The Drastic Potential Consequences of the Declining Bee Population and How to Avoid it
By Caelan Schweizer
July 8, 2022
The rapid decline of the worldwide bee population poses a massive threat to the worldwide ecosystem and the balance of the natural world. The environment depends heavily on every type of bee. In woods, meadows, and several other environments, numerous plant species are pollinated, resulting in the production of fruits that are consumed by numerous wild animals. This is crucial for crops that generate the food we eat as well as many natural plants and flowers.
Around 70 of the top 100 food crops are pollinated by bees, which are responsible for about 90% of the world’s nourishment. Bees are essential to humans because they pollinate our food crops. It is clear that bees are crucial to maintaining biodiversity because plant species experience a population decrease when bee populations decline, as is the case with the European bumblebee, with 76% of species declining.
Since crops wouldn’t be able to reproduce nearly as much without bees, less food would be produced. Farmers would have to manually pollinate plants, which is less effective, takes more time, and is more expensive. The importance of bees to human existence is demonstrated by estimates that bee pollination is worth over $14 billion in the US alone.
What is Killing the Bees?
The cause of the decline in population of the honey bees can be attributed to several different factors. A major factor is because of parasites and the diseases they carry, the most threatening of which is a mite called Varroa destructor that attacks and feeds on the honey bees Apis cerana (Asiatic honey bee), which is found in Southern and Eastern Asia, and Apis mellifera (western honey bee). The disease caused by the mites is called varroosis, which is an incredibly destructive disease to honey bees around the world, causing more damage and economic costs than any other known agricultural disease.
Hives are more vulnerable to bacterial and viral infections due to weakened immune systems. American foulbrood and Deformed Wing Virus are two of the most well-known diseases that affect bees. Deformed Wing Virus, spread by Varroa mites, renders bees incapable of flying, while American Foulbrood damages larvae younger than a day old, preventing them from surviving to adulthood.
Certain farming methods used by humans, such as monoculture farming, make it harder for bees to find a balanced diet. This occurs when a plot of land is used exclusively for one crop, restricting the bees’ diet to that pollen for a lengthy period of time. Consider how unhealthy it would be if a person could only eat strawberries for three months. Due to their weak immune systems, these starved bees are more vulnerable to viruses, parasites, and chemical pesticides.
The reduction of honey bees is also influenced by pesticides. The impact of various pesticide types and application techniques on bee health is still being studied by scientists. Neonicotinoids, a group of agricultural insecticides, are the substance under investigation the most. These substances are systemic, which means that the plant absorbs them through its circulatory system and distributes them across all tissues. They only impact invertebrates and take effect after a single application, making them less prone to runoff and less harmful to people, livestock, birds, and other species. They are highly well-liked. Since bees consume pollen and nectar rather than plant tissue, the insecticide should not harm them. However, research has revealed that pollen grains contain small levels of pesticide. One pollen grain with trace chemicals wouldn’t be a problem since bees send pollen back to their hives for sustenance, but researchers have discovered that the toxins build up to dangerous quantities in beeswax. Additionally, pesticides disrupt bee communication, which is mostly dependent on chemical and physical signals. It has been demonstrated that the ingredients in pesticides change their communication, foraging, and larval development. By weakening the bees’ immune systems, pesticides make the hive more vulnerable to parasite infection.
How Does Climate Change Affect the Bees?
Struggle to Adapt
Bees are being impacted by environmental changes because their food supplies are dwindling. Numerous bee species rely on particular plants for sustenance, but because climate change is occurring so quickly, neither the plants nor the bees are able to adapt. The bee population is also dwindling as a result of extreme weather phenomena like heat waves, storms, and floods.
Alteration of Plant Scents
In order to find their meal, plant nectar, bees rely on both visual and smell signals. The colour of the plants and the amount of blossoms on each plant are shown visually. The floral scents that are particular to each flower and plant, however, make up the olfactory signals. Bees have a unique capacity to memorize these cues and use them when looking for pollen to eat. Plants’ smells have changed recently as a result of climate change. This is because stressed plants are a result of alterations in the environment, such as water shortages or extreme heat. They consequently exude protective chemicals to shield them from harm. These compounds change the smell of these plants, making it challenging for bees to navigate to plants for nourishment. Bee colonies die as a result of a shortage of food.
