a world without bees
Simply put, bees help flowers reproduce. This long-standing, working relationship evolved with flowers being bright and fragrant to attract bees, and the bees fuzzy, velcro-like bodies helping them to efficiently transfer pollen from the male part of the plant to the female part.
This seemingly simple mechanism is directly responsible for the production of 70% of fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts that we consume on a daily basis. This translates into almost 200 billion dollars in global agriculture revenue. This huge responsibility is accomplished by droves of commercial bees, reared by professional beekeepers for the sole purpose of being transported to farms and orchards to pollinate crops.
But since 2006, these hardworking, busy bees have been mysteriously disappearing. It has been reported that vast die-offs in or sudden abandonment of honeybee hives are happening globally. The term used to describe this phenomenon is ‘colony-collapse disorder’. This Colony Collapse Disorder has seen an average of 1/3rd of commercial bees abandoning their hives.
In fact, some beekeepers have even reported that 90% of their bees have simply buzzed off. In some colonies, mites, viruses, and parasites have been to blame, but many are now looking at a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids. This neurotoxin is used to kill off crop-eating insects and pests but also affects the central nervous systems of bees when they consume contaminated nectar. And since nectar is brought back to hives, the entire colony can be affected, leading to mass confusion and disorientation. On top of this, other factors such as extremely cold and long winters, a lack of genetic diversity in commercial bees, and less available nectar in the fields may be at fault.
If the trend continues, entire food chains and webs may be at risk. Take almond plants for example; the hulls of these nuts are used as feed for farm cattle and chickens. Fewer bees mean fewer almonds, which could mean declining livestock, and ultimately less milk, cheese, eggs, and meat production.
Not to mention almonds are used in cereal, baking, and many other food products. Beef and dairy cows would also be harshly affected by the vanishing alfalfa fields which are used to harvest hay for cattle. Bees also help the production of coffee beans, so without them bye bye morning buzz.
Without bees, our diet would consist of mostly corn, wheat, and rice, as they are wind-pollinated plants. Let’s not forget that bees also help pollinate cotton, which is the fiber used to make blue jeans, towels, mattresses, and high-quality paper products.
Simply put, we’d be living in a completely different world without bees, not to mention suffering a substantial economic strain from their disappearance. So while we may not necessarily go ‘extinct’ should the downward trend persist, a world without the buzz of bees would definitely…sting!
Want to learn more about bees and their crucial role on earth? Join Green Initiatives' 135th film screening, “The Pollinators” a special feature to honor ‘World Food Day’.
THE POLLINATORS: GREEN INITIATIVES 135TH FILM SCREENING
The Pollinators is an enlightening documentary with gorgeous cinematography that shows the crucial role bees play in food production. The film does a great job at exposing how fragile our current industrial farming models are. However, it maintains a hopeful tone by discussing innovating agricultural alternatives to protect bees, ways to rejuvenate the soil, and support beekeepers.
Click here for more information.