Common pesticides could be wiping out bee colonies by causing pollen-gathering insects to lose their way home, research suggests. Two studies provide strong evidence that pesticides sprayed on farmers’ fields, and used on private gardening threaten bumblebees and honeybees. One team of British scientists showed bumblebee colony growth slowed after exposure to a chemical. Another group of French researchers tracked foraging honeybees and found that pesticide tripled their chances of dying away from the hive. The chemical was thought to disrupt the bees’ homing systems. Insecticides calledneonicotinoids may fuel Colony Collapse Disorder. The phenomenon, marked by the disappearance of honeybee colonies, is a problem in northern hemisphere countries. Bumblebees are at risk. Professor Dave Goulson, from the University of Stirling, who led the British study, said: “Some bumblebee species have declined hugely. For example, in North America several bumblebee species, which used to be common, have more or less disappeared from the entire continent. In the UK, three species have gone extinct.”
Friends of the Earth called the findings “very significant”.
Bees feed on pollen and nectar produced by plants. Female bees collect pollen to feed their larvae, storing it in pollen baskets in their legs or on branched hairs on their body. As they go from flower to flower they inevitably lose some of the pollen they have collected. Some of this pollen may land on the female parts of other flowers of the same species, resulting in cross-pollination.
Just as much as bees have a role in ensuring the survival of humanity, we also have roles in ensuring their survival. This way, we can ensure that the symbiotic relationship we have with bees will endure for many more generations.
All elements of an ecosystem are important to the functioning of that ecosystem. It may be positive or negative, from a human standpoint, but we cannot look at nature from a human standpoint only. Why?
Well, ecosystems are complex, possibly too complex for us to be able to understand all the connections and actions and interactions that takes place within them. If we do not know what will happen if something changes, it makes no sense to rush in and make those changes.
Now, with bees and honey bees, in particular we know that over one-third of our food supply relies upon them for pollination services and we know that pollination is essential for the reproduction of the plants the bees service.
The honey bee is a major pollinator of many of our food crops, almonds, apples, avocados, blueberries, cantaloupes, cherries, cranberries, cucumbers, sunflowers, watermelon and many other crops all rely on honey bees for pollination.
So if honey bees disappear and we do not find replacements that can do the work they do; then foods that we take for granted will decrease in supply and increase in price.
The pollination service provided by insect pollinators, bees mainly, was €153 billion (euros) in 2005 for the main crops that feed the world. This figure amounted to 9.5% of the total value of the world agricultural food production.
The main reason that the honeybees are important for our world is as simple as this; if the honey bee does not pollinate the crops, the crops do not grow and produce the food that gets harvested and brought to the store where we buy it and bring it home to feed ourselves and our families.
In other words, there is a direct connection between the bees pollinating the crops and our ability to provide food for our families.
One of the things about honeybees is the fact that they are important. Important at the human scale – not just important to beekeepers, or me but important to the quality of life enjoyed by beneficiaries of developed economies the world over. This importance does not hang on honey production, but pollination – nothing less than our food supply.
Is it true that human life depends on bee pollination? Or, more precisely, to what extent does the quality of human life depend on bee pollination? These are legitimate questions, and it’s in everyone’s best interest to promulgate answers based on good biology and economics. Organization (FAO) from 1961 to 2006 reached some divergent conclusions and shed light on the interacting complexity of the question “How important is animal-vectored pollination?”
The authors of the FAO analysis concluded that the proportion of global food production attributable to animal pollination ranges from 5% in industrialized nations to 8% in the developing world.
About 75% of the world’s crops benefit to some degree from animal pollination; only 10% of that 75% depend fully on animal pollination. A second explanation is that pollinator-dependent crops tend to have lower average production levels than non-pollinated crops.
But there is another mega-trend at work, and that is that global demand for animal-pollinated crops is increasing faster than the demand for non-pollinated staples. The fraction of total production made up of animal-pollinated crops grew from 3.6% in 1961 to 6.1% in 2006, and even these statistics mask a huge jump in the years since 1990. In other words, more people around Planet Earth want ice cream, blueberry tarts, watermelon, almond chocolate bars, coffee, and yes McDonald’s hamburgers – and the trend shows no sign of slowing. So, to what extent does the quality of human life depend on bee pollination? I would say a lot.
We are losing the bees that live naturally in the wild. We depend on these insects for our food, but in an ecosystem where pollution and urbanization are altering nature dramatically, bees are in major trouble.
There are three main reasons for this.
- Bees are losing their food sources. Rural and forested land is consistently being developed for housing and shopping malls, reducing the flower sources bees feed on. In addition, bees can’t find nectar and pollen as easily as they used to because of weed sprays and “better” pasture care. The weeds, from which they gather much wildflower honey, simply aren’t there.
