For years we have known the bee population has been falling, and from May 2017 to April 2017, across hives all over the world, nearly a third of bees have died out. What are the reasons for this, and can we do anything about it?
In the 1980s, the varroa mite began to infest colonies in Florida. These mites carry diseases and pass them onto other mites, quickly spreading, making them uncontainable. Around 20 years ago, beekeepers would worry if there were 20 mites per 100 bees, but now we have the same concern level for three mites to 100 bees. Ironically, in northern America, the European bee has no immunity to these mites so they are dying out.
Pesticides, fungicides and pesticides are also big killers of bees, with chemical farmers needing to put them on their crops and not being able to control which crops the bees go to. The effects of these chemicals on the bees are subtle, so it is harder for beekeepers to spot this.
“Bees don’t die right away from [pesticides]; a colony can lose 30 percent of its bees and still be a healthy colony because it’s a super organism and can absorb some shock, and lose members without the colony suffering,” Doctor Dennis vanEngelsdorp, project director for the Bee Informed Partnership, explains. “The problem is that some of these problems have a delayed effect. Three or four months after the exposure the colonies are more likely to die. I think the EPA has never had to address that longer-term issue. They are working to try to develop new ways of testing and making sure that products are safe for bees.”
And lastly poor nutrition. As we convert our natural land areas into more industrial areas we are killing off the bee’s food supply. They need to collect food to feed themselves and their whole hive, but as food decreases and they cannot feed themselves then they start to die out. This is also another cause of Colony Collapse disorder, when the workers just abandon the queen.
If we let bees go extinct, then it is more than just a loss of another species, they are responsible for pollinating nearly a third of our fruit and vegetables. We would lose these foods and food production prices would increase drastically. They are responsible for pollinating over 250,000 species of flowers, many of these flowers are the primary food source for lots of species of birds and rodents, and other wildlife animals. It would cause food chains to collapse and cause a chain reaction killing many more.
We can’t stop them from dying overnight, but we can do something to help get the population of bees back to where it should be. By planting bee-friendly flowers and supporting organic food farmers we are providing them with more food, meaning they can feed their hives, preventing Colony Collapse disorder. Setting up birdbaths with marbles in them can stop them from drowning when they need some water. And lastly, just spreading the word that we need to save the bees and getting everyone involved can do wonders.