Bees. What are they good for? Absolutely nothing. That’s what many believe. Who cares if the bees disappear? We’re a rich world, we can survive. Bees. Pah. Useless. Do nothing misery causers. Sting. Bite. Vicious. Awful, disgusting useless creatures. Well, if you keep thinking that, you may as well start digging your own grave. Bees. Do we really need them? Let’s find out.
During the end of the 20th century, there was a massive worldwide reduction in all pollinating creatures on Earth, not just bees, and it continues to decline. Since plants are the primary source of food for humankind, the reduction in bees or even their complete loss, inevitably raises a concern. How valuable the bees are to us is immeasurable. It is estimated that one third of all human nutrition is due to bee pollination, most fruits, vegetables and alfalfa and clover for livestock. Livestock we also farm for food. Of the 100 crop species that provide 90% of all our food, 71 are pollinated by bees. 71! And why is this happening? We simply don’t know. Could be pesticides. Transfer of diseases through shipping (imported fire ants into Southern USA have nearly completed wiped out ground nesting bees). Loss of habitat. Modern developments destroying migration routes. Light and air pollution. Climate change affecting seasonal habits. And the worst of all, scaremongering news stories about Africanised Honeybees lead to the destruction of thousands of hives, and the bees inside, across the world every year, by angry humans with a baseball bat, petrol and a lighter. Seriously. One of the biggest causes of hive loss. It’s utterly pathetic. And is there a solution? No. Not really. And is the loss already happening? Oh, yes indeed.
Colony collapse disorder, when worker bees from European honeybee colonies suddenly mysteriously disappear and are never seen again, is on the rise. The vast majority of crops worldwide, over 90%, are pollinated by these bees. There are bee shortages in the USA, causing hundreds of farmers to import bees, a cost that is on the rise because the number being imported is going up every year. In 2009 in the UK, some farmers lost up to a quarter of all bees. Some a third, some a fifth. All these bees suddenly vanished. Nobody knows why. In the USA, since 2007, on average, 30% of all bee colonies have died every winter, twice as high as deemed economically tolerable. Over 2012 and 2013, 20% of all bee colonies died in Europe. Many tens of plants on the endangered species list are on it because of the loss of all these bees. Bees are disappearing and we are losing plants already.
Anything could be causing it. Although, strangely, the UK government run National Bee Unit (yes, that is a real thing) denies colony collapse in the UK. In any case, if the bees all die and leave us, all wheat, barley, rye, rice and corn would also die and go extinct. Most trees and plants rely on bees to pollinate them, and they too would also die and go extinct. And these plants and trees produce oxygen for us humans (although we do get most of our oxygen from algae). Flies, beetles, wasps, thrips, butterflies and moths would fill the void, but would humanity have wiped itself out in futile wars for food and supplies before that void is filled? What do you think? If that doesn’t happen, we will survive, but if it does, well, not sure.
WE NEED THE BEES! We really need the bees! We could survive, albeit through massive change, but we’ll probably kill each other pretty quickly after the bees go extinct.
There’s no danger of that happening just yet, but we do need to look after our bees.
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