected officials to support conservation policies.
Attend a conservation event
Many organizations host events to celebrate Endangered Species Day — from conservationist presentations to guided tours of local habitats. In addition to highlighting the work being done to protect endangered animals, these events are the perfect chance to learn about how you can get involved.
Why not spend the day learning about the animals themselves? By educating yourself about both the species and the impact human activities have on their habitats and survival, you’ll be better informed about how you can make a difference.
Raise awareness on social media
Social media is a powerful platform for sharing information about endangered species, promoting conservation efforts, and encouraging others to act. Spread the word about the importance of bees and other endangered animals to your family, friends, and community. But don’t stop there — you can raise awareness about various topics, including how to switch to natural pesticides, reduce your carbon footprint, and sustainably care for gardens.
Plant native species
Not just bees, but many species depend on specific types of plants for food and habitat. By planting native species, you can help support local ecosystems — whether it’s part of a community restoration project or in your own backyard.
Reduce your carbon footprint
Climate change is a significant threat to bees and other species. Reduce your carbon footprint by conserving energy, reducing waste, and supporting initiatives to combat climate change. Adopting a more sustainable lifestyle can tackle many of these at once. Just by making simple changes in your daily life, you’ll be contributing to the overall health of our planet and saving the bees along the way. Read about simple changes you can make — including sustainable fashion tips and eco-friendly swaps.
Support sustainable products
Many products we take for granted negatively impact the environment. Why not reevaluate the products you use around your household and consider sustainable alternatives? For example, even switching from traditional laundry detergents to SaltyLama’s plant-based, hypoallergenic laundry sheets will make a difference. Leading liquid and powder detergents often contain toxins harmful to the environment and aquatic life, including phosphates, formaldehyde, dyes, chlorine bleach, and phenols.
Organize a fundraiser
Whether it’s a silent auction or something as simple as a bake sale, putting together a fundraiser is another way to raise awareness while also donating to organizations working to protect endangered species, such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Wildlife Conservation Society.