Envision going to the supermarket, local farmers market or even the green grocers and finding no fruit or vegetables. It almost sounds like an apocalyptic even that will never happen right?
Or will it?
The humble, hard working honeybee the embodiment of coordination, unity and cooperation is facing a worldwide crisis. The whole world is abuzz as they are disappearing at an alarming rate!!
You might be wondering why do we care? How does this affect me?
The average honeybee lives for 6 weeks and in that time your average worker bee will gather nectar and pollen. During their flight rounds they travel from flower to flower, transferring bits of pollen as they go. This in turn fertilisers the flowers into a fruit. And voilà! You have fruit and vegetables being formed. So besides providing us with delectable honey and wax (and the occasional sting) they are actually responsible for the pollination of about a third of the American diet. Agriculturists rely heavily on their pollination, making them an integral part of the 15 billion dollar pollination industry and their economical impact enormous (Latourelle, S 2011).
(Image source: buzzaboutbees.net)
In 2006 beekeepers began noticing a dramatic decrease in their bee numbers. One commercial beekeeper David Hackenberg whom overseas over 3000 hives noticed 400 hives completely devoid of bees (Fennessy, K 2011). And neighbouring hives refusing to inhabit or take over the vacant hives. This type of behaviour of refusing a vacant hive is considered very unusual in the beekeeping community, leading them to believe that there is something very wrong.
Some beekeepers even reported a 40% decline in bee numbers in 12 months in 2015 (Science World, 2016).
And another alarming trend is that more and more bees are dying in summer than in winter, which was previously unheard of.
Government scientists are baffled by phenomenon and are calling it ‘Colony Collapse Disorder’ (CCD). The cause for this is still a mystery however certain pesticides, parasites, malnutrition and fungal infections are among the top most likely offenders (Fennessy, K 2011).
From year to year it is unknown what causes the fluctuations in bee numbers below is a graph showing the annual loss of honeybees from 2010 to 2015 (Science World, 2016).
So you may still be asking ‘how does this affect me?’
So now that you are aware that this decline in bee numbers means less pollination of our beloved fruit and vegetables, this puts a lot of pressure on farmers thus causing a domino effect. This would mean the steady incline in the price of produce and also possibly in the variation of produce available to us in the supermarket (Science World, 2016).
Vegetarians and vegans beware!
I hope this puts on perspective just how important the bees are to our society, environment and economy. Not to just any one country but the whole world. The question is what are we going to do about it?
The French agriculture commission has taken some measures, by banning systemic pesticide use. As a result the honeybee population made a tremendous comeback within a year. From the producers of ‘Vanishing Of The Bees’ have also stated that trying to purchase organic food to encourage the reduction of pesticide use in agriculture. Other methods such as colony division and bee importation and some holistic measures are being used to help deal with the crisis. So it’s not all doom and gloom, there are things that we can and should be doing. As Rita Hoots (2012) succinctly puts it:
“If we foolishly abuse our roles as custodians of this world, there will be consequences”
Fennessy, K 2011, ‘Vanishing of the Bees’, Video Librarian, no. 3, p. 43.
Hoots, R 2012, ‘Vanishing of the Bees’, The Science Teacher, no. 9, p. 78.
Latourelle, S 2011, “Vanishing of the Bees.” The American Biology Teacher, Academic OneFile. Web. April 30 2016. URL
‘SAVE THE BEES!’ 2016, Science World, 72, 11, p. 14, MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost, viewed 1 May 2016.