Sunday, 20 September 2015
Why are Bees Buzzing Off?
It's not very common for people to be extremely fond of bees (other than your cool beekeeper friends). Most people at the mention of bees would look wildly around them and check their hair in fear of getting stung. Well, we have a lower chance of getting stung now- which is not a good thing.
50% of the Midwestern native bee species has disappeared in the last century while in the last 2 decades 4 of the bumblebee species has declined by 96%. These alarming statistics have come to light in the last few years and also point towards a bleak future for the food security of humans.
Bees among other animals such as butterflies, beetles and birds help in the process of pollination. This process helps the transfer of pollen from one flower to the other, helping plants grow and reproduce. Bee pollination helps grow vegetables, nuts, fruits and wildflowers. This process is responsible for almost $200 billion worth agricultural revenue. Every third bite we take in a day comes from the pollination of bees or some other generous pollinator. Apples, oranges, blueberries and many of our favourite delicious fruits and vegetables can be credited to the hard work of the bees.
In the last few years the bees have fallen prey to what is called a "Colony Collapse Disorder" which refers to the mass disappearance of the worker, adult bee population from bee hives. Why is this happening? Scientists are still working on investigating this phenomenon however several factors have so far been presented as a possible explanation to the problem. Pesticides, in particular neonicotinoids seem to be playing a role. This class of pesticides is causing bees to have navigation problems as it attacks their nervous systems. Contact with the pesticide has resulted in mass deaths of bees.
The Varroa mite parasite is also playing a role since they attack the beehives itself. Additionally, the nutrition of the bees has been threatened due to habitat loss. Increasingly we are growing crops that cater more to our food preferences rather than flowers and other wild plants, which bees depend on to collect pollen for their hives.
Last but not the least, climate change has played a role since it has been found that flowers have started blooming earlier or later than expected in the last few years. After coming out of hibernation the pollinators have started finding that the flowers that provide nutrition for them to start the season, have already bloomed.
It will be a huge burden on the remaining pollinators to carry out the responsibilities of the bees, if they were to disappear. This occurrence is one of the many negative outcomes that our current chemical-intensive industrial agriculture practices have produced. Ecological farming has been proposed as one of the front-runners on providing a solution to the problem in question. It will promote habitat restoration and also ensure better nutrition from the food that we eat. The pesticide industry is a powerful player and there are a lot of political and economic factors that have led to the situation we currently face.
Organic farming is gaining popularity by the day however needs to reach a stage where it no longer caters to a niche market but a more robust consumer base which challenges and overturns the current toxic methods of food production.