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What would really happen if bees went extinct?

Albert Einstein is often credited with saying: 'If the bee disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live.'

Though there is no evidence, the German genius actually said this. The mere existence of the idea has caused many to believe it to be accurate, and a 'save the bees' movement has become prevalent in recent years.

While not on the verge of becoming extinct just yet, populations of honeybees alone are declining rapidly, dropping a massive 89 percent between 2007 and 2016.

Here's why bees are so important and what you can do to help save them.

Why do we need bees?

You have a bee to thank for every one in three bites of food consumed, the US Department of Agriculture says Bees play a vital role in the global food supply, pollinating crops that feed 90 percent of the world's population.

Without them, farmers would have trouble producing staple foods such as fruit and vegetables and cotton, another essential product the bee pollinates.

The US Department of Agriculture says you have bees to thank for every one in three bites of food consumed.

As well as helping produce food, the intelligent insects also pollinate 80 percent of the world's plants, which would struggle to grow without them.

Amazingly, a single bee colony can pollinate 300 million flowers each day.

Why are bees dying out?

Nearly all the wild bee colonies in the world have now died out, which is why beekeepers are crucial to ensuring the species survives.

Bees are under threat worldwide, but about 40 percent of honey bee colonies in the US perished last winter.

This mass death event is for several reasons, the main one being a loss of natural habitat due to farming and urbanization.

Climate change and pesticides and fertilizers are other significant factors and mites and viruses, which bees have no natural defense against.

A global study in February 2019 found all insects on the planet are declining by 2.5 percent each year.

If this continues, the Earth may not have any insects at all by the year 2119.

What would happen if there were no bees left?

If all the bees died, it wouldn't mean extinction for humans, but it would cause widespread hardship and possibly famine. This is because a lot of the foods we regularly consume wouldn't be available anymore.

Apart from the obvious one — honey — some nuts and beans would also disappear forever as they rely on bees.

If there were no more bees, there would be no honey, almonds, or coffee - and foods such as avocados, berries, apples, and cucumbers would be in short supply.

Blueberries and cherries would suffer as they are 90 percent dependent on honey bee pollination. Other foods such as avocados, apples, berries, grapefruit, melons, broccoli, cucumbers, and snap peas would also be affected.

Meat would be limited as cows rely on pollinated plants as a food source. We could eat more fish, but this would come at a premium price as demand would be high.

Many medicines humans use, both conventional and alternative, would also be lost as they are derived from flowering plants.

And wildlife which relies on bees, such as birds and small mammals, could become extinct if they were no longer around.

What is being done to protect bees?

Do your bit to help save the bees and make a bee hotel in your garden, which solitary bees can nest and lay eggs in.

In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency has banned the use of pesticides linked to bee deaths. Similar bans have been introduced in Europe.

There has also been great emphasis on preserving wild habitats to make them bee-friendly again.

A number of global start-ups have joined the save the bees effort and are doing some exciting things.

California-based SeedLabs has created BioPatties, a special bee food loaded with probiotics to boost immune systems.

Israeli company BeeHero has invented sensors to track bees' health and make high-tech gadgets for beehives to detect any disorders before they spread.

While British agritech firm Small Robot Company has created a planting system, farmers can leave field margins free for wildflowers, allowing bees to thrive.

This means pesticide use is reduced by 95 percent, as they are only used in the exact spots where they are needed.

How you can help save bees

PLANT BEE-FRIENDLY PLANTS IN YOUR GARDEN: Letting your grass grow helps, but one of the easiest ways to attract bees is by growing flowers rich in pollen and nectar. Sow a range of plants that will flower continuously, as well as plenty of single flowers. Bees love purple, so lavender and globe thistles are perfect. They also love ivy, foxgloves, honeysuckle, crocuses, snowdrops, single flower dahlias, and herbs such as mint, rosemary, and basil.

MAKE A 'BEE HOTEL': Bee hotels are another great way to attract bees to your garden. They are made from hollow stems and wood arranged in a container for solitary bees to nest and lay eggs. The bees won't mind what it looks like as long as it's dry, especially in winter. Always position in full sun. Replace the hollow stems each year once the new adults have emerged.

CREATE A 'BEE BATH': Create a space for bees to have a drink while they take a break from pollinating by making your own bee bath. Fill a small dish or bowl with clean water and arrange pebbles and stones inside, so they poke out. Bees will land on the rocks to drink the water, as being a bee is thirsty work!

BUY LOCAL HONEY: Buying local honey is not only delicious but also supports local bees and beekeepers. It's even better for you as it contains a blend of local pollen, which can strengthen your immune system and reduce pollen allergy symptoms.

ACT BEE-FRIENDLY: If a bee flies around you, the best thing you can do is keep still, and it will quickly lose interest. Bees don't like the smell of alcohol, and the 'animal' smell on leather clothing, including watch straps. They also regard dark clothing as a threat as they think it could be a large animal.

BECOME A BEE AMBASSADOR: Do your bit to save the bees by becoming a bee ambassador. Educate others about bees and ask for donations for bee charities, like The Honeybee Conservancy, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, or Greenpeace's Save The Bees campaign.

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