Bees are more than honey makers. Studies have shown that these hardworking insects play a role in modern agriculture and subsequently the global economy. As pollinators, they provide farmers with an invaluable service. Without bees, the yield for produce, such as almonds, blueberries, and watermelon, would be significantly reduced. This became evident when the world’s bees started dying.
In the mid-2000s, an abnormal phenomenon occurred when worker bees started disappearing. Their sudden disappearance led to their colonies’ collapse. Referred to as ‘colony collapse disorder,’ many experts proposed several causes for it, from adverse weather conditions to parasitic infections. But the scientific community has yet to agree on a single one, especially since the phenomenon stopped just as surprisingly as it occurred. Now, the world’s bee population is once again facing a similar problem.
Honey bee populations are currently dwindling. Experts are closely monitoring the situation to determine its exact causes and how to stop it. And while nothing is concrete yet, they have theorised that the phenomenon is caused by three factors: parasites, pesticides and poor nutrition.
What’s killing the world’s bees?
The Varroa destructor is a parasitic mite that attaches and feeds on bees from the inside. It attaches itself to the space between the bee’s exoskeletal plates. There, it injects the bee with a digestive enzyme that breaks down tissue. Once it has succeeded in making a slurry out of that section of the bee’s body, it sucks out the fat bodies. Because this parasite can only reproduce in a bee colony, beekeepers regularly carry out Varroa treatment in their hives. This destroys the parasite and prevents domesticated bees from infecting wild bees.
Pesticides are not entirely bad. When used responsibly, it is an effective solution for decreasing destructive insects. However, these chemicals are absorbed by seeds and remain in the plant. When bees start pollinating, they inadvertently bring back contaminated pollen to their colony. Prolonged exposure to these chemicals makes bees sick and results in their deaths.
When bees collect nectar and pollen, they divide the between their stomachs. Their first stomach will convert the digested mixture into energy, while their second stomach stores the leftover mixture for honey-making. When there is a shortage of flowers, bees begin to starve because they will put the colony’s needs over their own.
Aside from this, bees have limited plants to pollinate. The proliferation of monocultures in the agricultural industry has decreased its selection of flora. Because they only travel within a five-mile radius of their hive, they only have access to plants that have the same nutritive components. This compromises their health and leads to malnourished bees.
What can you do?
Although the scientific community is still developing solutions to address this problem, you can start doing your part now.
- Leave the wildflowers in your garden alone. Although these are often considered as weeds, they offer bees variety in their diet and honey-making process.
- Transform your garden into a bee sanctuary. Plant different types of flowers because these serve as medication for bees with poor nutrition.
- Don’t use pesticides in your garden if you can help it. Although these are less harmful as those used in large agricultural fields, they can still harm local bee populations.
Bees are essential in the world’s ecosystem. By taking action to prevent their deaths, you are helping protect the environment and everything else that will be affected.