Poor Seasonal Timing
Timing is a key component in bees’ work as pollinators. For successful pollination to occur, the times of flowering and hatching must match. Bees naturally awaken from their winter sleep at the exact moment that flowers start to bloom. The timing of when flowers produce pollen and when bees are prepared to consume it is out of sync as a result of climate change. The environment suffers greatly as a result of the bees’ inability to hatch sooner and their lack of synchrony with flowering plants. It causes plants to produce fewer seeds, which hinders plant reproduction. Additionally, the imbalance results in food shortages for the animal and human populations as well as a drop in the number of bees because they are unable to forage from the plants.
How Can We Save the Bees?
Bee populations would rise if farming methods were entirely organic and natural, or, at the absolute least, if the most harmful pesticides were banned and only chemicals with a short half-life were used. These harmful compounds would no longer harm the bees, and biodiversity in these places would start to rise. Planting bee-friendly flowers like lavender, lilac, and foxglove as well as creating places for bees to shelter outside are other ways urban residents may contribute. To maintain ecosystems and ensure the survival of all species, including bees, wild habitats should be safeguarded.
Planting a Bee Garden
Lack of safe habitat where bees can build homes and locate a range of nourishing food sources is one of the biggest dangers to bee populations. You can build a habitat corridor with plants that are rich in pollen and nectar by planting a bee garden. Gardens can be set out across yards and in window boxes, flower pots, and planters; you don’t need a lot of area to cultivate bee-friendly plants. You can also work with neighbourhood associations and governing bodies to identify chances to improve shared and public areas.
Use Organic Products Instead of Synthetics
Bees are harmed by synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, and neonicotinoids, which wreck havoc on their delicate systems. Avoid using synthetics to maintain your garden and outdoor spaces. Use organic products and natural remedies instead, such as compost to improve soil health and helpful insects like ladybugs and praying mantises to deter pests.
Supporting Tree-planting Events
Did you know that plants provide the majority of the nectar used by bees? When a tree blooms, hundreds, if not thousands, of blossoms are available for consumption. In addition to being a fantastic food source, trees provide a crucial habitat for bees. Bees may build their nests from tree leaves and resin, and natural wood cavities make great homes. By taking care of trees and participating in tree-planting events in your community, you can support bee habitats as deforestation and development continue to rise.
Bees become exceedingly thirsty while foraging and gathering nectar. Put clean water in a shallow bowl or birdbath, and then lay stones and pebbles within so that they break the surface of the water. Bees will settle on the rocks and pebbles to take a leisurely, cooling sip.
Create Homes for Native Bees
Did you know that most bees, with the exception of honeybees, live alone? Solitary bees spend 70% of their time underground, while 30% reside in tree cavities or hollow stems. When you leave a piece of your garden undeveloped, you might give a safe haven to creatures like bumble bees who need undisturbed ground to lay their eggs. Small tube “apartments” called “bee condos” allow species like mason bees to settle down. They are simple to make or buy.
Support Local Beekeepers
Local beekeepers put a lot of effort into nurturing their hives, as well as the neighbourhood. Purchasing locally crafted honey and beeswax products is the simplest way to express your gratitude. Many beekeepers use ingredients from their hives to make beeswax candles, soaps, and cosmetics. Additionally, local honey may aid with seasonal allergies and is made from local flora in addition to being delicious! To support the expansion of local beekeeping societies and environmental organization’ programs, you can also donate your time, materials, and money.
The rapid decline of the bee population alerts us that our current track is harmful. Many other insects, the foundation of our ecosystems, are under risk from the same poisons that are threatening bee populations. And these dangerous substances pollute both the air and the water. Even worse, they damage the essential soil communities we need to grow our food by remaining in the soil for months or years. If we take action to save the bees, it means that we will also be saving a great number of other creatures. But we are aware that if we continue to lose our bees, we will face problems in our daily lives that go beyond having to pay $50 for an orange.