Have you noticed an increase in price for honey, or maybe a decreased supply? In the past decade, the population of honeybees has drastically declined. Theories may help explain, however no scientist or bee-enthusiast knows exactly why the bee population is dying out.
Honeybees do more good than harm; in fact, most people never get stung by a honeybee. A bee’s purpose is to pollinate, and that is exactly what they are driven to do every day. As much as 75% of pollination of flowering plants and crops come from honey bees. Greenpeace states that the honeybee’s economic impact is almost $300 billion worldwide. This is because the pollination from the honey bee reduces the need for human pollination and in turn creates a large number of plants and crops for human consumption.
No Honeybee = No Food
Without bees, much of our food supply would be depleted. This goes far and beyond just fresh fruits and vegetables, although we would see the effect on produce the most. Without honeybees, fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, apples and cherries would greatly decline. That is just to name a few. Other foods include cucumber, tomatoes, vanilla, coffee, cashews, and of course, honey. The list of all honey bee pollinated foods goes on and on and includes more than most would even think!
Without fresh produce and other pollinated foods, we as consumers would see the effects in processed foods as well. Without fresh berries, ice cream toppings in fruity flavors like strawberry would no longer be in production. Trail mix would cease to exist without nuts and dried fruit and any baked good would never taste the same without vanilla. Even our favorite t-shirts would start to change as bees pollinate cotton.
Why Honeybees Are Declining
There are many theories circulating around the globe regarding the decline in bees. No theory has been proven to be the definitive reason that honeybees are decreasing in population. However, many theories give way as to reasons which honeybees no longer fly where they used to. One of these theories has to do with cell phone towers. Skeptics believe that the cell towers mess with a bee’s sense of direction, therefore getting them lost in transit. The bees then drop dead because of their inability to return to the hive. This theory however, is not supported by many researchers.
The top two theories on the declining honeybee population have to do with pesticides and mites. There are many environmentalists and researchers who have discovered that when honeybees come into contact with pesticides, they often get sick and pass away. The pesticides intended to harm the insects that eat the plants really harm the bees. In addition, a certain mite has become immune to a common pesticide used to keep mites away from the hive. The mites infect the hive and therefor kill the colony. When the entire colony dies off, researchers refer to it as Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD. CCD also occurs when honeybees pollinate and spread harmful chemicals to other plants, passing it on to the next honeybee coming to pollinate the plant.
Measures to Bring Back the Honeybees
The honeybee epidemic is world-wide and many countries and states are taking measures to stop the epidemic from spreading. European countries have banned certain pesticides that harm bees, the United States has yet to do so. However, the United States Department of Agriculture has enacted government subsidies for efforts to save the bees. Many universities and companies are also dedicating large areas of land strictly dedicated to raising bees. In addition, the amount of local and independent beekeepers continues to decrease.
While many theories exist as to why populations of honeybees are rapidly declining, efforts are underway to reduce this declination. Honeybees are so important to both agriculture and economics. There is no way that life on Earth could be the same without them.