Where are all the honey bees going

 

If all bees disappeared from the Earth, human survival would be doomed!

Bees play a vital role in the ecological system; bees serve as pollinators to keep the life cycle of plants and humans. North America alone is home to 4000 species of wild bees, but the population of native bees has gone down for the past four decades. So where have all the honey bees gone? Eight species of bees are on the endangered list. The causes for the loss of bees are widely due to natural disasters, habitat loss, and unethical agricultural practices. 

Why are Honey Bees Important?

Honey bees are important economically and medically. These tiny insects produce hive products like honey, pollen, propolis, royal jelly, and venom. 

Honey bees play a significant role in agriculture. Bees are top crop pollinators. The agricultural benefits of honey bees are twenty times more than hive products. Pollination is vital for more than 250,000 species of plants and flowers. These plants rely on insects such as bees and butterflies for pollination. In addition, about one-third of the food eaten by Americans is due to the pollination of bees. Scientists believe the extinction of bees can create a famine with less and low-quality food yield.

Reasons for Reduction of Bees Population.

Intensive Farming

With the growing human population and increasing demand for food grains, agricultural lands and concrete human colonies have grown many folds in the past century. Extensive farming has significantly reduced the flourishing areas of wildflowers. Around 75% of the land is either agricultural or concrete jungles leaving no space for honey bees.

Chronic Bees Paralysis

Another threat to bees is chronic bee paralysis caused by a virus. Chronic bee paralysis includes irregular trembling, failure to fly, and the development of hairless bellies. Data collected from over 24,000 bee collectors indicate that chronic bee paralysis has grown to 40% from 2006. 

Studies also indicate the disease is due to bee queen import. The use of imported queen bees is a probable cause of the virus coming through the imported bees. The disease was found to be twice as much in those groups that were harvesting imported bees.

Colony Collapse Disorder

Scientists have named the decreasing population of honey bees ‘colony collapse disorder.’ Colony collapse disorder is a bizarre phenomenon where worker bees disappear, leaving behind the queen with some food and a few companions to take care of the queen. There are various causes for this phenomenon, but no single cause has been named to date. Suggested causes are various pathogens, pesticides, loss of natural habitat, and changes in genetics. 

Global Warming

It is a proven fact that honey bees are more suited to cold climates. The fluttering wings also generate heat for adaptability to cold weather. Global temperatures are rising, making it difficult for honey bees to adapt to the changing temperatures. There can be several factors, but heatwaves and the indirect impact of rising temperatures on flowers and vegetation can be a cause of the vanishing honey bees. Apart from the rising temperatures, wetter and milder winters also have a devastating impact on honey bees.

Varroa Mite

Varroa mites hopped from Asian bees and ran over colonies of honey bees in Europe and North America.  Varroa is an extremely scrounging mite that targets and forages honey bees. The parasite breeds only in a honey bee colony; it gets attached to the bee and sucks the fats, making it frail and eventually causes death. Varroa mite is considered one of the significant factors in decreasing the population of honey bees. Researchers are trying their best to combat the situation.

Use of Pesticides and Neonicotinoids

Another factor for reducing the population of honey bees is the use of neonicotinoids and pesticides. These are highly toxic substances for honey bees which are destroying the habitats of honey bees. The commercial use of these chemicals may be suitable for massive agricultural produce, but it has a devastating effect on the environment and tiny insects.

Research done by Penn State University shows that industrial chemicals and pesticides have done great damage to honey bees. Data shows that the population of honey bees has reduced drastically in agricultural farms, and the cause is the extensive use of pesticides. 

The Way Ahead

There are various practices that people should adopt both on farms and off farms. Some of the methods to save these pollinators include:

  • All involved with food production and supply must use tools safe for honey bees. Beekeepers must also ensure secure methods to increase productivity and focus on the development of honey bees. 
  • Honey producers should work together with farmers and optimize crop produce where honey bees can be pollinators.
  • Crop harvesters must check the use of pesticides and neonicotinoids and limit the use where honey bee colonies live.
  • People can choose to plant bee-friendly flowers on which honey bees feed in their backyard. 
  • Since high temperatures affect honey bees, planting more trees and shady shrubs in the environment will shelter honey bees from heat.
  • Ecological farming is the all-embracing way to alleviate human food production, preserve wild habitats, and protect the bees. Trends also show that people are shifting toward organic food and farming.
  • Education and awareness are essential for younger generations. Educate your children about the importance of saving these tiny pollinators. 

Conclusion.

Bees play an essential role in the pollination of wildflowers and crops. Habitat loss, climate change, pesticides, and global warming contribute to the threat these little honey bees face. There is an unprecedented decline in the honey bee population, with some species on the brink of extinction. It’s time to ring the alarm bells, educate and raise a voice to protect not only these tiny insects but the Earth, which is our home.