Bees might be those uninvited guests that harass your picnic or evening stroll, but as pollinators, the bees have an important job to do. Sadly though, they're not getting around to doing it.
The Shocking Truth Behind the Declining Bee Population
The bees are dying in their billions.
Yep. That's right. Billions.
The decline of bees and other pollinators pose a direct threat to the world's food supply. Crops including vegetables and fruits all rely on bees for pollination. However, it's not just fruit and vegetables; alfalfa, also known as "bunny food," relies 90% on pollination by bees. Bees pollinate a third of the food we consume, and this contributes to an annual loss of millions of dollars in global economy.
The serious has become so dire in the UK, that the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) has calculated that more than 30 million people would be needed to take over the job of pollination from bees. In the award winning documentary film, "More than Honey," one of the issues raised particularly in the USA, is that approximately one third of hives have been lost over the last two years - around 800,000 colonies in 2007 and 1,000,000 in 2008. Briscoe White, owner of The Grower's Exchange, a farm fresh herb provider, says, "we are definitely feeling the effects in a measurable way - over the past 3 years, we've gone from having 3 healthy domestic hives to none."
If bees continue vanish at this rate, it is estimated that by 2035 there could be no honeybees left in the USA.
So what's impacting the decline of the bee population and what can be done to stop it?
Bad Buzz #1: Colony Collapse Disorder
Otherwise known as CCD, bees in droves are disappearing from their hives. No plausible explanation has been suggested, but there's a combination of suggested factors causing this loss that includes the widespread use of pesticides and fungicides as explained in bad buzz #2.
Bad Buzz #2: The Queen Bee and Pesticides
A study has identified that one of the most toxic of all the pesticides known as "neonicontinoids" has been sprayed at record breaking levels which can lead to a sharp decline in queen bees in colonies. Entomologists are now looking more closely at the role of neonicotinoids in bee declines to determine whether a combination of these pesticides have "suppressed the immune system of bees at "sub-lethal" levels, enabling disease to take place."
Bad Buzz #3: Global Warming
The impact of global warming on plant flowering times may be a factor in honeybee colony losses. While the decline of domestic honeybees seems to be on the rise, Briscoe White has witnessed a different kind of phenomenon. "We seem to have healthy 'wild hives' but have lost all of our 'domestic hives.' This suggests that the colony collapse disorder may just be a visible part of a "global pollinator crisis" the answer still remains for the most part, murky.
A Faint Glimmer of Hope: A Bee Friendly Garden
Places like The Growers Exchange have been piloting the effects of testing herbal gardens that are pesticide free and also bee friendly. Briscoe White's collection of herbal gardens is a testimony to the fact that when nature is left to her own vices, bees can pollinate freely and navigate back to the hive. The waning effects provide hope to the billions of bees dying globally. As he says, "our herb test gardens are filled with 'bee friendly plants;' they are covered up with bees all summer. It's a hopeful sign.'
A hopeful sign indeed.
Follow Dorit Sasson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/VoicetoStory