A new film cites US research which says that pesticides are making honey bees far more susceptible to disease, and numbers are falling in the US, UK and other countries. ‘Neonicotinoids’ are the chemicals being linked to the recent rapid fall in the bee population. However, UK scientists are suggesting other combinations of causes such as food source scarcity, disease, and even recent poor summer weather may be a factor.
“Reasons for bee number decline are complex…”
The UK Bee Keepers association was until recently allowing their “bee friendly” labels to be used on some of these products, however the practice has now ceased.
The US research, revealed in a new film about the disappearance of bees, found even tiny doses of ‘neonicotinoids’ made the insects more susceptible to disease.
The chemicals in question have the insect-killing properties of nicotine, and are used widely in the UK and US, on both garden flows and shrubs and in agriculture, and for example on wheat and oil seed rape crops.
Bees are hugely important pollinators, and are thought to be responsible for the pollination of one third of America’s agricultural output. Similar percentages apply elsewhere.
Worries are that food prices that are reaching at a record high due to supply problems, will rise further, if crops fail to be pollinated.
Bee numbers are thought not to declining in heavily forested locations, mountain areas or anywhere remote from intensive agriculture. Normal populations are reportedly still seen in ‘underdeveloped’ countries which still rely on traditional farming.
Bees are what is known as a “keystone species,” we depend upon them for the continued reproduction and survival not only of plants but of other life forms that depend on those plants for survival. Should a key species disappear like the honeybee, other species will start to disappear as well.
The great man Albert Einstein’s had an apocalyptic vision of bees, and, of late it has been seen as highly topical. He said that: “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left”.
Of course most of us hold a dislike for encountering them. We have all heard stories of bee attacks. But the truth is that bees are loath to sting, and generally only become prone to sting when near their hive. That’s understandable is it is where their young are raised. Wouldn’t you feel threatened ? So, if you do see the normal bee numbers in an area it is likely that there is a hive nearby. Watch ou for hives, and always keep a safe distance away from any hive.
Bees are known as a beneficial insect because they produce honey and pollinate crops. Pollination is the transfer of pollen from the male parts of a flower to the female parts of a flower of the same species, which results in fertilization of plant ovaries and the production of seeds. The main insect pollinators, by far, are bees, and while European honey bees are the best known and widely managed pollinators, there are also hundreds of other species of bees, mostly solitary ground nesting species, that contribute some level of pollination services to crops and are very important in natural plant communities.
Further reading on Bee Decline: