Human society is extremely complex and fragile built on various pillars. One of them is the honey bee !
One meal out of 3 eaten by humans would not exist, weren’t there without honey bees. They are so important that if all the honey bees were to die out, thousands of plants would follow which could lead to billions of people starving in the following years!
On top of that, honey bees have a huge economic impact. The dollar value of plants pollinated by them each year is around 265 Billion dollars!
Food we take for granted would just stop existing without them or there would be a massive drop in the production of fruit, vegetables, including apples, onions, pumpkins and also life-stuck feeding food and we all know how crucial it is for us to preserve resources such as milk and meat !
Einstein is often quoted for having said: « If honey bees die out, humans will follow a few years later.»
Actually he probably didn’t say that but there might be some truth in that statement.
It’s unsettling but honey bees are starting to disappear. Millions of hives have died out in the last few years. Bee keepers from all over the world have seen an annual loss of 30 to 90 % of their colonies.
In the US alone, bees are constantly declining, from 5 million in 1988 to 2.5 million today! 50% gone in just 17 years !!
Since 2006 a phenomenon referred to as « Colony Collapse Disorder » or CCD, has affected honey bees in many countries.
Scientists are not entirely sure what is causing it. All we know is that it’s really serious!
Over the last decades bees have seen an invasion of very dangerous foes :
– Parasites straight out of a horror movie like « Acarapis Woodi». Microscopic mites infect the trachea which is the breathing tubes of bees. Here, they lay their eggs and feed from the fluids of their victims weakening them considerably and spending their whole life inside the bees
-Or the « Vorroa Destructor », they can only reproduce in honey bee hives and are one the bees’ greatest enemies. The female mite enters the honey bee’s alveolus and lays eggs on the bee larva before the hive bee cover the cell with a wax capping. The eggs hatch and the newly-born mites feed themselves on the developing bee in the safety of the cap cell. The bee is not normally killed at this stage, just weakened so it still has enough strength to make its way through the wax capping and release itself from the cell. As it does, it releases the mother’s mites and her new offspring and these are then free to spread across the hive. Starting the process over again and again in a cycle of about 10 days. Their numbers grow exponentially. After a few months this could lead to the collapse of the entire bee hive.
Once outside the cell, adult mites also suck the body fluids of bees and weaken them considerably. To make things worse, they also transmit viruses that harm the bees even more and can lead to bugs defect like useless wings.
Besides there are other threads too, such as viruses and fungi. Under normal circumstances,
these phenomena should be manageable and are not enough to explain the huge number of deaths among bees.
Over the recent years, new insecticides have been introduced and are deadly to bees. New Neonicotinoid, a chemical family similar to Nicotine was approved in the early 1990s as an alternative to chemicals like DDT. They attack insects by harming their nervous system. Today they are the most wildly used insecticide in the world, with sales reaching 1.5 Billion euros in 2008 and representing 24% of the insecticide global market.
In 2013 Neonicotinoid was used in the US on about 95% of corn and canola crops and also on the majority of fruits and vegetables.
Bees coming into contact with the toxin while they are collecting pollen or via contaminated water will eventually take the contaminated stuff back into the hive, where it can accumulate and slowly kill the whole colony…
The toxin harms bees in a variety of dreadful ways. In high enough doses, it quickly leads to convulsions, paralysis and death.But even in small doses it could be deadly. Indeed, this can lead to bees forgetting how to navigate the world. So bees fly into the wild, get lost and die alone, separated from their hive. If this happens often enough, a hive can lose its ability to sustain itself.
We know Neonicotinoids are harmful to bees and we expressly need an alternative to it. But there are millions of dollars to be made in delaying this…
Studies sponsored by the chemical industry magically appear toprove a much lower toxicity to bees compared to those produced by independent scientists.
There are even more facts contributing to the demise of bees like too much genetic uniformity, monocultures or nutrition due to overcrowding, stress due to human activity and other pesticides.
Each of those factors on their own is a major problem for bees but together they probably account for the colony’s collapse disorder. With parasites up in the game in the recent decades, the honey bees are now fighting for survival. It would be a catasrophe if they lost this fight. This is a conundrum we have to solve if we want to go on living with a relative albundance and diversity of food.
Humanity is deeply interconnected with earth and he other life forms on it. Even if we claim the opposite we have to take better care of our surroundings. If not to preserve the beauty of nature, then at least to assure our own survival !