Bees known as beautiful, buzzing, hard worker insects. Their bodies are a wonderful combination of black with yellow or brown marking. Other bees have yellow, red, brown, and metallic green or blue bodies, with brilliant metallic red or purple markings. The oxford dictionary describes this wonderful creature as a stinging winged insect which collects nectar and pollen, produces wax and honey, and lives in large communities. Sounds like a lot of work, right? Indeed it is.
Bees are known because they pollinate our crops and give us honey. There’s so much more than honey. They are the most important pollinators for flowers, fruits and vegetables. Bees transfer pollen between the male and female parts, allowing plants to grow seeds and fruit.
It is believed that bees first appeared about 130 million years ago, along with the first flowering plants. Bees and plants that depend on pollen to reproduce are locked in a state of symbiosis that evolved over millions of year.
Unfortunately, over the past 15 years, colonies of bees have been disappearing. Honey bee populations have been dying off at increasingly rapid rates. Bees play the most significant role in producing the fruits and vegetables. As Life Noggin video illustrates, approximately every third bite of food we eat exists because of honey bee pollination.
Greenpeace’s Save the Bees page states that honey bees perform about 80 percent of all pollination worldwide. A single bee colony can pollinate 300 million flowers each day. Grains including corn, wheat and oats are primarily pollinated by the wind, but fruits, nuts and vegetables are pollinated by bees. Seventy out of the top 100 human food crops which supply about 90 percent of the world’s nutrition are pollinated by bees.
Why Bees have been disappearing?
It is a vicious cycle. The negative and collateral impact of chemicals, pesticides and fungicides are big part of the issue. Over the years research has been conducted to understand why the bees have been disappearing. Today, we are suffering the consequences of years of irresponsible use of these chemicals.
Since 1987 Monsanto, Dow, Bayer and other large chemical manufacturers start selling genetically modified insecticides and herbicides as a quick and easy fix to the Varroa mite invasion. These chemicals have weaken the bees’ natural genetic defenses.
The Guardian describes in detail Monsanto contribution to the vanishing bee population in this article. From genetically altered corn, Monsanto produced an insecticide, which once ingested by bees, binds to receptors within the bee’s stomach lining that keeps the bee from eating. This weakens the bee, causing the breakdown of the inner stomach wall, which in turn makes the bee susceptible to spores and bacteria.
Greenpeace’s Save the Bees describes a type of insecticide called neonicotinoids. It is known to cause acute and chronic poisoning not just of one bee, but the entire colony. Bees take the contaminated nectar and pollen spread through the plant’s DNA back to the hive, creating a highly toxic living environment for all the bees. Toxicity builds up destroying the Central Nervous System, causing further disorientation and bees ultimately can neither fly nor make it back to the nest.
$235 to $577 billion in global crops could be negatively impacted if pollinators like the honey bee continue to disappear accordingly to The United Nations Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Some other alarming figures confirm this trend, in the US 5,000 beekeepers had lost 44 percent of their honey bee colonies between 2015 and 2016.
Bees are important indicators for the health of the environment. When something is wrong with bees, something is wrong with the environment. “You have a bee to thank for every one in three bites of food you eat” Greenpeace save the bees. It is not just about honey. It is about the whole food chain, health and respect to our planet. A dying bee population impacts our food chain, representing a threat to human survival. If honey bees disappear the world’s food supply will be in real danger.
Albert Einstein once prophetically remarked, “Mankind will not survive the honeybees’ disappearance for more than five years.”
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