As news continues to emerge that controversial pesticides may be killing wild birds as well as bees, understanding the decline of the world’s most important insect is integralto the future of the planet.
It is no secret that honeybee colonies are dying in huge numbers, with around one-third of hives collapsing each year. Contrary to popular opinion however, there is not one sole cause of the collapse, but rather, many small ones accrued.
Of course, the primary culprit is often placed at the feet of pesticides, and although the case against the chemicals is mounting on a daily basis, there are many other factors toconsider.
“The main elements include the compounding impact of pesticides applied to fields, as well as pesticides applied directly into hives to control mites; fungal, bacterial and viral pests and diseases; nutritional deficiencies caused by vast acreages of single-crop fields that lack diverse flowering plants; and, in the United States, commercial beekeeping itself, which disrupts colonies by moving most bees around the country multiple times each year to pollinate crops.”
So what makes the bee so important?
It is often said if bees were to disappear entirely, that there would be no more pollination, which mean that there would be no more plants, and no more animals, and consequently, no more people – within four years of extinction. Usually, this idea is often attributed to none other than Albert Einstein, but the truth is that no one can really prove who first thought it.
Confusion aside, the above doomsday scenario is a little extreme, but the matter of the fact is that bees pollinate at least one third of the world’s food supply – meaning that everyone has reason to worry about the decline of the bee populations.
In the UK, the value of bees to agriculture is around £200 million a year, with a retail value of their pollinated crop to be valued at £1 billion.
“If we had a serious loss of honeybees in the UK, then inevitably food prices would have to increase.”
“Either that or the British diet would have to change considerably. Instead of eating British fruits we’d have to switch to more starchy foods like grains and cereals.”
What can we do to help protect the bees?
Although much of the responsibility is laid on governments throughout the world, there are many things that individuals can do every day in order to protect bee populations:
- Build a bee booster for your garden. Helping solitary bees find shelter throughout winter is important. Here is a guide from Hartley Botanic if you are interested.
- Alternatively you could create a natural habitat garden using all the plants that bees need. Sunflowers, bluebells, poached egg plants and Rhododendrons are all useful to have.
- Other than the above, there are many petitions that can be found online, campaigning for the banning of pesticides that are deemed to be harmful to the bee populations.