To many people, bees are simply an insect designed for the sole purpose of making grown men scream in fear. But they serve an important ecological function and their numbers in New York are declining.

According to a study conducted by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, bees and other pollinators are disappearing at an alarming rate in New York. And before you celebrate the decreased risk of finding yourself on the wrong end of a sting, know that these pollinators are responsible for maintaining some of New York’s natural beauty.

In an interview with James Dean of the Cornell Chronicle, Bryan Danforth, professor in the Department of Entomology at Cornell University, said: “There is evidence that there has really been a decline in the abundance of many of these species, and it is alarming. Much of New York State’s agriculture depends on insect-pollinated crops, so that’s a practical reason to be concerned. And if we lose some of these bees, we’ll lose a very interesting part of insect diversity in New York. We may also lose some indigenous people wildflowers.”

According to the article, the Empire State Native Pollinator Study concluded that at least 38% and as many as 60% of the pollinators included in the study are at risk. Less than half of the species covered in the study were classified as a secure species.

The 2016 New York State Pollinator Protection Plan outlined a number of potential causes for the decline in pollinator populations in the state, including climate change and urban development. The study also noted exposure to pesticides, pathogens and poor management practices by beekeepers as important factors in the decline.

So how can New York solve the problem and begin to rebuild the pollinator population? Well, it is too late to curb the effects of urban development in the state. But there is still time to try to mitigate the effects of climate change in New York and promote better pest control practices that minimize the effect pesticides have on pollinator populations. There are also a number of suggestions for beekeepers to maintain healthy colonies in the 2016 study. And continued study by experts in the field may uncover new solutions to the problem.

Bees are an annoyance to most people. But while you’re trying to hide from a bee that seems bent on ruining your day, try to remember that bees play an important role in New York’s ecosystem.

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