Bee or not to bee?

Author: Ivars Veckalns

As you may have heard the environment is changing. We can close our eyes and live in ignorance and pretend that nothing is happening but the nature, the ecosystem of the world is suffering and being modified by human activities. From the well known change in global temperature that has risen severely since 1975 (according to NASA [1]) to the lesser known pH change in the world’s oceans that causes death to marine wildlife including sea mammals, oysters and other shellfish.[2] This article will be about a major problem that many people do not know about and do not understand, as well as the disaster that can end all life on earth. It will be about the demise of bees.


If you do not know what a bee is (it’s hard to imagine that a person has never seen or heard of a bee before) then let me very shortly explain to you what a bee is. A bee is a yellow and black insect that flies around, pollinates flowers and makes honey. In itscore, that  is. However, we do not give enough credit to them for this extremely important task. Plants live and thrive because of pollination, it is their way of ensuring that new generations of plants are growing each year. Pollination is a process, in which pollen is taken from the male plant to the female plant, ensuring it’s fertilisation.  

Even the plant with the most importance and necessity for students (I’m talking about coffee) is also dependent on bees. Simple: no bees=no coffee. But there is a more devastating prospect.

Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is a phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind the queen (she is usually the mother of most, if not all of the bees in the beehive and is responsible for producing new offsprings), plenty of food and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees. In the end, we get millions of bees that fly away and a colony that will surely die. Why does this happen? There is no one proven reason why this is happening but there are several theories provided by the United States Environmental Protection Agency:

  • Increased amount of varroa mite (a pest of honey bees);
  • New or emerging diseases such as Israeli Acute Paralysis virus and the gut parasite Nosema;
  • Pesticide poisoning through exposure to pesticides applied to crops or for in-hive insect or mite control;
  • Stress bees experience due to management practices such as transportation to multiple locations pollination services (I was shocked that you can rent bees :D);
  • Poor nutrition;
  • Longer and colder winters;
  • Potential immune-suppressing stress on bees caused by one or a combination of factors identified above.[3]

The head of the RSU Faculty of Pathology prof. Ilze Štrumfa once said that if there are more than 2 theories then we do not understand this topic at all and I completely agree with this statement.

Is this problem common in the world? YES! Just look at this chart (Chart 1).[4]

This chart demonstrates the annual loss of honey bees in the US. Yes, there are ups and downs in this chart, but throughout the years there is a steady increase in bee deaths.

Still, these numbers do not mean a lot to people. Americans have found a good way to dramatically show the impact of problems. Just tell people about how much money was spent or lost because of this problem. And that is exactly what I’m going to do. Bee pollination is worth $15 billion to the U.S. farming industry! Over the last six years, the bee industry spent $2 billion to replace 10 million hives. The global revenue that is dependent from bee pollination is $200 billion. Colony collapse disorder also affects the beef and dairy industries. Bees pollinate clover, hay, and other forage crops. As they die off, it raises the cost of feedstock. That increases beef and milk prices at the grocery store.[5] So the government spends more and more money for an industry that is slowly dying and without which our life as we know it cannot exist.

If bees disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live.

If you try to find the origin of this quote most likely the author would be Einstein but no documentations have been found that it truly belongs to him. But it’s the message that is important. 70% of all vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts we consume need bees to pollinate them ergo these plants will go extinct without bees. Other insects would not be able to replace all the pollination functions of bees. Less hay would also mean less livestock the farmers can feed, so less meat for people. Corn, wheat and rice are wind pollinated plants, so our diet would mainly consist of them. Cotton is also pollinated by bees so yes, you guessed it, we could not manufacture all the clothes made from cotton.

Environmental change is happening in one way or another. You have to be ignorant, corrupted or down right stupid not to  agree with this. Bees are only one example of how our ecosystem is collapsing and what is happening or could happen if we do not change the way humans live on this planet.

 

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Sources


Article sources:

[1]  NASA Earth Observatory (n.d.). World of Change: Global Temperatures. Retrieved from: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/WorldOfChange/decadaltemp.php

[2]  [PBS NewsHour]. (2012, December 5). Acidifying Waters Corrode Northwest Shellfish [Video File]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7MpI9dZIjk

[3]  U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (n.d.). Colony Collapse Disorder. Retrieved from: https://www.epa.gov/pollinator-protection/colony-collapse-disorder

[4]  Graph depicting winter and annual honey bee losses from 2006 to 2014 [Online image]. (2015). Retrieved from: https://www.ars.usda.gov/news-events/news/research-news/2015/bee-survey-lower-winter-losses-higher-summer-losses-increased-total-annual-losses/

[5]  Kimberly, A. 2018. What Happens If We Don’t Save the Bees in Time? The Balance. Available from: https://www.thebalance.com/bee-colony-collapse-disorder-facts-and-economic-impact-3305815

 

Cover picture: Photo by Егор Камелев on Unsplash

 

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