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Bees Beginning to Buzz off

A+bee+on+a+flower.
A bee on a flower.

A bee on a flower.

hansbenn/Pixabay

hansbenn/Pixabay

A bee on a flower.

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Imagine a world where there is a loss of 70 percent of produce. There are only a few grains remaining that don’t depend on pollination, such as rice, corn, wheat, barley and quinoa. Livestock is beginning to die off and and there is a very limited amount of food to feed people. According to Marla Spivak, a distinguished McKnight University Professor in Entomology, this day is not far off thanks to pesticides and a rapidly declining bee population.

This world may sound apocalyptic, something you might find in a book or movie but it is quite possible. Many believe that this rapid decline in the bee population is because of pesticides. These pesticides slow the bee’s brains down, making it difficult for them to move properly and making them forget floral scents. Most die either instantly or once they get back to their hive. Another factor of pesticides is that they make the bees more susceptible to parasites, which are one of the main killers. Many farmers use pesticides on their crops in order to kill weeds and pests. Some are not aware of the damage they are causing, while others simply do not want to risk their crops. “Pesticides themselves aren’t necessarily a death sentence for bees—and debate rages over whether, when properly applied, these chemicals can be used safely among pollinators. But exposure to them seems to open the door to other killers.” National Geographic said. According to Beeinformed.org, beekeepers across the United States lost 44 percent of their bee population between April of 2015 and April of 2016. Another factor in the declining bee population is believed to be climate change. Unlike other species, bumblebees cannot adapt to the changing temperatures fast enough.

90 percent of all wildflowers and plants depend on pollination. Without bees the food chain would also be greatly effected which would mean a great reduction of food. The main sources of food for humans are plants and other animals. If the bees were to go extinct completely there would only be grains and a few other scattered things left, which would mean there would be a global food shortage. There wouldn’t just be a shortage of produce but also a shortage of livestock since they wouldn’t be getting the proper nutrition that they need. Humans and animals alike would be more susceptible to illness, as our metabolism would weaken from the lack of proper nutrition.

Studies show that the bee population is continuing to drop and will eventually disappear if nothing is done about it. A few years back, beekeepers reported losing 30 percent of their bees annually but now that number has increased to 40 or even 50 percent in some cases. Many places such as California rely heavily on bees. 60 percent of California’s bee population goes into pollinating the almond orchards. They require 1.4 million bee hives. There is also an economic factor as bees produce 15 billion dollars in the United States alone by pollinating and providing almonds, apples, cotton, blueberries, grapes, oranges, peanuts, peaches, soy beans and strawberries. The economic impact is sure to be felt given the number of beehives in the United States was originally at 6 million in 1947, then dropped to 4 million in 1970, 3 million in 1990 and has now reached only 2.5 million beehives.

Some people who are desperate to try and bring the number back up again have protested farmer’s use of pesticides on their crops. Others have decided to take matters into their own hands and have become beekeepers in their own backyard. Some are planting flowers such as lavender and daisies to attract more bees. “Bumblebees are not like tigers or polar bears. They don’t need thousands of square kilometres of pristine wilderness to survive. They can make due with quite small areas. So around agricultural margins for example, if we manage those field margins so that wild flowers are abundant and we’re not using neonicotinoids on those field margins, maybe we can maintain populations.” —Jeremy Kerr, University of Ottawa professor.

Scientists can agree that a dismal outcome doesn’t have to be the future. Securing our food resources is a matter of ensuring the health of the bee population. Reducing the use of pesticides or at least understanding the impact they have, is part of the solution to bringing back the bee population and securing their future health and the health of our food systems.

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