“If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live” is a quote mistakenly attributed to Albert Einstein. It’s likely a combination of pieces of quotes from several individuals and has also been attributed to Charles Darwin in a slightly different version. While the quote is not quite true in its authorship or scientific validity, the underlying concept of our intricate reliance upon the bee is true and our bees are disappearing at an alarming rate. We should be alarmed!
In 1939 the columnist Ernest A. Fortin writing in the “Canadian Bee Journal” wrote, “The bee is one of the main links of that wonderful chain forged by nature, and wherever that link is broken, there is bound to be trouble somewhere.” There was also the common belief at that time that without the bee, a hundred thousand plant species would disappear and it would be difficult for humans to survive. We have developed methods of “hand” pollinating plants that need cross-pollination, but none of the methods are as efficient as what the bee does naturally.
So what’s happening to the bees?
(Click image to view the whole Infographic)
One third of our food is the result of pollination by bees
Where are the Missing Bees?
One-third of all honey bee colonies in the US vanished in the late 2000s and early 2010s. There are no dead bees, just a healthy queen and baby bees left behind to starve to death. The missing bees mystery is being called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and it affects bees both physically and mentally causing loss of flower recognition and hive disorientation. In 1979 we had 4.2 million and by 2007, that number was down to 2.4 million. Scientists don’t universally agree on a specific cause but there is consensus about three categories of possible issues with the more specific causes within each of those possible categories being a bit more controversial:
- Chemical Pesticides and Herbicides
- Contaminated Water
- Parasites or Pathogens
- Nosema Ceranae, a parasite
- Varroa Mite
- IAPV, a virus
- Industrial Agriculture and Environmental Challenges
- Climate Change
- Migratory Stress
- Poor Nutrition
With one-third of our food sources relying on bee pollination, this is a mystery that needs solving.
I’m Bringing Home a Baby Bumble Bee
No one wants to be stung by a bee. However, killing them just because they are in our breathing space is really not our best option anymore. In fact, we need to be courageous and plant wildflowers that encourage bees to thrive so that we can counter the decline of the species and in turn, ensure the survival of ours. Unlike some of the other endangered species in this series that are far away which makes it difficult to imagine doing something that might have a direct impact, bees are right here and you can make a real difference. A useful action that takes just a bit more courage is to start your own hives. Apprentice with a local beekeeper and see if it’s something you think you can do to help rebuild the population and bonus! get free honey in the process.
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