Bees are responsible for carrying pollen from plant to plant. This process makes sure crops have a healthy reproductive function and that fruit crops are abundant.
There have been a number of campaigns and scientific studies emphasizing the need for these pollinators to sustain natural biodiversity over the years. Thus, when the decline in bee population first hit the headlines, alarm bells rang out for these interdependent plant populations.
Bees and Biodiversity
Honeybees are the world’s primary pollinators. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, out of 100 crops that produce most of the world’s food, 71 of those are pollinated by bees.
Over 20,000 species of bees exist in the world today, but honeybees are the easiest to manipulate. This is the reason why they’re the most important commercial pollinator. By nature, honeybees are social insects. They live and form huge, organized groups, making it easy for farmers to coax them. As a result, honeybees are responsible for 80 percent of insect pollination in agricultural crops.
Without bees, how can farming industries in the U.S. be sustained? Why are bees diminishing in numbers? What are its ultimate effects? More importantly, how will people survive?
Various studies have attempted to uncover the cause of the bee fallout. One of the first points revealed by scientists a decade ago was linked to the already severe loss of biodiversity caused by human settlements. With very little wild flowers to feed on, bee health is gravely affected making them more prone to diseases.
Fast forward to many years later, scientists now use the term ‘Colony Collapse Disorder’ to describe the phenomenon wherein worker bees disappear or die. There are several factors that contribute to a colony’s collapse, which includes climate change, habitat loss, and the use of neonicotinoid pesticides.
Most reports of the decreasing bee population have focused on managed honeybee hives, and how various crops are affected by it. Honeybees aside, however, wild bee species also contribute to natural pollination. According to a study published in Science in 2013, they can be more than twice as effective as managed colonies. However, the same paper also shows data regarding the decline of wild bees, likely due to loss of habitat. Some species of wild bees, including solitary ones, have gone extinct during the 20th century because of deforestation.
In the U.S. alone, the commercial value of bees’ pollination is at $15 billion annually, while the UK estimates around £200 million per year. Given its massive contribution to the agricultural sector, governments are starting to find options and are funding resources to find means to put an end to the decline.
As for the reasons, many countries have pointed their fingers at varroa mite infestation, climate change, and pesticide use.
But is it too late to save our bees? What could we do to preserve the habitat of bees and lengthen their life?
Organic farms have already started to provide forage as food for bees. Nutritional systems for bees such as BeesVita Plus, from makers Healthy Bees LLC, are also available to strengthen their defenses, while simultaneously controlling varroa. Made in water-soluble powder form or pre-packaged patty, BeesVita Plus is loaded with essential nutrients than other sugar water solutions used by beekeepers.
It is also vital that people learn the difference between honeybees and other flying insects such as yellow jackets or wasps. A lot of people still often make the mistake of swatting bees or spray them with deadly chemicals, thinking they are pests.
Environmentalists are also rallying for people to start hurting bee swarms in trees. Swarms are not dangerous as long as they aren’t provoked. If you spot one, a professional beekeeper should be called so it can be collected carefully.