- Bees are adversely affected by conventional agriculture practices. This kind of farming utilizes pesticides, which kill harmful pests, but also beneficial insects like the bees.
- The varroa mite. This mite is an external parasite of minute proportions that plagues bees. It was first discovered in Indonesia in 1904 and was transported to the Americas by humans. It attaches itself to bees and sucks their blood, significantly reducing their life span. (Commercial beekeepers developed a remedy for the mite, a miticide that keeps their hives alive and able to work. The miticide is, however, yet another poison bees come into contact with.)
Paul de Zylva has said that: “The bee is a cherished icon of the British countryside and our gardens and is the farmer’s friend that helps pollinate our food crops, so we cannot afford further decline. “We now need the Government to look seriously at the emerging evidence from here and other countries and consider whether neonicotinoid pesticides should continue to be used freely in the UK and the World.”
As a result of the loss of wild bees, farmers in the United States have resorted to renting bee hives from commercial beekeepers for pollination. Indeed, this business has become so important that the beekeeper is often paid more money to haul his or her bees from flowering crop to flowering crop than they are for honey: up to $350 per hive per season. Multiply that by hundreds, even thousands of hives that are needed and that’s much more than a beekeeper can make selling honey. Take the California almond industry, for example. In 2007, the California Almond Board stated that almonds are California’s number one horticultural export, occupying 550,000 acres of land. In 2006, this important revenue-generating crop required over one million beehives to support its yield, and the Board projects needing over two million hives by the year 2012!
We should all be concerned after all; bees are essential not only for their honey and beeswax but, more importantly, for their roles in food production for humanity’s benefit.
Many of our food crops for both man and animals depend on bees for pollination. It is estimated that if the bee population was somehow reduced by at least 30 percent, more than half of the world’s food supply will be adversely affected. With droughts, earthquakes and other natural and manmade disasters befalling us nowadays, losing the bees is yet another challenge to our survival as the dominant species on Earth. We may even go the way of the dinosaur and the dodo, no thanks to the elimination of our little striped helpers.
The African bees would find colonies of European bees, kill the European queen, and place an African queen in her place. With this new African queen laying eggs, the genetic makeup of the beehive began to change rapidly. Within about three years, Brazil’s gentler bee population was conquered. The African bee moved northward and southward at a pace of about 300 miles per year.
Africanized honeybees first arrived in the US in 1990, where the first Africanized bee hive was reported in Rio Grande, Texas.
Africanized honeybees are slowing their pace as they move northward into the United States. Existing European honeybee populations are becoming further mixed with the Africanized honeybee migration. This is believed to be aiding in the sharing of behaviors and traits from both the Africanized and European honeybee. Meaning the more docile European honeybees becomes slightly more aggressive while the more aggressive Africanized honeybees become more docile. There is said or claimed to be both desirable and undesirable outcomes. One benefit of the mingling of genes and traits is that the weaker populations of European honeybees are becoming healthier, thanks to their African cousins’ stronger immune systems. Another factor is that Africanized bees have trouble surviving cold weather. This is because they are traditionally used to warm weather and they keep their hives relatively small, not needing to store large amounts of honey to live on during the winter. Additionally smaller bee hives do not fair so well during the winter season in the more northern continental US, as the cold air gets to the core of the beehive much sooner than a larger hive with a greater mass, this plus a shortage of honey to make it through a longer winter causes Africanized bees to have difficulty surviving in cold weather.
So we now know that there is a bee “situation”; the lesson is to protect our bees.Originating from Africa or Europe we need their “pollination” and we need to stay away from using chemicals and pesticides. We promise and hope that you do too! Please no more pesticides and chemicals! Exercise in the garden and gardening is great and keeps us healthy and we must also keep our ecosystem healthy.
Now we know that Bees are essential to the production of “one third of human food” directly through their role in fertilizing crops. They are also essential to the feed production of “animals that make up another one third of our diet”. This most vital process to human survival is threatened by the careless modification of foods carried out by scientists thinking in only one box at a time. The genetically modified plants clearly are highly toxic to bees and moths as well as caterpillars. Something needs to be done urgently, if bees are to survive this toxic intervention in nature. Humans Suffer From The Toxic Environment Too. The chemicals are entering our bodies in increasing quantities. The way that humans excrete toxic substances – sweating through the skin – is also much reduced compared to past times. Many people find that regular Infra Red saunas are helping to improve their general health.
We will no doubt be hearing more depressing news about our own health, our environment and collapse of vulnerable species in future. We need to educate ourselves a whole lot more if we are to survive into the future. One person at the time we will win this battle….That is our commitment at GreenDustries.
“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”Albert Einstein
College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences Green Life.