Why are bees disappearing? Does it matter, what should we do about this alarming issue of bees vanishing across the globe?
Peter Nelson has directed a recent film called The Pollinators about the critical roles that bees play in influencing human and ecological health. Bees pollinate most of our crop plants; so, their survival and health is intimately linked with the food on our breakfast table and the fruits and the vegetables we consume. There is a connection between the bees and the apples that you eat. But most times we tend to forget this!
Bees are so important to our food system that we must care about their health and survival. But are they doing well?
The bees are vanishing fast across the globe; we need to be really concerned, as they are crucial for the healthy functioning of our ecosystems.
The Vanishing Bees
Most of our food crops are pollinated by insects. Bees pollinate many of them, from avocados to watermelons. Animals, bats, hummingbirds, and other insects are the other pollinators.
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)
CCD was first reported in the United States in 2006. Bee colonies started collapsing and they were dying in huge numbers or they left in droves, hive after hive. Why? Nobody knows the exact reason. One could be a kind of pesticides called neonicotinoids. Another could be parasites or viruses attacking the bees. Or, it may be due to habitat loss and human interference.
Some countries or blocs too precautionary steps, e.g. the EU banned the use of neonicotinoids.
Why are bees disappearing?
Simply put, bees are disappearing because of us, humans. The destructive impacts of humans range from habitat loss to climate change.
We have wantonly destroyed forests, wildflower meadows and other habitats where bees used to thrive. Also, the global climate is warming up, cooling and shifting in ways that many insect populations cannot cope with. These human impacts are compounded by diseases, parasites, and pesticides that adversely affect insect (and bee) populations.
According to a Business Insider report, by 2119, we may not have any bees left!
If bees vanish altogether, it will have catastrophic effects. The end of bees means the end of humankind. The loss of insects would lead to collapse of the planet’s ecosystems. Plants would no longer be pollinated; including many fruits, vegetables nuts and grains that feed the burgeoning human population.
Control of PPI
To save our ecosystem managers (the bees and other insects), we need to regulate three factors that we may remember with the acronym, PPI. These are the pesticides, parasites, and infections. We need to cut down the use of pesticides. They weken the bees and make them more vulnerable to parasites and infections. So, reducing the use of pesticides would also substantially decrease the incidence of diseases in bees due to parasites and other infectious agents.
To save our bee populations, we need to plant native flowers in our gardens. We also need to leave untended areas in yards and gardens close to our homes. We must avoid the use of pesticides around our homes. Instead of recklessly using toxic pesticides, the better option is to use integrated pest management (IPM). And, all of us must take pro-active measures to mitigate climate change. In addition, we must check destruction of forests and wildlands where bees and other beneficial insects thrive.
(The views expressed is personal)